KINGSTON.- Jamaican sculptor, Christopher Gonzalez, has died, according to a longtime family friend. He was 65.
Kay Osbourne, managing director of Television Jamaica, said the artist died Saturday at Cornwall Regional Hospital in Montego Bay of cancer.
Christopher Gonzalez graduated from the Jamaica School of Art in 1963, subsequently studying at the California College of Arts and Crafts, Oakland, CA. From his earliest days as a sculptor he was influenced by the symbolism of Edna Manley. His Man Arisen (1966; Kingston, N.G.) is a direct descendant of Manley's Negro Aroused (1935; Kingston, N.G.).
The early symbolist works of Picasso seem to have been a major influence as well, resulting in the typical emaciated Gonzalez figure of the 1960s and 1970s. His first major commission, a standing Christ for the Holy Cross Catholic Church in Kingston (1968), was rejected, possibly as much for its haunting expressionism as for its suggestion of nudity. This intense expressionism continues in two bronze reliefs representing the Birth and Unity of the Nation, commissioned for the tomb of the former Prime Minister Norman Manley (1975).
Considered the most vivid image-maker of his generation of sculptors, Gonzalez was the logical choice for the important commission of a monument to Jamaica's cultural hero, the Rastafarian reggae star, Bob Marley. Completed in 1983, it draws heavily on popular and Rastafarian imagery and shows the hero like a massive tree with roots reaching into the ground, his locks like sinuous branches and his face agonized, with mouth open in prophetic song. Controversial from the first viewing, the monument was rejected. Deposited in the National Gallery of Jamaica in Kingston, it is now a major attraction there.