Edouard Duval-Carrie

website: www.edouard-duval-carrie.com


By Matt Schudel
Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel

Edouard Duval-Carrie left his native Haiti more than 25 years ago, but Haiti has never left him. Now settled in Miami, Duval-Carrie has studied and lived all over the world, yet his troubled homeland in the Caribbean continues to be the inspiration for his art.
He doesn't record the everyday events of Haiti in a documentary sense, and his work is nothing like the simple, brightly colored scenes of peasant life that have become numbingly familiar in recent years. Rather, Duval-Carrie searches his own memory and imagination to create a private cosmography derived from the Haitian experience.
The many forms of his vision can be seen in "Edouard Duval-Carrie: Endless Passage," through Sept. 7 at the Lowe Art Museum at the University of Miami. Organized by the Phoenix Art Museum in Arizona, this mid-career examination of Duval-Carrie's achievements is the most extensive showing of his art so far in South Florida.
Despite its variety - there are paintings, sculptures, lacquered wooden tiles, modern day altarpiece and reliquaries - no one would ever mistake Duval-Carrie's art for that of anyone else. There is nothing detached or ironic about it. His aim is to preserve the soul of Haiti, no matter how tortured it may be. You could call it a fixation or obsession, or you could call it a need to express, the longings, sorrows and hopes of this poor, blood-stained island nation.
One of the most impressive works in "Endless Passage" is a triptych in the form of a classic altarpiece. The central panel of Trois Feuilles (Three Leaves) shows a trio of figures from Duval-Carrie's personal pantheon. They rise one above the other, in shades of blue, red and tan, sprouting leaves in place of hair. Niches cut out of the surface of the altar piece reveal tropical scenes, masks, grimacing faces and images of hearts. Gold-painted palm trees are carved into the side panels, and pointed objects (bullets, perhaps?) pierce the surface.
(The precise meanings may not always be clear, but there's no mistaking the general drift:
Duval-Carrie has merged the pagan beliefs of Haitian voodoo (or vodou or vaudou, as it's sometimes spelled) with the staid traditions of Western art. As if to say that one system of faith isn't superior to another, he has made a series _of 16 bronze _staffs with voodoo symbols that resemble the golden crosiers of the Catholic church. In a series of eight bronze sculptures, he has given the gods of voodoo as much stature as saints on stained glass windows.
A monumental series of four paintings that depict the indelible curse of slavery, The Migration of the Spirits, invokes imagery that is somewhere between the Bible and The Wizard of Oz. An elegant series of 12 lacquered floor panels from 2002, The True Story of the Water Spirits, is really a memorial to the souls lost in the Middle Passage.
Like Haiti itself, Duval-Carrie's art is a colorful, ever-evolving blend of European, African and Caribbean influences. He creates his own sym-bolic universe, in which boats can be the instru-ment of either freedom or doom. Again and again, he shows human figures - sometimes with crosses or animal heads in place of their faces - sailing toward an uncertain destiny. Death, in the form of disguised skeletons, is a constant companion.
Occasionally Duval-Carrie's lifts the symbolic veil and makes his meaning overt. His Incident in a Garden (1993), in which seven military figures with piglike faces stand over the decapitated heads of dissidents, is plainly an indictment of the brutal Tontos Macoute militia that terrorized the nation. Mardi Gras at Fort Dimanche (1992) refers to a notorious prison where Duval-Carrie's brother was held in 1980s as a subversive. In this scathingly satirical painting, Haiti's onetime dicta-tor, Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, is dressed as a gun-toting bride, surrounded by accom-plices - fashionably dressed women, a priest, a military officer, and a mysterious figure in a suit -all wearing dark glasses.
Duval-Carrie is a power-ful artist with an original vision, yet he may not be for everyone. If it's elegance, restraint, and sure-handed skill with a paintbrush that you may want, then you're looking in the wrong place. He's an artist who plays endless variations on the same themes - though it should be noted some of his recent works, incorporating flowers, leaves and fruits with painting, seem to have lit-tle to do with Haitian politics or history.
An artist should be appreciated for what he is, rather than for what he is not. And what you need to remember about Edouard Duval-Carrie is that, no matter how long he has been away from his homeland, he carries the wounded soul of Haiti within his heart, and within his art.