Saturday, April 28, 2018

Art: Dunkley "Comes Home" After Successful Miami Run

After a successful half- year run at the Perez Art Museum Miami, the works of iconic Jamaican artist John Dunkley return to Jamaica in an exhibition entitled "Neither Day Nor Night" at the National Gallery in downtown Kingston on Sunday (Apr 29) beginning 11 am. 
The exhibition is part of the Gallery's "Last Sundays" monthly presentations series.
Dunkley was born in rural northwestern Jamaica, and as a young man traveled to Panama and Costa Rica to work, eventually settling for a time in Chiriquí, a province in western Panama. There he worked as a barber and began to create his first small paintings. Concurrently, he also worked as an assistant to a studio photographer active in the region, possibly retouching and coloring photographs. 
Dunkley returned to Jamaica in the mid-to-late 1920s, continuing to work as a barber in a shop near downtown Kingston’s busy port, and to make paintings and wood carvings. His oeuvre spans little more than a decade, and only approximately 50 paintings are known to exist today, alongside a small number of sculptures. Dunkley was working at a pivotal time in Jamaica’s history, and like figures such as Marcus Garvey, he is part of a generation of West Indian men who traveled abroad to work, both in the region and internationally, and returned home to contribute to the formation of an independent Jamaica. His life and work provide insight into the broader economic and social factors, as well as the popular culture, that defined this era in Jamaica and the Caribbean.
Though a selection of Dunkley’s work is on permanent display at the NGJ, only 50 paintings by Dunkley exist in the world. The exhibition’s return home gives local audiences the rare opportunity to see this collection of 34 paintings and nine sculptures together for the first time since the NGJ Retrospective of his work in 1976.
Aside from his inclusion in the 1939 World’s Fair in San Francisco and the NGJ/Smithsonian travelling exhibition of 1983 Dunkley’s work was relatively unknown in the United States until PAMM’s light shone on Dunkley as a beacon of modern and contemporary art from the Caribbean.
The Miami exhibition, organized by Curators Diana Nawi, former Associate Curator at PAMM along with Nicole Smythe-Johnson, independent curator, received rave reviews from ArtForum, Miami Rail, The Huffington Post, among others and art critic Matthew Higgs lamented the fact that he would have included it in his Best of 2017 list had he seen it sooner.

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