Art of Edouard Duval Carrié
January 1, 2004, marked the 200th anniversary of the proclamation of Haitian independence by General Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the first leader of the “Black Republic,” as Haiti is often called. To celebrate that great occasion, the government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Haiti’s first democratically elected president, asked painter and sculptor Edouard Duval-Carrié to curate an exhibition of his work in the heart of Port-au-Prince, the nation’s capital.
Duval-Carrié now makes his art in a studio in the “Little Haiti” district of Miami, but like many of his countrymen, he is a man of the world. Studio trained in Paris, he has lived in Puerto Rico and Canada and even traveled to the Republic of Benin in West Africa, ancestral home of the divinities of Vodou (the national religion of Haiti). His work in various media celebrates these divinities and their role in the history of his country, especially the events of 1804. …
With Duval-Carrié’s carnival sensibility comes a quirky humor that enlivens even his darkest work. Seeing daily life through the scrim of carnival transforms his painted Haiti into a pays surréal, as he explained to Vodou scholar Karen McCarthy Brown: “Reality in Haiti can be so disastrous that you have to take a little excursion into some surreal or fantasy world. One has to create, hoping things will get better.” Of course such “little excursions” are really made through the looking glass (a favorite Vodou metaphor), as he further explained to art critic Judy Cantor: “The fantastic dimension in my painting is the fruit of observing everyday life in Haiti. … The conditions are so tragic that they have to be balanced with the supernatural.”
Duval-Carrié is a fusion artist. A child of the bourgeoisie, he has intuited (or imbibed) the aesthetic of a Vodou that is not so far from Max Ernst’s description of collage as “the coupling of two realities, irreconcilable in appearance, upon a plane which does not suit them” or, better yet, a Haitian aesthetic equal to Lautréamont’s definition of beauty: “the chance encounter on a dissecting table of a sewing machine and an umbrella.” Lots of sewing machines meet umbrellas on Vodou altars and in Duval-Carrié’s paintings.
The artwork is from the exhibition “Divine Revolution: The Art of Edouard Duval-Carrié,” at the University of California at Los Angeles’s Fowler Museum of Cultural History through January 30, 2005. The text, from the exhibition catalog, is by the exhibition’s guest curator, Donald J. Cosentino, a scholar of Haitian art and a professor in UCLA’s department of world arts and cultures.
This series is where I first began watercolor abstracts. I experiemented a lot with different colors, techniques, and styles. I was finding my footing as an artist. I appreciate it for what it was, but I feel I have grown beyond these first few pieces.
- Jamele Wright Sr.
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- Jamele Wright