Art exhibition: Art and Revolution in Haiti, The Gallery of Everything, Marylebone
PUBLISHED: 17:38 04 October 2018 | UPDATED: 17:38 04 October 2018
Exhibitions at a Marylebone gallery and Frieze Masters mark the moment when surrealism descended on a former slave colony and found a wealth of artistic talent
Exhibitions at a Marylebone gallery and Frieze Masters will mark the moment when surrealism descended on the former slave colony of Haiti and found a wealth of artistic talent.
Art+Revolution In Haiti runs at The Gallery of Everything in Chiltern Street until November 11 and at the art fair in Somerset House from October 3-7.
Behind the exhibition is James Brett who champions the work of non-professional and private art makers, and challenges notions of what art can be.
In December 1945, the Parisian poet and author of The Surrealist Manifesto André Breton, travelled to Haiti for an exhibition by Cuban painter, Wifredo Lam. Invited to give a series of lectures to local students, he was keen to attend Vodou ceremonies on the island.
But while visiting Le Centre d’Art d’Haïti, Breton encountered a dynamic collective of self-taught artists and was astonished by their fresh aesthetic. Vodou priest Hector Hyppolite, whose mythological canvases were executed with chicken feathers and spirit guidance; Wilson Bigaud, the diarist of daily life; and portraitist Castera Bazile, were among the artists he encountered..
“Breton who had strong Marxist leanings went to the island on a tour looking for other belief systems. He wanted to discover Vodou and give some incendiary speeches drawing parallels between the essence of surrealism and life on Haiti which was pretty tough,” says Brett.
“He was looking for invigoration and these Haitian artists had a new way of looking at the world. He found a spiritual connection in Vodou which is a strange visual belief system, a hybrid of 200 years of slavery, West African beliefs, Catholicism and a kind of weird version of psychoanalysis.”
Breton siezed upon Hyppolite, acquired five of his pieces, brought the artist back to Paris and toured the works across Europe where the movement caught a wave.
Brett, who is also showing work at the African Art Fair, adds: “Each of the exhibitions shows a different aspect of the Haiti art movement. I first got interesetd in Hector Hyppolite then inovolved in other artists. The aesthetic is really good with these weird images of things you wouldn’t expect to see. They are really full of life, there is a mix of the magical and the very real. They are really special and complex paintings but obviously didn’t have the techniques.”
Hyppolite may have died in 1948, but the legacy of that validation given by Breton continues today says Brett.
Back in 2009, the St John’s Wood-raised writer and director, founded the nomadic Museum of Everything in a former Primrose Hill recording studio.
It continues to stage shows which champion work outside the traditional cannon that is often dismissed as ‘naive or outsider art’.
“The work is really fantastic but it’s just snobbery that they won’t give these artists their due. It’s treated as this other thing, even when the people making it are not that different from us.
The Gallery of Everything, 4 Chiltern Street Marylebone.