Tag Archives: Haiti

Astro-Caribbean: Return

The last post for Caribbean Heritage Month is a mix between Space:Queens and Art of This World segments, featuring three visual artists whose work I’ve seen in Queens — Reginald Rosseau and his exhibition, Unmasked — Embodiment of Spirits, at Seed Capital Cafe; Nari Ward and his G.O.A.T., Again exhibition at Socrates Sculpture Park, and Fritz St. Jean who lives in the southeast Queens area and whose daughter I met a few months ago at the Queens Council on the Arts grant awardees ceremony.

Reginald Rosseau

“Reginald “Big Art” Rousseau is a Haitian-born and Harlem-made working artist whose artworks are generating a lot of buzz, in the hood and beyond. In addition, he is the founder of the Reginald “Big Art” Rousseau: Harlem Art Projects, a creative space located in a funky storefront which serves as part working art studio, part art gallery and part retail art store, for him to create, promote, exhibit and sell his artworks. The creative space also serves a physical space to connect with the community, collectors, curators as well as galleries.

His artistic style, which he affectionately, coined “Neo-Haitian Expressionism”, is derives from a radical fusion of Haitian Art, African Art, Street Art, POP-Art, Folk Art, Stained Glass, Pointillism, Art Nouveau and Modern Abstraction. His work, which explores multi-ethnicity and multicultural identity, are based on his own personal experiences as a Haitian, a Blackman and an Immigrant with a Haitian heritage encompassing a unique blend of African traditional customs, mixed with contributions from the French, Caribbean, Latin, American and indigenous Taíno culture. His signature work, encompasses curvilinear black lines, vibrant colors, flatness of forms, jeweled pointillism, multi-layered textures and bold patterns.  On a recent interview, when asked to describes his working process, Reginald responded ‘My working process, is like jazz, with an eight-bar theme, you start it by the “T” and improvise as you go to generates rhythmic accents and beats as well as conveys emotion and power’.”

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Nari Ward

Via Socrates Scuplture Park: Jamaica-American mixed-media artist Nari Ward “recasts tropes of outdoor structures – the monument, the playground, lawn ornaments, architectural barriers, and the advertising sign – into surreal and playful creations. Nari Ward: G.O.A.T., again examines how hubris creates misplaced expectations in American cultural politics. This exhibition also brings new insight into the artist’s exploration of identity, social progress, the urban environment, and group belonging.

G.O.A.T. is an acronym for Greatest of All Time, a phrase commonly used in American sports, made famous by Muhammad Ali, and in hip-hop, most notably, as the title of Queens native LL Cool J’s best-selling album. The title alludes to the African-American experience and political theater – common themes in Ward’s work.

The figure of the goat features prominently in Nari Ward: G.O.A.T., again as the artist’s articulation of social dynamics, conjuring the animal’s attributes and symbolic connotations, from an ambitious climber of great heights to an outcast. A flock of goats cast from lawn ornaments traverse the landscape, both in groups and as solitary individuals, manifesting the show’s title. The appropriation of the word goat, turning an insult into a moniker for excellence, demonstrates the power of wordplay, while the modifier again implies historical repetition. Scapegoat, a forty-foot long hobby toy further develops the goat metaphor and highlights another strand of the show: the satirization of virility, masculinity, and monument…”

Nari Ward’s exhibition is the first single presentation of an artist in the park’s 30-year history. Read the New Yorker feature about the exhibition.

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Fritz St. Jean

“Born in Port Au Prince, Fritz St. Jean emerged as one of Haiti’s most illustrious self-taught artists. Initially, his style consisted of painting animal and jungle scenes on canvas. However, in 1980, St. Jean broke away from the staid pastoral themes to memorialize his hopes and dreams for Haiti through his paintings. Being widely viewed as socio-political commentaries on the dichotomous realities of Haitian life, St. Jean’s paintings transport the viewer to scenes of mysticism, idealism, and humanity all in one. He is noted as a master in color and detail as his works are continuously punctuated by the use of bold colors and fine lines. Often, his paintings celebrate Haiti’s religious culture in Voodoo and encapsulate its rich history. Paying tribute to a country that was once called La Perle des Antilles (The Pearl of Antilles due to its natural beauty and countenance), St. Jean’s paintings are artistic love notes to his homeland.  Suffice it to say, Haiti continues to be the source of St. Jean’s inspiration.”

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Art of This World: Sol’Sax + Maksaens Denis + Kara Walker

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Despite having a cold last week and recovering from it, which is why I have not posted in a week, I managed to go to three exhibitions — Sol’Sax’s Medicine from Heaven: How African American Culture Was Used to Cure the USA, Maksaens Denis’ Mutation X062 and Kara Walker’s A Subtlety. Below are slideshows from each event:

Sol’Sax‘s Medicine from Heaven: How African American Culture Was Used to Cure the USA at Skylight Gallery in Brooklyn

This exhibition reminded me a lot of Margaret Vendryes’ African Diva Project where traditional African masks are placed on the faces of legendary African-American figures symbolizing the sacredness of African-American and African Diasporic cultures.

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Continue reading Art of This World: Sol’Sax + Maksaens Denis + Kara Walker

Art of This World: Ebony G. Patterson, and The Grand Rue Sculptors

I found this post via the Canadian afrofuturist website Outterregion:

(Note: I edited some of it)

Ebony G. Patterson

Justice, truth be ours forever
Jamaica land we love
– Excerpt from Jamaican National Anthem

The media has been showing only stories of violence from Jamaica for some time now due to unrest in West Kingston. It was very important to me tonight to share some ‘positive vibes’ from Jamaica and to talk about some afrofuturist art happening there and in the Caribbean.

The first artist I will profile is Ebony G. Patterson. She is a young woman, born in Kingston, Jamaica. She is an Assistant Professor of Painting at University of Kentucky and in Kingston. I call Ebony an afrofuturist as her work challenges the status quo in Jamaican culture, rejects the traditional and expected, and pushes the boundaries of art. For example, her earlier work exploring women’s bodies “focused on the vagina as an object and, by implication, examined the taboos that surround this body part and its functions within Jamaican culture.” …

Her more recent works focus on the male body. More specifically she looks at contradictions of men’s appearance in Jamaican dancehall culture, e.g. skin bleaching, eyebrow shaping – traditionally feminine features, while the men also portray themselves as hardcore, masculine gangstas.
The picture above this post is from her installation, “Gangstaz, Disciplez + The Doiley Boyz”….
Also, Ebony participated in the 2009 Jamaica Arts Cultural Exchange. For information on this event and more on Ebony’s work, go here.

The second feature in this post is about a group of afrofuturist artists called The Grand Rue Sculptors. They are a community of artists living in a downtown slum neighbourhood in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. I call them afrofuturists because they, like Ebony, push boundaries – do not accept the life that has been given to them and create new realities. They live daily with the reality that life as an artist in Haiti is near impossible – no government support and the inability to even get visas to see their own work displayed outside of the country. In 2009, they developed and hosted the Ghetto Biennale – and invited international artists to participate and explore “what happens when first world art objectives encounter third world artistic reality, and when Western artists try to make art in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.” (source: http://www.yoonsoo.com)
Read about Ghetto Biennale here.

One love,

Continue reading Art of This World: Ebony G. Patterson, and The Grand Rue Sculptors

Modern Griots Reviews: Films at the Crossroads – Revolutionaries and Outsiders

Free Angela and All Political Prisoners, Toussaint, Boneshaker and Alaskaland may seem like distinct films on the surface, but underneath they all have similar themes of people who feel as if they don’t fully fit as if in a state of in-betweenness, and trying to find a place to belong, whether it’s a community, a cause, family, or “home.”

In Shola Lynch’s Free Angela and All Political Prisoners, a documentary following the social climate surrounding the trial that indicted activist Angela Davis on murder and conspiracy charges for the Marin County courthouse incident, Angela is a figure who has several outsider characteristics. As one reporter mentioned in the film, she had an upper-class background, but she also had the privilege of going to a school up north when Birmingham was reaching its peak in Civil Rights Era as well as going to Germany for grad school. But the racial events happening in America, such as the formation of the Black Panthers, brought her back home. Yet, even home, she felt as if she didn’t fit in and others saw her as an outsider coming in to their territory at first. She felt slightly uncomfortable amongst the Panthers because of their sexism and nationalistic views, so she went to search for a collective to be part of and found the Che Lumumba Club, a communist party club.

Although experiencing the world as a black woman already made her an outsider, those other experiences separated her too — as an educated person, as a communist, as a feminist. Having Ronald Reagan wanting you fired as a professor because of your views doesn’t help either. Those experiences helped to shape Davis and probably helped her to handle being a fugitive, later incarcerated and put in solitary confinement. She could understand more concretely how being an outcast, like a prisoner, felt, and the film executes that well.
Not to mention, that the movie brings to light other areas of intersection, like the white farmer, Rodger McAfee, who put up his farm as collateral to help pay for Davis’ bail. That was delightfully unexpected. To top it all off, a great choice to use the Freedom Suite as the soundtrack to not make viewers feel comfortable. Together, it made the film much more sweeter when Davis received support from all over the world and was eventually cleared of the charges.

Continue reading Modern Griots Reviews: Films at the Crossroads – Revolutionaries and Outsiders

Otherworldly Videos: Somethings New

It’s 2013 and I’m back! So to kick things off, here are some new videos I have come across in the past few days. Enjoy!

HDADD – “Optometry and Afrofuturism” Listen to their Spacebuzz Mix here and their latest “Static Motion.”

Continue reading Otherworldly Videos: Somethings New

Modern Griots Interview: Blayer Pointdujour

Source: Unnom Deguerre

Blayer Pointdujour and the Rockers Galore are a band based in Philadelphia. Calling themselves the adopted child of Saul Williams and Paul Simonon (of The Clash), the group combines different musical styles, including punk rock, reggae, funk, hip-hop, and Haitian rhythms. Pointdujour aims to put a new twist on old music, making a new style all his own. After releasing their debut EP, Port Au Prince in 2011, they recently released their latest album, The Bull. Below he talks about his influences and the album:

1)    How do you describe yourself as an artist for those who don’t know you?

 I’m a first generation Haitian American from North Jersey. I’ve lived in Philadelphia for 9 years. My band and I create a blend of kompa\hip hop\punk jams

2)    What artists and music genres have influenced your music?

I’m influenced by a multitude of musical genres. Buddy Rich, Dizzy, Jimi Hendrix, Bad Brains, Kanye West, KRS-One, The Clash, Dennis Brown, and Stevie Wonder are some my favorite artists to listen to. Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of Jazz and Hip Hop. I’m starting to concentrate on arrangements.

Modern Griots Review: Oya and Anyanwu — The Faces of Change

Without stories, we are nothing but shells, only giving others the physical form of ourselves. Stories ground the spirits and forces around us and make them real.

Oya priestess Isoke Nia expressed this sentiment last night at the Schomburg Center in Harlem at the enlightening tribute to the Yoruba orisha, Oya, and writer Octavia Butler. Part of Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute’s Roots and Stars series, Oya and Anyanwu was the first program of what will be a series of five programs for the end of this year and going into early next year. Hosted by program director Desiree Gordon, this year’s theme is “change,” slightly evoking President Obama’s slogan from four years ago. But this was for the divinity of changer herself, Oya, and her manifestation in the works of Octavia Butler.

Continue reading Modern Griots Review: Oya and Anyanwu — The Faces of Change