Beyond Voodoo: Defying Expectations of Haitian Art – Hyperallergic

Most accounts relating the evolution of Haitian art begin with the American painter DeWitt Peters, who arrived in the country in the early 1940s and established the Centre d’Art in Port-au Prince. Peters is widely credited with “discovering” Haiti’s indigenous arts and bringing them to international attention, sparking a widespread enthusiasm for the “naïve” and “primitive” styles of popular and religious Haitian art. In 1978, a landmark exhibition of Haitian work at the Brooklyn Museum celebrated these patronizingly branded forms, and, according to the New York Times, “catapulted awareness of the genre to a broader American audience and prompted Sotheby’s and Christie’s to begin auctioning Haitian art.”

These neocolonial categories sidelined an entire generation of artists from critical attention. Collectors from Europe and the United States sought out so-called primitive and naïve work even as entirely new styles had been undertaken and developed by Haitian artists since at least the 1950s. Those who had moved into increasingly abstract modes saw their work ignored or discarded as not properly “Haitian.” Some repatriated abroad. Others pushed forward by drawing on the influence of movements taking hold in Europe during this period. Wherever they were, these modern artists redefined notions of “genuine” artistic expression in Haiti, even if Western observers didn’t know it at the time. via Hyperallergic


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