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Mango Tango Is Showcasing Haitian Artists

March 8, 2007 – Mango Tango Art Gallery announced the arrival of a shipment of art from Haiti. It includes oil drum sculpture, river rock carvings, and paintings. "Aba Lavi Che" is graffiti sprawled on walls in Haiti. It means "down with the expensive life." Astounding is the fact that in a nation crippled by abject poverty, political upheaval, and natural disasters, artists continue to celebrate life. Gallery co-owner Jane Coombes said, "It is as if visual art helps transcend reality. It seems to lift the spirits of the artist and the viewer. Haitian art is joyful."
Steel drum art is unique to Haiti. The old drums, once used to deliver chemicals and petrol, are purchased in the port. The artist puts newspapers in the drum and sets them on fire to remove chemicals. Using a chisel and a hammer, after the ends are cut away for smaller works, the artist scores the length of the drum and then flattens it with his weight. The signed cutouts images are voodoo inspired. Characteristics of the sculpture are areas that are concave or convex, with intricate patterns made by hammered small bumps.
The current river rock sculptures range in size from 8 inches to 15 inches in height. The carved stone is similar to soapstone. In nature the stone is a rich gray blue. For subject matter, sculptors favor the human body. The face and limbs of the stone artwork are dyed black, and each figure has a definite connection to ancient African tribal art and contemporary sculpture.
Caroll Sirhakis presents a selection of Haitian paintings at Mango Tango Art Gallery. She has devoted 35 years to the study of the art of Haiti. Her understanding of the intuitive art allows her to choose work of emerging artists and to offer paintings by artists (with whom she has shared a lifetime connection), who are in international museums.
Three artists of note are Roger Francois, Reynald Joseph, and Dieuseul Paul. Roger Francois depicts the essence of female in portraiture, and he often paints owls. His paintings have surreal overtones. As a child, Reynald Joseph studied with artist Wilfred Louis. By the time he was 13, he was selling his paintings to buy books, mostly on art. By 16, his work was part of an exhibition that traveled to Mexico, where the Mexican government purchased his work. Dieuseul Paul's paintings are part of the school of San Soleil, a distinctive style of painting which pays homage to the spirits of voodoo.
These three artists represent three fine levels of Haitian art. Roger Francois is a living legend. He paints daily at the age of 79. He has enjoyed a permanent selection at the Brussels Museum since 1963. At 33 years of age, Joseph is considered a rising star. Authors, who are chronicling the current contemporary art scene of Haiti, pay particular attention to his work, including Gerald Alexis in Peintres Haitiens. When Paul was 23 years old, his art was known throughout Europe from the writings of cultural French icon Andre Malraux. His work has been exhibited in museums in Europe as well as the American Visionary Museum in Baltimore. Paul died last year at the age of 54.
Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday, with extended hours until 8 p.m., on Tuesday. Tuesday night allows for later browsing while listening to the bluesy tunes of co-owner Smokey Pratt. Mango Tango showcases Haitian art year-round. It is a section of the gallery that continues to grow, thanks to the help of Sirhakis.
For more information, call 777-3060.

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