“Haitian Art Takes the Stage”

By Candice Russell

For people like myself, collectors and curators of Haitian art shows, we can’t get enough of exhibitions, catalogs and books about our favorite subject. I wish there was a legitimate Haitian art museum in an American town or city that showed Haitian art non-stop, scheduled lectures about it and ancillary cultural events, like spoken word or poetry readings, Haitian dance troupes, and lectures. Well, one can dream.

With that said, I was surprised by the wealth of attention the small island country is creating throughout the U.S. and beyond this fall. The number of shows scheduled — all entirely devoted to Haitian art — is staggering and well out of proportion to what the average person would think of as Haiti’s footprint in the global art world.

I’m not going to cover them all. But if you’re in the neighborhood of any of the following places, I encourage you to visit them and support Haitian art.

Just this past week, Ramapo College of New Jersey in Mahwah, New Jersey opened “A Sense of Place: Cap-Haitien Paintings from the Collection of Jonathan Demme” in its Kresge Gallery. Artists featured include Seneque Obin and Alfred Gabriel.

The Agora Gallery in New York City’s Chelsea area is devoted to contemporary fine art. Currently, its attention is turned to Haiti in a show called “Enigmatic Realms.” The highly abstract to other-worldly figurative work of Port-au-Prince artist Shakespeare Guirand is featured. This nation’s art capital is paying attention to Haitian art.

On view now through October 27, The Thought Lot in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania is presenting “Haiti — Another Vision” featuring the work of contemporary Haitian artists like Anderson Ambroise and Vady Confident. Funds raised from the event will be donated to Partners in Health in Haiti, a non-profit community health provider and children’s art advocate. The funds will also support a workshop in Jacmel devoted to children’s art and led by Keely Kernan. For more information, telephone 717-816-5390.

The west coast of the country gets into the Haitian art act, too. “Haitian Art Exhibit” opens in the Ridley Gallery on the campus of Sierra College in Rocklin, California on September 29. It runs through October 24. For more information, call 916-660-7242 and ask for Lisa Marasso.

If you live in Europe or have a trip planned, the blockbuster Haitian art show of the season so far takes place at the Grand Palais in Paris, France from November 19 to February 15, 2015. Titled “Le Baiser d’Hyppolite ou l’art d’Haiti,” it covers an impressive swath of time — from the 19th century to today. The organizers have a mission. They say it “aims to transcend the magico-religious, exotic vision restrictively associated with Haitian art.”

What does that mean? Will the show only be devoted to Cap-Haitien artists depicting historical scenes and daily life? Will there be nothing of Vodou, the lynchpin of so much of Haitian art?

There will certainly be a color catalog produced with this French exhibition (hopefully, with a portion in English, too). One hopes that the exhibition inspires controversy, debate, and motivation on the part of others to present an opposing view (if one is necessary).

This abundance of Haitian art underscores the value of Haitian art on the global art scene. We hope it continues well into 2015 and beyond.