Mexican images, Jamaican art

'Togetherness & Earth' by Byron Johnson, 1998

Two exhibitions on display this summer underscore the wealth of Latin American and Caribbean culture available in Miami-area museums.

The Frost Museum of Art at Florida International University is presenting Jamaican Intuitive Artists: Storytellers and Visionaries, and the Lowe Museum of Art at the University of Miami is exhibiting Saintly Blessings: A Gift of Mexican Retablos.

Miami and Philadelphia collectors Joseph and Janet Shein donated 28 of the personal devotional images to the Lowe, where they are on display until Sept. 23. They were painted on tin by anonymous 19th century Mexican artists. The retablos depict Christ, the Virgin Mary and various saints, as petitions for intercession in times of illness or disaster or as thanks for such blessings.

These small-scale devotional objects were supplanted by commercially printed images, but retain their appeal as part of Mexican folk-art and religious traditions.

That same intense personal expression is projected by the self-trained artists featured in the Frost’s Jamaican Intuitive Artists exhibition, which is on display through Sept. 16.

This exhibition, drawn from paintings and sculptures of Jamaican art in the Frost’s permanent collection, was curated, designed and installed by students in FIU’s Graduate Certificate of Museum Studies Program. The Consulate General of Jamaica partnered with the museum as part of the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the country’s independence.

The show includes narrative paintings depicting urban and rural landscapes that express the artists’ thoughts about life and their surroundings. The visual stories contained in the exhibition are arranged by the themes represented in the colors of the Jamaican flag: black for strength; green for resources; yellow for wealth.

Both exhibitions are small, thoughtful presentations that reward a careful viewing as well as cool places to profitably spend a hot humid afternoon.


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