If you're a student at Florida International University, you might have noticed a sea of sharp, stylized graffiti; intense, handwritten messages; and brightly colored landscapes popping up on campus this week. The ten tents are part of Frost Art Museum's outdoor exhibit "Base Paint Tent
," one of very few art shows that can boast it will travel to another country to literally provide an education.
While the colorful canvases might provide artful recluse in between
classes at FIU, they will function as multi-purpose classrooms in
L'Athletique d'Haiti in Cite Soleil, Haiti. The 20x15x13-feet tents were
donated by Armbruster, America's oldest tentmaker, and all paint and
material was specifically chosen to withstand extreme weather. When the
sun shines down on each tent, the colors of the artwork will filter into
the into the interior where children are attending class. The tents
will also be visible from airplanes flying into Port-au-Prince -- a
bright spot in an otherwise somber landscape of rubble and fractured
dreams where most schools crumbled to the ground.
The project was curated by Cuban artist and "radical environmentalist" Antuan, and was first on display during Art Basel, where several organizations and schools pledged to sponsor a tent. Participating artists from around the world were given free reign to sketch a design, and each one is stylistically different ― there are starry, child-like renderings, minimalist graphics, detailed abstract landscapes, and speeches and words as medium.
Antuan collaborated with Elba Luis Lugo to create Barcode Noir, a simple barcode over a white tent, the numbers portraying important years in Haitian history. It serves as "a play on words which rejects the Code Noir, a European, French dictated document, which is the backbone of oppression, torture, violation of human rights and crime against blacks traded from African slave exportation ports," according to the artists. "[It] plays on myriad interpretations of the barcode icon, a symbol of trade, emblematic of the marketplace."
Another tent, by José Bedia, features Haitian deities Ogou, Bossou, and Dambalah rendered in shadowy black over a yellow background. On the other side, a machete is transformed into a boat carrying immigrants.
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A Ruben Millares and Antonia Wright tent features words in English and Creole, mostly Haitian poems. On the roof of the tent, the words from two rainbow-colored irises, which appear to look up into the sky. They "ask for help and accountability to those who fly over," say the artists. "The eyes not only represent the wishes in the children's eyes within the school, but are also a reflection of the people above. And God."
Other artists who designed tents include Pedro Barbeito, Damian Sarno, Edouard Duval Carrié, Gean Moreno, Leonel Matheu, Nicolas Leiva, and José Garcia Cordero. The Frost Art Museum exhibit is the last chance to see the tents before they head to Haiti in February.
Base Paint Tents is on display until January 31, 2011 at FIU-MMC on the lawn outside of Frost Art Museum (10975 SW 17th St., Miami). Call 305-348-2890 or visit thefrost.fiu.edu.