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Jamaican Intuitives

Group show at Wolverhampton Art Gallery, Commonwealth Institute. 1986
Date: 21 August, 1986 until 5 October, 1986
Curator: Dr. David Boxer
Organiser: Commonwealth Institute, London/National Gallery, Jamaica

Jamaican Intuitives: Visionary paintings and sculpture direct from Jamaica. Commonwealth Institute, London, 21 August - 5 October 1986, then touring to Wolverhampton Art Gallery, 11 October - 11 November 1986.

This was the first exhibition in the United Kingdom of artists from Jamaica who had come to be known as Intuitives. Previously, such artists were referred to be a range of terminology that was, ultimately, problematic in terms of a perhaps unintended consequence of signifying the work of these artists as being somehow less than the work of real artists. The classic historical term for these artists was primitive. Then came such terms as visionary, outsider, self-taught, etc. In some ways, any term applied to these artists is likely to be problematic, but intuitive was chosen as being perhaps a term that avoided more pejorative readings. The application of the intuitive label was by no means limited to contemporary practitioners; it was applied retrospectively to artists such as John Dunkley (1891 - 1947), described within this catalogue as “Jamaica’s first known intuitive artist.” In some ways, the defining characteristic of these artists was that they were self-taught, although ultimately, such a definition might be found wanting, as it could not, in any real sense, be applied to a Jamaican-born artist such as Ronald Moody, though he too was self-taught.

David Boxer Ph.D discussed the intuitives label in the Foreword to the accompanying catalogue. Boxer, Director/curator of the National Gallery of Jamaica, stated, “The exhibition follows, in outline, the landmark exhibition which we mounted at the National Gallery in Kingston in 1979. The Intuitive Eye, in which we brought under the banner of the title Intuitive - a group of artists essentially self-taught who had for years created outside of the mainstream of Jamaican Art and who, with few exceptions, were relegated to the status of “amateurs”, “Sunday painters”, “naives”, “primitives”.

Another text in the catalogue - Introduction to the “Intuitive Eye” exhibition, National Gallery of Jamaica, 1979, by Rex Nettleford - elaborated on the significance of the term. “For one thing, the classification of these artists here exhibited will present problems for many. The term ‘primitives’ offers at best an irritating ambiguity especially for people in the developing world while the phrase ‘naive painters’ is something of a semantic monstrosity - at least in English.”

The next text within the catalogue was Extracted from “Jamaican Art 1922-1982” by David Boxer, Ph.D., Smithsonian Institute Travelling Exhibition Service’s exhibition of Jamaican art which toured the United States of America, Canada and Haiti from 1935 to 1985. Boxer’s extract covered The Early Intuitives and The Later Intuitives.

The remainder of the catalogue consisted of brief biographies, lists of work, and reproductions of work by the exhibition’s 22 artists. The artists had one page each, though a number of pages have no illustrations. The middle pages of the catalogue featured a number of reproductions of work from the exhibition, a number of which are in colour.

Related items

click to show details of Jamaican Intuitives

»  Jamaican Intuitives

Catalogue relating to an exhibition, 1986

click to show details of Jamaican Intuitives - Arts Review

»  Jamaican Intuitives - Arts Review

Review relating to an exhibition, 1986

People in this exhibition + view all 23

»  Albert Artwell

Born, 1942 in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica

»  Everald Brown

Born, 1917 in St. Ann, Jamaica. Died, 2002

»  Ras Dizzy

Born, 1927 - 1937 (probably 1932) in Jamaica. Died, 2008

»  Kapo (Mallica Reynolds)

Born, 1911 in St. Catherine, Jamaica. Died, 1989

»  Gaston Tabois

Born, 1918 - 1930 (probably 1924) in Trout Hall, Clarendon, Jamaica. Died, 2012

Exhibition venues

»  Commonwealth Institute

London, United Kingdom

»  Wolverhampton Art Gallery

Wolverhampton, United Kingdom