Red Hook exhibit features Port-au-Prince artists

On the opening night, a Flatbush barber gave people haircuts in this Haiti barber shop reconstruction by Richard Fleming in the garden of Pioneer Works.
Photo by Tequila Minsky

If you love art, the exhibit of the year should not be missed. The monumental PÒTOPRENS: The Urban Artists of Port-au-Prince features 25 artists working in Haiti’s capital at the art / cultural center Pioneer Works in Red Hook.

Co-curated by artist Leah Gordon, co-founder of Ghetto Biennale, and Haiti-born Miami-based painter and sculptor Edouard Duval-Carrié, the extraordinary exhibition took four years to organize.

Getting to the red brick former industrial building at 159 Pioneer St. near Van Brunt St. may take planning — the first time. And, it is well worth the effort to experience this awesome large-scale exhibition that runs until Nov. 11. Hours: Wednesdays through Sundays, 12-7 pm.

The B61 bus, ferry from Wall Street — Red Hook stop, Uber, or car gets you there.

Pioneer Works’ ground floor stretches three stories to an exposed-beams ceiling amply showcasing the pieces that make up the exhibition’s most imposing works — the sculptures by Port-au-Prince self-taught artists. The works of Atis Rezistans founders — Jean Herard Celeur, Andre Eugene and Guyodo — along with other artists from the downtown neighborhoods of Grand Rue and Belle Aire reveal visionary use of discarded motor, auto parts, tires, and other found and available materials creatively formed into works of art.

Meanwhile, sourced from the bed of the river Riviere Froide, sculptor Ti Pelin’s substantial stone works from limestone present a different form of expression.

Hanging in an adjacent gallery, the nearly four-foot long, immense, beaded drapo (flags) by Mylande Constant departs in scale, materials, and imagery from ceremonial vodou flags. This Carrefour Feuille artist learned the art of beading by embellishing wedding dresses, once a Port-au-Prince industry. Yves Telemac’s more traditional flags are also on display.

On the mezzanine, three photo artists present gay night life, gingerbread home interiors and a post-earthquake panorama. And, decades of the city’s history are illustrated through screened films in the third floor gallery. Richard Fleming’s “barber shop in Haiti” reconstruction in the outdoor garden adds another dimension.

Pioneer Works founding artistic director Gabriel Florenz made four trips to Haiti in its planning. Eight artists from Haiti attended the opening week.

“Haiti has seen incredible devastation and political upheaval, storms and earthquakes that killed its tourism, etc. From the rubble, almost literally a real renaissance this time, Haitian non-mainstream art recreated itself,” writes researcher and writer, Randall Morris, whose Cavin-Morris Gallery has been showing Haitian art since 1980. While bands RAM’s and Boukman Eksperyans’ performances, Isabelle Morse and Laura Beaubrun’s dance and percussion workshops, and a round-table and gallery walk with Jean-Daniel Lafontant already have provided related programming, there is more to come.

Two more vodou round-tables with Lafontant are scheduled: Oct 3, 7 pm, “Beyond Syncretism, Vodou is Creolization,” and on Nov. 8, focusing on “Gede.” For more programs, visit www.pioneerworks.org/calendar.

After the first week, identification and biographical info was added to the exhibition rectifying the oversight of “invisibility” of the artists. As for individual works of art, many which are untitled, the identification factor will be corrected in the catalogue, said Florenz, a publication to look forward to.

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