Video of the Week: Haitian Master Artists

This week’s videos wing their way to you from Gail Pellett Productions. These short 5 minute and under ‘mini-docs’ accompanied the exhibition ‘Haitian Art’ held at the Brooklyn Museum in 1978. Curated by Ute Stebich this exhibition was a landmark in the U.S. both in terms of its focus – as a major exhibition – on Haitian Art and its use of video within the gallery spaces.

Click the image links below to access five short videos: 1 introductory overview and 4 surviving videos out of 13 which each contain an interview with individual Haitian artists:

Haitian Art

“In 1978  the Brooklyn Museum mounted the first major exhibit of Haitian art in the U.S. — which later traveled to several other cities… Ute Stebich, the curator of this major exhibit, convinced the Brooklyn Museum to send a videographer  to travel around Haiti, shoot interviews with the artists and capture something of the world that inspired their work … the resulting mini documentaries produced were shown on monitors throughout the galleries — a controversial sensation at that time.”

Jasmin Joseph: Haitian Master Artist

Jasmin Joseph by Pascale Monnin

Jasmin Joseph by Pascale Monnin

“In this portion of the mini-doc we hear about Joseph’s early years as an artist, his transformation from sculptor to painter and his imaginative and spiritual world. He also explains why he doesn’t like the term “primitive” in describing his and other Haitian artists’ work … Joseph began making art through carving terra-cotta sculptures that came to the attention of Jason Seley, an American sculptor who partnered with Dewitt Peters…”

Gerard Valcin – Haitian Artist

“Valcin is painting in his outdoor studio at his home in Port-au-Prince. He explains his impoverished roots, that his work as a tile-setter supported his initial efforts at painting and that DeWitt Peters, at the Centre D’Art, helped him take his talent from ‘under his foot to his brain.’ We get the sense that Valcin is contented with his life of painting, drinking rum, and listening to music.”

Prefete Duffaut – Haitian Artist

“Mini-doc with scenes of Jacmel, Duffaut’s home town and his outdoor studio. Interview with Duffaut by Ute Stebich, curator for “Haitian Art” the first major exhibition of Haitian art in the U.S. at The Brooklyn Museum, 1978. This was one of a series of twelve mini-docs originally screened in a “video jukebox” in the galleries displaying the art … Duffaut explains that he started painting with shoe polish and guinea hen feathers and he describes the overwhelming joy when he sold his first paintings to Peters.”

Serge Jolimeau – Haitian Sculptor

“Jolimeau talks about his difficulties facing the private demons of his fantasies, how he creates and where he derives his inspiration, and the duress of the process of making the work. Watching him work we witness the physical challenges … Croix-des-Bouquetes is a small town on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. Previously defined by agriculture, it is now defined by it’s community of iron sculptors. The first to make a transition from forging iron crosses to creating 2 and 3 dimensional sculptures from scrap metal (usually re-cycled oilcans) was Georges Liautaud who is credited with inventing this art form. Jolimeau is among the second generation.”

For more information about this invaluable archive of video footage – now partly digitized and freely available online – and its place in the 1978 exhibition Haitian Art go to the website of Gail Pellett Productions. Here you will also find other interesting video projects undertaken by Pellett in Haiti and elsewhere.

(All text quoted above is taken from the site of Gail Pellett Productions)

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