Opening 20 October 2012, Nottingham Contemporary will be presenting an insightful vision into a stream of Haitian art practices predominantly inspired by Vodou from the 1940s to the present through the exhibition Kafou: Haiti, Art and Vodou.
” Bringing together some 200 works by 40 artists from the 1940s to today, and drawing from leading collections from Haiti, North America and Europe, Kafou will be one of the largest exhibitions of Haiti’s celebrated art ever held, and is unusual in presenting it in the context of a programme dedicated to international contemporary art. With few exceptions, the artists in the exhibition came from impoverished urban and rural backgrounds, and had minimal contact with the mainstream modern and contemporary art worlds. The extraordinary beauty and imaginative power of their work reflects the richness of Haitian culture and history while also contrasting with Haiti’s experience of, and reputation for, extreme poverty, political oppression and natural disaster. Kafou is curated by Alex Farquharson, Director of Nottingham Contemporary, and Leah Gordon, artist and curator of the Ghetto Biennale in Port-au-Prince.”
“Kafou: Haiti, Art and Vodou will trace the history of how Vodou has been represented through successive generations of Haitian art in all four of Nottingham Contemporary’s galleries, including the work of artists who were also Vodou priests (Houngans): Hector Hyppolite, André Pierre and Lafortune Félix for example. The exhibition begins with what has been dubbed the ‘Haitian Renaissance’, exemplified by the artists that gathered around the Centre d’Art in Port-au-Prince founded in 1944, which brought Haitian art to the attention of international collectors and important cultural figures. Kafou represents key figures from this ‘first’ generation, including Hyppolite, Rigaud Benoit, Wilson Bigaud, Castera Bazille, Préfète Duffaut (who lived in Jacmel in the south), and Philomé Obin and Seneque Obin, founders of the distinctive Cap Haitian school in the north of Haiti. Hyppolite, Haiti’s most celebrated artist, is represented by a large number of major works from the 1940s. They are followed by distinctive artists who followed in their wake, such as André Pierre, Celestin Faustin, Gerard Valcin, Alexandre Grégoire and Lafortune Félix, while a third room brings together examples of artists associated with the Saint Soleil movement of the 70s, 80s and 90s, whose representations of the lwa are less specific, more ethereal, and sometimes verging on abstraction. A fourth section presents several recent developments, including the Atis Rezistans group, who make arresting supernatural assemblages from recycled materials (car parts, clothing, human skulls and bones) and carved wood from their downtown neighbourhood in Port-au-Prince; the baroque and visionary depictions of Vodou spirits in sequins on flags by Myrlande Constant and Edouard Duval-Carrié’s and Frantz Zephirin’s potent fusions of Vodou and Haitian political history.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue whose texts will reevaluate the significance of seventy years of Haitian art from various cultural and historical vantage points. It features new essays by Colin Dayan (author of the seminal ‘Haiti, History and the Gods’), Alex Farquharson and a ‘trialogue’ by Leah Gordon, Wendy Asquith and Katherine Smith. A major international conference at Nottingham Contemporary will complement the exhibition by considering the many ‘Afterlives’ of the 1804 Revolution in Haiti and the Atlantic World through a wide range of disciplinary perspectives.”