The Spirits Are Willing

There is a noted lack of politically themed work here, somewhat surprising given the reality of Haiti's recent past and current transitional situation. Only two artists choose to touch on political subjects. Jacques Liautaud lives in Alexandria, Virginia, where he works as an engineer. His two thematically sophisticated paintings are from an ongoing series of works with Haitian themes. Ecce homo shows "Papa Doc" Duvalier sitting in a chair in a tuxedo -- the image is painted from a photograph but is slightly caricatured. Liautaud has framed the portrait with the words Homo desastrus, Homo sinistrus, Homo fornicatus, and at the top, Ecce homo. The other work, Terrible Truths, depicts a man with a tire around his neck, a reference to the Haitian practice of "necklacing," in which victims are physically confined by tires, then doused with gasoline and set ablaze. Rejin Leys, a young woman artist who lives in New York, offers Guantanamo Survival Kit, an ingenious, intricately executed foldout artist's book containing images and biting texts on both life in the U.S. camp and international politics.

Just as Haitians are given the short shrift by U.S. immigration policy, Haitian artists have received scant attention from local galleries and museums, despite Miami's large Haitian population. Representatives of that constituency, along with the usual art-scene suspects, flocked to Lincoln Road for the jubilant opening of this exhibition, demonstrating that there is certainly an audience for the Alyans Atizay Ayisyen's future projects. "Contemporary Expressions of Haitian Art" is a bit of a mixed bag, but its spirit is definitely in the right place.

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