Haitian Artwork on View Across South Florida

[Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.] Chadd Scott (Forbes) reviews three exhibitions featuring Haitian art: “Everything Earth and Sky: An Exhibition of Haitian Art,” “Cosmic Mirrors,” and “Reframing Haitian Art: Masterworks from the Arthur Albrecht Collection.” See more information below.

What do you know about Haiti? Could you find it on a map? How about the official language? The country it shares a border with? Are you aware of Toussaint l’Overture and the Haitian Revolution? No doubt you’ve heard of Vodou, but do you have any idea what those spiritual traditions actually entail?

Chances are, what you hear about Haiti, is bad. Natural disasters. Violence.

A series of art exhibitions across Florida offer those interested in learning more a richer, nuanced view of the country.

“Everything Earth and Sky: An Exhibition of Haitian Art” Frost Art Museum at Florida International University in Miami

The Frost Art Museum houses one of the largest collections of Haitian paintings from the 1980’s and 1990’s in the United States. The effort was originally spearheaded by Dahlia Morgan, director of the Art Museum at FIU, forerunner to the Frost. The collection’s wide-ranging subject matter and number of artists provides a distinctive look at Haitian art from that period.

“I think the complex synthesis of particular places such as Cap-Haïtien and Port au Prince with intricate Vodou iconography make Haitian art distinctive from the artwork of other Caribbean nations,” Chief Curator of the Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum FIU Amy Galpin told Forbes.com.

For “Everything Earth and Sky,” the museum collaborated with scholars in the area of Haitian art, eventually landing on a presentation focused on artists’ varied use of space. From schools, communal plazas, and government buildings to Haiti’s fauna and the ever-present ocean, works on view depict different interpretations of physical space and the use of public places.

“After observing the paintings for some time, we noticed the way people navigate space, outdoor space like mountains and water, or public space such as schools and city plazas, reoccurred in the works,” Galpin explained. “This gave us an opportunity to think about how space is navigated in Haiti and how the artists represented in the exhibition navigate space.”

The show includes works from the Frost’s permanent collection alongside those by seven contemporary artists of Haitian heritage living in the U.S.

“Cosmic Mirrors” Nova Southeastern University Art Museum in Fort Lauderdale, May 26–August 6, 2023

Formed in the 1970s through a series of donations from Fort Lauderdale-based collectors frequenting Haiti and acquiring works there by some of the country’s most important artists, NSU Art Museum’s collection of Haitian art is distinguished by its reach back into history.

“NSU Art Museum is particularly fortunate to possess works spanning from the mid-twentieth century to today, whereas most other South Florida museum collections date from the 1980s,” NSU Art Museum’s Bryant-Taylor Curator Ariella Wolens told Forbes.com. “It encompasses the mid-twentieth century visionary paintings of Robert Saint-Brice, an impoverished Voudo priest (or houngan), as well as the cubistic and abstract paintings of Roland Dorcely who associated with Roberto Matta and Wifredo Lam in Paris.”

Recent donations include major examples from master metalworker Serge Joulimeau. His workshop in Croix-des-Bouquets was instrumental in the country’s economic recovery after the 2010 earthquake when, through an arrangement with Macy’s, Joelimeau and other metalworkers sold their sculptures throughout the world.

Highlighting 27 artists, both celebrated and unknown, “Cosmic Mirrors” illuminates facets of Haiti’s political history and creative abundance through pieces spanning the 1950s to present day. Subjects include depictions of the nation’s founding along with representations of the country’s spiritual merger between colonial Catholic beliefs and Vodou cosmology, plus representations of the country’s lush terrain, romantically presented as a pastoral idyll. [. . .]

“Reframing Haitian Art: Masterworks from the Arthur Albrecht Collection” Tampa Museum of ArtThrough May 19, 2024

In 2022, the Tampa Museum of Art received a gift of 69 paintings, nine wooden sculptures and one print from the Arthur Albrecht Revocable Trust. Albrecht, a prominent San Francisco attorney, became enthralled with Haiti after visiting the nation, amassing a large collection of Haitian artworks, historical maps and rare books on Haitian history. [. . .]

“The Albrecht Collection features never-before-seen paintings by Haiti’s master artists including Rigaud Benoit, Préfète Duffaut, Jasmine Joseph, Philomé Obin, Sénèque Obin, Salnave Philippe-Auguste, and André Pierre,” Joanna Robotham, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Tampa Museum of Art, told Forbes.com. “From depictions of revered Vodou deities and fantastical tropical landscapes, to bustling town centers and picturesque villages, the artists featured in the Albrecht Collection portray Haiti as home and paradise.” [. . .]

For full article, see https://www.forbes.com/sites/chaddscott/2023/05/17/haitian-artwork-on-view-across-south-florida

[Shown above: Roland Dorcely, Lumière bleue (Blue Light), 1958. Tempera on board. NSU ART MUSEUM FORT LAUDERDALE; GIFT OF MRS. EDNA K. ALLEN.]

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