Curated by Keith Morrison
Curator’s Eye III consists of the work of 15 artists, five of whom live abroad. The exhibition is called Ceremony in Space, Time and Sound because the media used by the artists extend the range of the traditional visual arts. The exhibition involves animation, film, TV and video projections mixed with sound, room installations, and interactive art, along with paintings, photographs, prints and sculptures. It is an exhibition with a variety of ceremonial themes to be found in Jamaican art, reflecting a dynamism from which Jamaica takes its cultural character and a source of a continuum from the cultures of ancient Africa to our time.
The following is a brief description of the work of each artist in the exhibition:
Cleve Bowen’s work is a mixed media room installation called Tribulation of the Flesh, but. It includes sculptural objects, paintings and mirror reflections. Projected with dramatic light Bowen’s art is about time seen through light as a source of biblical and futuristic spirituality.
Lawrence Graham-Brown presents a series titled Who is Most Masculine. Using a video of a beauty pageant, and allegorical paintings about the primitive nature of sexuality, Graham-Brown examines the social construct of gender behaviour and questions gender-identity.
Photographer Albert Chong’s work in the show is a presentation of 27 slides. His photographs are transformations of men and women in bodies that are decoratively adorned or tattooed. Through adornment and metamorphosis, Chong creates a world of figures that are sometimes androgynous, sometimes macabre, sometimes regal, sometimes feminine or masculine, but always sensual.
Carol Campbell’s work in this exhibition is an installation of jewellery using imagery from ancient Africa to the present. The objects of jewellery are artistic expressions that stand alone as sculptural objects, each with its own individual expression.
Carol Crichton makes richly layered paintings in which the Jamaican athlete is depicted as hero. Her highly structured compositions are like x-rays of colours and patterns that move back and forth through space.
Paula Daley has created an installation evoking her childhood experience of marching to the altar to receive the priest’s blessing in church. Her work seeks to recapture the magic and beauty of the mysterious artefacts and symbols of the altar.
Michelle Eistrup makes microscopic studies of plants, objects, animals and birds that become symbolic participants in her art work. Her method fuses photography and drawing and focuses on the nature of cultural dichotomies. The artist feels her work embodies much of the essence of expatriate Caribbean people who cull information from plants and insects to develop their own potions for survival.
Andy Jefferson has created a two-part concept of Totems and mixed media images. His six totem poles mirrored by three prints and three paintings form a conceptualisation of ceremony and ritual. Jefferson’s totems each represent an area of ceremony. The artist uses African, North American Indian and Taino symbols, embellished with mixed media, found objects, paint and varnish to create images of ceremony.
Ras Kassa’s work titled The Stew is an audio-visual presentation of traditional and contemporary life and performance in urban Jamaica. His work captures on film pedestrians, traffic and accompanying sounds in teaming Kingston. Imagery of Kumina, Jonkunu, Rastafari, Carnival, Dancehall, Obeah, marijuana, and a variety of other social rituals are wielded together into a personal vision.
O’Neil Lawrence’s black and white photographs dramatize a ritual by the sea. They are allegorical dramas that are staged with human models shrouded by a large white sheet billowing in the wind by the shore. Lawrence’s work occupies an aesthetic place somewhere between the photograph as a mirror of existence and the photograph as a documentation of a staged action.
Khepera Hatsheptwa’s installation titled Commemoration and Memorialisation has three components, most prominent of which is a large circular form on the floor in the centre of the room. The second is a form made of meshing which is installed on a wall as an interactive assemblage. Paper and strings are provided for viewers to write tribute to loved ones that died. The concept also includes is a surrounding music system, with sounds evoking commemoration and memorialisation. Hatsheptwa’s idea is that art in the traditional African sense is a forum for celebration, commemoration or mourning.
Petrona Morrison’s video installation Us/Dem II continues an investigation into the dominance of contested territory and space within Jamaican culture, and its reinforcement in popular culture. What began as the artist’s concern with the degree of violence in the society has broadened: in what ways has our history shaped our stratifications and what is its relationship to this violence?
Ebony Patterson’s works on the theme “Gangstas for life” is a series of mixed media paintings on paper of characters that the artist uses as quintessential images for masculinity within Jamaican Dancehall culture. Patterson’s work explores the fashionable Jamaican practice of skin bleaching within the Dancehall culture and issues of dark skin/light skin prejudice from slavery to the present. Patterson’s work deconstructs stereotypical homosexual beauties, with bleached faces, red glossed lips and feminine motifs.
Tal Rickards is a filmmaker and photographer whose entry in the exhibition is his 9 minute film Serengeti. This is a film about the complex maze that is urban life today. In Serengeti a figure is running purposefully through an urban landscape toward some unknown destination. He appears to be lost yet focused and resolved in his journey as he runs through danger and foreboding toward a calmer space. Serengeti is a metaphor for the human journey through life’s obstacles. It is also the ritual of the mythic Jamaica wanderlust.
Filmmaker Oneika Russell’s work in the exhibition is a video animation about the metamorphosis of an imaginary slave ship into a contemporary urban icon. In her video Moby Dick dives with Ophelia who rises transformed as the Dancehall girl. Russell’s video is about the indelible stamp of Western education that is part of the fabric of Jamaica, and posits its relationship to the emerging literature of popular culture.
CURATOR’S EYE III: Ceremony in Space, Time and Sound brings together new media with more conventional forms of art to explore ideas that are important in Jamaican culture today. Issues include Dancehall culture, reinterpretations of beauty and a variety of ceremonial practices. If Curator’s Eye III is any indication, the future of Jamaican art could be internationally outstanding.
Keith Morrison is a Jamaican-born artist who has exhibited internationally in many galleries and museums, including the art Institute of Chicago, the Smithsonian, The Cincinnati Museum, the DeYoung Museum, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art. He has curated many exhibitions, including Art in Washington and its African American Presence: 1940-1970.He has been Professor and Dean in many art schools and universities, including the San Francisco Art Institute, the San Francisco State University, the University of Maryland, and the Tyler School of Art Temple University. Morrison has written for many publications including The New art Examiner, the Corcoran Gallery, The Baltimore Museum of Art, the Getty Museum, and the Washington Post. The monograph titled Keith Morrison, by Dr. Renee Ater was published by Pomegranate Press in 2005.
Location: The National Gallery of Jamaica, 12 Ocean Boulevard (corner of Orange Street and Ocean Boulevard), Kingston Mall, Kingston, Jamaica
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