Works by the late artists Ras Dizzy (1932–2008) and Leonard Daley (1930–2006) boldly exemplify what it means to be products of a culture’s philosophy while acknowledging its varied nuances. Born in Jamaica in the 1930s, when Rastafarianism was on the rise, the two self-taught painters never identified as Rastas; their spiritual outlooks were quite fluid. Their paintings resonate with aspects of Rastafarianism, such as cultural resistance and a dedication to music, but there is a freedom in them that is too particular to each artist to remain circumscribed even in Rastafarian beliefs. In Dizzy’s A Surprize to the Big Race Day (1993), spectators clothed in primary colors watch a cowboy who has draped his black reins over a bright red horse. A similar scene of voyeurism appears in Daley’s Untitled (1996), but it’s harder to tell who is watching and who is being watched as the figures mix together.
Each painter had a distinct style. Dizzy tended to leave negative space on the canvas, as in The Dread (1998), where a head with wild expression and hair emerges from a mass of muddied greens, blues, and yellows. Daley, however, chose to leave no surface untouched. In Marjorie (1994), the paint seems about to run over onto the frame as names and faces emerge from the green ground. Both Dizzy and Daley pushed the limits of figuration. But there is always someone—or something—speaking to the viewer. There is a magic about their works, and through the communicative images it infiltrates the viewer. —Nectar Knuckles
Pictured: Ras Dizzy: A Surprize to the Big Race Day, 1993, tempera on matboard, 16½ by 23½ inches. Courtesy Cavin-Morris Gallery, New York.