Biennial goes international

BY RICHARD JOHNSON Observer senior reporter

Sunday, November 30, 2014

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THE works of international artists have been included in the Jamaica Biennial set to open at the National Gallery of Jamaica (NGJ) on December 7.

The inclusion of non-Jamaican artists is a first for the biennial and executive director of the NGJ, Dr Verlee Poupeye sees this as part of the evolution of Jamaican art.

"The vast majority of artists in the exhibition is Jamaican or Jamaican diaspora, so the exhibition is still mainly one of Jamaican art and that will always be so. Definitions of 'Jamaicanness' have, however expanded significantly in recent times, because of a very culturally engaged diaspora and the global impact of Jamaican culture, and as a National Art Gallery we need to engage with that. What happens in Jamaican art today is the result of complex local and global cultural dialogues and there are significant connections to what is happening elsewhere in the Caribbean, which is what the inclusion of the six international artists is seeking to explore.

Among the international artists are: Renee Cox (Jamaica/USA), James Cooper (Bermuda), Blue Curry (Bahamas/UK), Gilles Elie-dit-Cosaque (Martinique), Richard Mark Rawlins (Trinidad), and Sheena Rose (Barbados).

In addition to the invited artists, another development is that the juried section was selected by two international judges, Diana Nawi, associate curator at the Perez Art Museum in Miami, and Sara Hermann, a curator and art historian from the Dominican Republic.

The Biennial is set to consist of more than 120 works by 97 artists, including well-established artists as well as many young and emerging ones.

"A wide range of artistic media and approaches is represented, from representational and abstract painting to video and performance art, with a particularly strong representation of digital photography and video art," Poupeye added.

In another first, the Biennial will also be shown at more than one location -- in addition to the National Gallery, parts of the exhibition will be shown at Devon House and at National Gallery West.

For Devon House, six artists -- Greg Bailey, Laura Facey, James Cooper, Ebony G. Patterson, Oneika Russell, and Cosmo Whyte -- whose work paralells the greathouse will be showcased there.

At National Gallery West at the Montego Bay Cultural Centre on Sam Sharpe Square, we will feature selections from a new body of photographic and video by Renee Cox titled Sacred Geometry. One other project, by Blue Curry, will be shown in various locations on the streets of downtown Kingston.

Poupeye hopes the Biennial will expose the work of particularly a younger generation to their counterparts.

"With a strong sense of the immense dynamism and diversity of Jamaican and Caribbean art today, and particularly the new ground being explored by the younger generation of Jamaican artists," she stresses.


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