Pioneer Works in New York will open a two-month exhibition of contemporary Haitian art this September, with work by 15 artists on show at the art center’s spacious post-industrial environs in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Red Hook. Titled “Pòtoprens: The Urban Artists of Port-au-Prince,” the show will focus on artists from the Haitian capital, as curated by the Haitian-American artist/curator Edouard Duval-Carrié and Leah Gordon, an artist and co-director of the city’s Ghetto Biennale
The exhibition, Gordon told ARTnews, aims to provide historical context for a city with which many are unfamiliar. “It’s one of the liveliest cities I’ve ever been to,” Gordon said. “The heartbeat of history is so strong in Port-Au-Prince.”
Works to be featured derive from traditional mediums ranging from sequin-covered “Drapo Vodou” (or “voodoo flags”) to sculptural carvings of stone and wood. The show will also host a recreation of a Haitian barbershop by Richard Fleming, complete with a local barber who will offer haircuts to visitors. Barbershops in Haiti act as neighborhood touchstones, Gordon said, and the recreation of one will evoke “different zones of production.” A curated program of films will feature as well.
“Always with Haiti you’re trying to negotiate a spectacle with history,” Gordon said. “You’re trying to temper the impulse to exoticize Haiti. It’s hard because some stuff is very seductive and exotic.”
“Pòtoprens” evolved in part from a 2015 collaboration between Pioneer Works, Clocktower Radio, and the Ghetto Biennale that resulted in a Port-au-Prince-based pirate-radio station called Radyo Shak. The exhibition will be on view from September 7 through November 11.