In Extremis: Death and Life in 21st‐Century Haitian Art explores how leading Haitian visual artists have responded to a tumultuous 21st century, an era punctuated by political upheaval, a cataclysmic earthquake, devastating hurricanes, epidemics, and continuing instability. Consisting of approximately seventy mixed-media works by established artists and a rising generation of self-taught genre-busters, the exhibition offers unflinchingly honest and viscerally compelling reactions to Haiti’s contemporary predicament.
In depicting stark realities of the Haitian (and human) condition, all of these pieces invoke the overarching presence of Baron Samedi, the Vodou divinity who presides over key aspects of mortality, sexuality, and rebirth, and his trickster children the Gede, who are the Vodou divinities most beloved by the Haitian people. Sculptures by Grand Rue artists André Eugène, Jean Hérard Celeur, and Frantz Jacques Guyodo―crafted from used automobile parts, old computer components, and other industrial cast-offs as well as incorporating human skulls and clothing―clearly bear his imprint. So too, do heavily beaded and sequined textiles by Roudy Azor and Myrlande Constant that depict the 2010 earthquake and its aftermath. Likewise, paintings by Mario Benjamin, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Didier Civil, Franz Zéphirin, and Edouard Duval-Carrié and site-specific installations by Maksaens Denis and Akiki Baka all proclaim Baron Samedi and the Gedes to be paramount spirits for a nation, and perhaps a world, in extremis.
In Extremis: Death and Life in 21st-Century Haitian Art is organized and produced by the Fowler Museum at UCLA and curated by Donald J. Cosentino, UCLA Professor Emeritus of Black Atlantic Religions and Popular Culture, and Patrick A. Polk, Fowler Curator of Latin American and Caribbean Popular Arts, with Leah Gordon, Marilyn Houlberg, and Katherine Smith. Major support for the exhibition comes from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Additional funding is provided by the Barbara and Joseph Goldenberg Fund, the Shirley and Ralph Shapiro Director's Discretionary Fund, the Faye Bettye Green Fund, and the Pasadena Art Alliance.
Opening Party: In Extremis: Death and Life in 21st Century Haitian Art
Saturday, September 15, 2012