In Memoriam Dr. the Hon. David Boxer, O.J. (1946-2017)

David Boxer at his home with visiting Edna Manley College studens, c2015 (photo: Donnette Zacca)

The National Gallery of Jamaica has received the sad news of the passing of Dr the Hon. David Boxer, O.J., one of the Caribbean region’s most eminent and influential art scholars, artists and art collectors. Dr Boxer served the National Gallery for some thirty-seven years, first as Director/Curator and from 1991 to 2013 as Chief Curator.

David Wayne Boxer was born in St. Andrew in 1946. A classically trained art historian, he attended Cornell University and then the Johns Hopkins University, where he wrote his doctoral dissertation on the early work of Francis Bacon. He lectured at George Mason University before returning to Jamaica in 1975 to take up the position of Director/Curator of the recently established National Gallery of Jamaica.

David Boxer – The Annunciate (1987), Aaron and Marjorie Matalon Collection, NGJ

It was David Boxer’s curatorial and scholarly mission to ensure that Jamaica had its own documented and art history, so that Jamaican art could assert its rightful place within the broader context of world art. He started this process in the mid-1970s with several exhibitions that challenged previous understandings about Jamaican art and articulated a new, comprehensive art-historical narrative that continues to be the standard in the field toDavid Boxer’s first exhibition for the National Gallery, Five Centuries of Art in Jamaica (1975) challenged the view that what could rightly be called Jamaican art started with the nationalist unrest of 1938 and argued that art in Jamaica had a much longer history, with which modern Jamaican art existed in dialogue. The second such exhibition The Formative Years: Art in Jamaica 1922-1940 (1978) examined the emergence of modern, nationalist art in Jamaica and identified Edna Manley’s Beadseller (1922) as its symbolic starting point. The third and perhaps most radical element of Boxer’s art history of Jamaica was articulated with The Intuitive Eye (1979) exhibition, in which he placed the self-taught, popular artists he designed as Intuitives at the centre of the national canon. This art-historical narrative was consolidated with the Jamaican Art 1922-1982 exhibition for the Smithsonian in 1983 and also became the basis for the National Gallery’s first permanent exhibition when the Gallery moved to the Roy West building that same year. Many other memorable exhibitions followed, with more than fifty curated by David Boxer himself. The major retrospectives he curated, such as Edna Manley: Sculptor in 1990 and Barrington Watson: A Retrospective in 2012, stand out as landmarks in the National Gallery’s exhibition history and deepened the scholarship of Jamaican art. Recurrent exhibitions such as the Annual National, which was inaugurated in 1977, and, its successor since 2002, the National Biennial provided an important avenue for the national exposure of many artists, new and established, and contributed actively to the development of art in Jamaica.

Cover of The Intuitive Eye catalogue, 1979

David Boxer’s vision of Jamaican art also guided the development of the National Gallery’s permanent collection, which has grown from some 230 works of art in 1974 to more than 2,000 works today, and provides an encyclopaedic overview of Jamaican art from the Taino to the present day, as well as a small international collection. He brokered several major donations to the collection that filled important gaps, such as the A.D. Scott Collection in 1989 and the Aaron and Marjorie Matalon Collection in 1999, and he also developed specialized collections within the National Gallery’s collection dedicated to the work of Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds and Edna Manley.

David Boxer – Standing Figure (1973), Collection: NGJ

David Boxer was one of the leading art scholars in the Caribbean region and arguably the most noted authority on Jamaican art, particularly the work of Edna Manley, Intuitive art and early Jamaican photography. His publications record is substantial and includes several books: a major Edna Manley monograph in 1990, Modern Jamaican Art in 1998, and Jamaica in Black and White in 2013, which was the first major book on early Jamaican photography and which he co-authored with Edward Lucie-Smith. Most recently, he contributed the main research essay to the catalogue of John Dunkley: Neither Day nor Night, a major survey of the paintings and sculptures of the Intuitive master John Dunkley, which opened to the public on May 26, two days before his passing, at the Perez Art Museum in Miami. He also served as curatorial advisor to this important exhibition.

David Boxer, with Edna Manley (right) and Lynn Chadwick (left), c1983 (NGJ file photo)

David Boxer’s work as a curator and scholar existed in close dialogue with his work as an artist and a private collector. He was self-taught as an artist and his artistic work was infused with art-historical, literary and visual culture references, which he used to comment on issues such as the violence of colonization and slavery, and the existential anxieties of modern life. Boxer worked in a variety of media: painting, collage, print, and assemblage, and he was one of the pioneers in the field of installation and video art in Jamaica. As a private collector, David Boxer amassed one of the most comprehensive collections of Jamaican art, photography, and furniture, as well as a fine collection of rare art books.

David Boxer – Passage: Flotsam and Jetsam (Zong) (2014-2015) – on view in the Jamaica Biennial 2017

The Board and Staff of the National offer their sincere condolences to the family and friends of Dr. the Hon. David Boxer, O.J. His contribution to the visual arts of Jamaica and the broader Caribbean is beyond measure and leaves an important, foundational legacy for the National Gallery and the Jamaican artistic community to build on in the future.

A public condolence book will be available for signing at the National Gallery from Wednesday, May 30.

Jamaica Biennial 2017 – Invited Artists: David Boxer

David Boxer – Passage: Flotsam and Jetsam III (Zong), 2014-2015

We continue our short features on the artists in the Jamaica Biennial 2017 with the invited artists, starting with David Boxer, whose work can be seen at the National Gallery of Jamaica. The Biennial is on view at the NGJ, Devon House and NG West until May 28.

David Boxer was born in 1946, in St Andrew, Jamaica. He holds a PhD in Art History from the John Hopkins University and an AB in Art History from Cornell University. Between 1975-1991 he was the Director/Curator of the National Gallery of Jamaica and he subsequently served as its Chief Curator, a post he held until his retirement in 2013. Primarily a self-taught, mixed media artist, Boxer makes complex iconographic references and appropriations, drawn from art history and visual culture, to comment on the human condition in the postcolonial context. He has exhibited extensively both locally and internationally and his most recent solo show entitled Boxer, The Seventh Decade was held in 2016 at the Seaview Fine Arts Gallery in Kingston. He has received numerous awards for his contribution to the visual arts in Jamaica, including the Gold Musgrave Medal and Centenary Medal from the Institute of Jamaica. He was also conferred with the Order of Distinction (Commander Class) in 1991 and in 2016, he received the Order of Jamaica. His works are included in numerous public and private collections, including the collection of the National Gallery of Jamaica. Boxer lives in St Andrew.

 

David Boxer – Wave for Gauguin (2016)

 

 

 

 

National Gallery of Jamaica Congratulates Dr David Boxer, Other Associates on their National Honours

Dr the Hon. David Boxer, OJ, with artist Hope Brooks, at the conferment ceremony at his home on August 9, 2016

Dr the Hon. David Boxer, OJ, with artist Hope Brooks, at the conferment ceremony at his home on August 9, 2016

The Board, Management and Staff of the National Gallery of Jamaica wish to express their delight at the announcement that the following artists and associates of the National Gallery are among the recipients of the 2016 National Honours, which were announced on Independence Day, August 6. They are: Dr David Boxer, CD, who is conferred with the Order of Jamaica; Senator Thomas Tavares-Finson, QC, Cecil Cooper, and Basil Watson, who are receiving the Order of Distinction (Commander class); and Alexander Cooper, who is receiving the Order of Distinction (Officer rank).

Dr David Wayne Boxer, CD is an eminent Jamaican art historian, curator, artist and collector. He was educated at Cornell University and the Johns Hopkins University, where he obtained his PhD in Art History. Dr Boxer joined the National Gallery of Jamaica in 1975 as Director/Curator and held this position until 1991, when he became Chief Curator. He retired from the National Gallery in 2013. During Dr Boxer’s tenure, the National Gallery developed from a fledgling institution to what is now the largest and most prominent national art museum in the English-speaking Caribbean, with an extensive collection of Jamaican and other art and an active and diverse exhibitions programme. Dr Boxer is widely recognized for his scholarship on Jamaican art, particularly on the work of Edna Manley, the Intuitives and early Jamaican photography, on which he has published extensively. Dr Boxer is also an internationally recognized artist, whose mixed media work addresses postcolonial politics and existential angst by means of complex references to art history and visual culture. Dr Boxer is conferred with the Order of Jamaica for his “invaluable contribution to the National Gallery of Jamaica and the development of Jamaican art.” He was previously conferred with the Order of Distinction (Commander class), and is also the recipient of the Gold Musgrave and Centenary Medals of the Institute of Jamaica. Dr Boxer, who has been ailing, received the Order of Jamaica today, Tuesday, August 9, at a special ceremony at his home.

Senator Thomas Tavares-Finson, CD, QC, Chairman of the NGJ

Senator Thomas Tavares-Finson, CD, QC, Chairman of the NGJ

Senator Thomas George Lewis Tavares-Finson, QC, is a noted Jamaican politician, attorney-at-law and art collector. He was educated at McMaster University; the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London; and the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple. Senator Tavares-Finson has been a nominated commissioner of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica since 2006 and previously served as a member of the Electoral Advisory Committee from 2005-2006. Senator Tavares-Finson is presently the President of the Senate and was called to the Inner Bar earlier this year. He was recently appointed as the Chairman of the National Gallery and had also previously served on its Board. Senator Tavares-Finson is conferred with the Order of Distinction (Commander class) for his “distinguished contribution to the Electoral Commission and the legal profession.”

Cecil Cooper at his studio in November 2015 (photograph courtesy of Donnette Zacca)

Cecil Cooper, CD, at his studio in November 2015 (photograph courtesy of Donnette Zacca)

Cecil Harvey Cooper is a noted and influential Jamaican painter, art educator and singer. Cecil Cooper was educated at the Jamaica School of Art, now the Edna Manley College, and also attended that Art Students League and the School of Visual Arts in New York City. He served as the head of the Painting department of the Edna Manley College from 1981 to his retirement in 2009. He has exhibited widely in Jamaica and internationally and his work is represented in major art collections, including the National Gallery of Jamaica collection. Cecil Cooper is also a classical tenor, renowned for his powerful voice and operatic delivery. He has previously served as a Board member of the National Gallery of Jamaica and was recently reappointed to the Board. Cecil Cooper is conferred with the Order of Distinction (Commander class) for his “invaluable contribution to the arts.”

Basil Watson CD

Basil Watson, CD

Basil Barrington Watson is an internationally recognized Jamaican sculptor who was educated at what is now the Edna Manley College. Basil Watson, who is also a superb draughtsman, is acclaimed for his daringly balanced, dynamic depictions of the human form. His many public and private art commissions in Jamaica including the statues of Merlene Ottey and Herb McKenley at the National Stadium; the sculpture “Balance” at the Doctors Cave Bathing Club in Montego Bay; and various sculpture commissions for the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica, including “Emerging Nation” in Holruth Park. Mr  Watson has previously served on the National Gallery Board. He is the son of the late Prof. the Hon. Barrington Watson, OJ, Jamaican master painter. Basil Watson is conferred with the Order of Distinction (Commander class) for his “outstanding contribution in the field of Jamaican art.”

Alexander Cooper, OD, at this studio

Alexander Cooper, OD, at this studio

Joshua Alexander Cooper is a major Jamaican painter who emerged during the Independence period. He was an early student of the then Jamaica School of Art and Craft in the 1950s and also attended the New York School of Visual Art and the Art Student League. While his diverse oeuvre also includes gestural abstractions, Alexander Cooper is today best known for his whimsical depictions of street life in Downtown Kingston in times past. Mr Cooper has previously served on the National Gallery Board. Alexander Cooper is receiving the Order of Distinction (Officer rank) for his “outstanding contribution to the arts.”

The Board, Management and Staff of the National Gallery of Jamaica extend their heartfelt congratulations to Dr David Boxer, Senator Tom Tavares-Finson, Cecil Cooper, Basil Watson and Alexander Cooper on their well-earned National Honours.