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Exhibition brings together paintings and sculptures from one of Jamaica's most important historical artists
John Dunkley. Diamond Wedding, 1940. Mixed media on canvas, 16 x 20 inches. National Gallery of Jamaica. © John Dunkley Estate. Image courtesy of National Gallery of Jamaica. Photo: Franz Marzouca.

MIAMI, FLA.- Pérez Art Museum Miami presents John Dunkley: Neither Day nor Night, on view May 26, 2017 – January 14, 2018. The exhibition, on view in the museum’s Rose Ellen Meyerhoff Greene and Gerald Greene Gallery, presents the work of John Dunkley (b. 1891, Savanna-la-Mar, Jamaica; d. 1947, Kingston), widely considered to be one of Jamaica’s most important historical artists. Neither Day nor Night includes paintings from the 1930s and ‘40s alongside a smaller selection of carved-wood and stone sculptures. Dunkley’s paintings are defined by their distinctive dark palette, detailed imagery—often landscapes––and psychologically suggestive underpinnings. His intimate sculptures reflect more figurative elements—people and animals—and offer insights into his unique iconography. His oeuvre spans little more than a decade, and only approximately 50 paintings are known to exist today, alongside a small number of sculptures. Although his work is well represented in the collection of the National Gallery of Jamaica, Kingston, as well as in international private collections, Dunkley has not been the focus of a solo exhibition since the 1970s, and never before outside Jamaica. This exhibition is a unique opportunity to bring together a substantial grouping of his work and to create an international context for its study. Dunkley’s work has previously been show at PAMM as part of the large group exhibition Caribbean Crossroads of the World (2014). This current project reflects PAMM’s on-going commitment to fostering new scholarship and deeper investigations of artists working in the Caribbean region.

The exhibition is organized by PAMM’s Associate Curator Diana Nawi with Nicole SmytheJohnson, an independent curator and writer based in Kingston. David Boxer, an art historian and artist, and the foremost expert on Dunkley’s work, has served as an advisor for the exhibition. Boxer has long studied Dunkley’s practice, preserving his legacy, and Nawi and Smythe-Johnson have been working to realize an exhibition of his work for over two years. “Organizing an exhibition of Dunkley's work, which is so compelling and singular, is an exciting and necessary outgrowth of the conversations I had with local institutions, artists, and curators during my many trips to Kingston,” says Nawi. “Neither Day nor Night represents a critical opportunity to deepen our understanding of this artist's work and allows us to look beyond the well-known 1970s Jamaica of the international imagination, exploring a history of the island that predates its independence,” explains SmytheJohnson.

Dunkley was born in rural northwestern Jamaica, and as a young man traveled to Costa Rica, Cuba and Panama 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 is also believed to have 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, where he established his own barbershop near downtown Kingston’s busy port, and to make paintings and carvings. 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 what would eventually become an independent nation. His life and work provide rich insight into the broader economic and social factors, as well as the popular culture, that defined this era in Jamaica and the Caribbean.

John Dunkley: Neither Day nor Night is organized by PAMM Associate Curator Diana Nawi with Nicole Smythe-Johnson, independent curator. David Boxer serves as curatorial advisor on this exhibition.

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