Haitian Paintings Sizzle at Allentown Art Museum [Photos]

A collection of colorful Haitian art from the Rodale family is on display at the Allentown Art Museum

The Allentown Art Museum of the Lehigh Valley is offering an antidote to the winter doldrums with two new special exhibitions that allow visitors to experience the colorful styles of the 1920s along with exotic, tropical scenes from the heart of the Caribbean. Fabulous Flappers: Fashion from the Ellie Laubner Collection and Haitian Art from the Rodale Family Collection will run from Sunday, February 3 through April 14, 2013, with a festive Opening Party planned for Saturday, February 9, from 6 to 8 p.m., complete with Roaring 20’s themed food, music, and dress-up.

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Haitian Art from the Rodale Family Collection

This exhibition of about 30 paintings by select artists of Haiti will be held in the Museum’s Rodale Gallery, an appropriate location given that most of the collection was acquired by Mr. and Mrs. Robert Rodale in 1986.

The collection materialized because Robert Rodale (1930–1990), a Lehigh Valley resident and chairman and CEO of Rodale Inc., was interested in improving conditions in underdeveloped countries, including Haiti. He befriended Jacques Lauriac, who was the director of two French relief organizations in Haiti. Mr. Rodale purchased most of the artwork from two galleries in Haiti, and Lauriac delivered them to the United States, where they were displayed at both the Rodales’ home and the Rodale office building. 

The Haitian paintings and sculpture in the Rodale Family Collection are surprisingly expressive and dynamic, which seems almost contradictory given the generations of poverty, repression, disease, and despair that have made Haiti one of the poorest countries in the world.

This vibrant, colorful, and exuberant exhibition includes work by more than twenty different Haitian artists—the generation of painters influenced by the founders of Haitian national art school in the 1940s—such as Gabriel Alix (1930–1983), Prospere Pierre-Louis (1947–1996), Jacques-Richard Chéry (b. 1938), André Normil (b. 1934), Audes Saül (b. 1949), and fifteen other artists. Subjects include animals, lush landscapes both real and imagined, wedding ceremonies, colorful city scenes, and Vodou (Voodoo) imagery, which is prevalent in Haiti.

Events and Programs

February 9 (Saturday): 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Opening Party for FLAPPERS and HAITIAN ART

Join the Lehigh Valley’s art and design crowds for the kick-off party celebrating our two exciting new special exhibitions: Fabulous Flappers: Fashion from the Ellie Laubner Collection and Haitian Art from the Rodale Family Collection. Themed hors d’oeuvres by Karen Hunter and a cash bar will fuel the evening’s festivities. Live music by the Barrel House Brothers—traditional jazz from the 1920s and 1930s. Come dressed in your best flapper or Caribbean island fashions. FREE to Allentown Art Museum members; nonmember tickets are $15. RSVP to 610-432-4333, ext 129, or go to ticketleap.com and search “Allentown Art Museum” events to buy tickets

March 6 (Wednesday): Noon

Walk-through of  the HAITIAN ART exhibit, with Diane P. Fischer

The Museum’s chief curator leads a tour through our Haitian Art exhibit. This casual talk runs approximately forty-five minutes and is free with Museum admission.

April 7 (Sunday): 1 p.m.

Randall Morris: “On Haitian Art”

Randall Morris is a lecturer, writer, and co-owner of Cavin-Morris Gallery in New York City. Morris has been exhibiting world artists for nearly thirty years. He specializes in the work of self-taught artists whose work is made independently of the art world canon yet remains authentic and visionary. He also shows an eclectic selection of tribal art from all the major regions of the world, focusing on the unusual and the formally surprising. He will be offering a gallerist’s take on the Haitian art genre. $5 members, $15 nonmembers. To register call 610-432-4333, ext 110, or go to ticketleap.com and search “Allentown Art Museum” events to buy tickets

April 14 (Sunday): 1 p.m.

Michael Thompson: “The Artist Without Borders—The Poster, the Creative Activist, and Positive Change”

When Michael Thompson has ideas, they’re too big to be contained by political borders—they’re global. The Jamaican artist known as Freestylee, now based near Easton, Pennsylvania, has gained worldwide recognition for his powerful poster designs. Thompson’s social awareness and his design skills have led him to create moving visuals inspired by world events such as the recent Eqyptian revolution, the Occupy Movement, and Haitian earthquake relief. Current design technology and the web allows the artist the opportunity to express himself digitally to a global audience. Some of Michael’s work is on view during the exhibition Haitian Art from the Rodale Family Collection in a display of posters from the Haitian Poster Project in the Museum’s Art Ways Interactive Gallery. Join us as Michael shares his work and his thoughts about his creative journey from Kingston, Jamaica, to Pennsylvania via Cuba and New York. $5 members, $15 nonmembers. To register call 610-432-4333, ext 110, or go to ticketleap.com and search “Allentown Art Museum” events to buy tickets



Island Fun!

Art Ways Interactive Gallery

To complement the exhibition Haitian Art from the Rodale Family Collection we’ll explore the art and culture of the Caribbean Islands. On his voyage to the New World in 1492, Christopher Columbus believed that he was traveling toward Asia and the East Indies, and so he named the first land he encountered the West Indies. Thus began the colonization that created the multicultural, colorful island territories. Bring the kids, all ages, every Sunday during the exhibit as Museum staff lead hands-on projects  featuring different European and aboriginal crafts and family activities. Art Ways programs are part of Free Sundays at the Museum

On display in Art Ways:

The Haiti Poster Project: Creativity for a Cause

The Haiti Poster Project was launched three days after the most powerful earthquake to hit Haiti in two hundred years devastated the country, on January 12, 2010. The project is a collaborative effort by the design community to help effect change through their work. Signed and numbered limited-edition posters have been donated by designers and artists from around the world. Using the traditional communication form of the poster, artists have shown their support by using imagery and colors from Haitian culture mixed with contemporary processes.




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