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Three moments in Jamaican art

In art as well as geography, Jamaica is a world removed. For most of its history, the country's painting and sculpture developed quite independently from what was happening in the rest of the Caribbean and the world. Today, Jamaican artists, particularly the more progressive, remain largely unknown abroad.Similarly, showings of Jamaican art, mainly in the United States and England, typically have presented the works with scant reference to artistic movements elsewhere.

But a new exhibit currently on view at the IDB Cultural Center's Art Gallery takes a different approach. Through 42 paintings, lithographs and sculptures spanning the last three centuries to the present, "Three Moments in Jamaican Art" looks at the country's artistic achievements against the backdrop of the whole of Western art. Along the way, it identifies three key junctures, or moments, in Jamaica's artistic development.

In the first moment--a long one spanning two centuries of colonial rule--artists reflected a culture that remained stoically loyal to British traditions. Art was produced by and for a minority.

An example was the English-trained Philip Wickstead. Steeped in the tradition of the late baroque, rococo and neo-classical style, he faithfully stuck to his aim of documenting the local reality of people and place, or as the exhibit catalogue states, "of pride, nostalgia, and tropical humidity."

The second moment, from 1922-29, begins with the arrival in Kingston of artist Edna Manley and her efforts to gain recognition of the country's diverse cultural values. It ended with the consolidation of the People's Party in 1929, whose cultural platform included what was then called Negro art as a key point in the reassertion of racial values.This period saw the rise of the "intuitive" approach to art.

The third moment, from 1962-1972, was a period of change--independence, the rise of the Socialist Party and the civil rights movement in the United States. Art expressed a growing African consciousness and the resurgence of Rastafarianism.

The IDB exhibit will be open to the public until February 6.

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