Art quake: Haitian exhibit shows art from ‘apocalyptic’ city

Art quake: Haitian exhibit shows art from ‘apocalyptic’ city
Walter Wlodarczyk

The show is Port-au-Prince charming!

A new exhibit in Red Hook showcases the diversity of Haiti’s urban artists. “Potoprens: The Urban Artists of Port-au-Prince,” on display at Pioneer Works until Nov. 11, features more than a dozen artists based in the country’s capital. Most outsiders have only a single vision of Haitian culture, but this show offers several distinct strands of art from Haiti’s most populous city, said the exhibit’s Haitian-American co-curator.

“We want to complicate the narrative and not just show Haitian art doing the same thing. That’s why we isolated groups to show that the diversity of Haiti is more than excellent, and we’re creating something very new that has political, social, and cultural significance,” said Edouard Duval-Carrie. “This shows the complexity of the city.”

Duval-Carrie focused his exhibit on three Port-au-Prince neighborhoods known for their artwork — Bel Air for its Vodou flags and textile artistry, Riviere Froide, known for its sculptors, and Grand Rue, renowned for Haitian crafts and art made from scrap material.

The artwork consists mostly of sculptures, collages, and photography, depicting the city’s history, art, religion, political scene, and cultural shifts. Many of the 17 artists in the show are self-taught, and must overcome difficult conditions to tell their stories, said Duval-Carrie. For instance, artists from the Grand Rue neighborhood, an epicenter of the earthquake, often use material pulled from the ruins around them to construct their work.

“They live in borderline extreme conditions, but the work is strong and make very important statements on the conditions in Port-au-Prince,” he said.

Even if one is not familiar with Haiti or Port-au-Prince, the show offers an eye-opening look into a different culture and art scene, said Duval-Carrie.

“It’s a complex city and we have a presentation that mostly captures a place in deep trouble,” Duval-Carrie. “The artwork shows you all that they are contesting, and I applaud it because it’s different when you’re an artist living in a country where the government is non-functioning, disjointed, and dysfunctional really. It’s almost apocalyptic.”

“Potoprens: The Urban Artists of Port-au-Prince,” at Pioneer Works [159 Pioneer St. between Conover and Van Brunt streets in Red Hook, (718) 596–3001, www.pioneerworks.org]. On display Wed–Sun; noon–6 pm, until Nov. 11. Free.

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimo[email protected]local.com. Follow her on Twitter @AS1mon.
The masked man: This statues holds a machete in its mouth. Many of the exhibits comment on the dysfunctional government in Haiti, said the show’s co-curator.
Walter Wlodarczyk

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