20. 'Erzulie Dantor'_
23. 'Dambala Wouedo'
119. 'Mariage …'
the unending search for 'the new Hyppolite,' André Pierre's name
surfaces more often than any other. He's not a 'new' anybody, however:
he's an original
— and a classic celebrated in nearly
every book on Haitian art.
oungan — like Hector Hyppolite,
several other leading artists — Pierre was introduced to
the Centre d'Arte in 1949 by Maya Deren, a noted student of Haitian life
and of vodou. (See
Reading.) His work has been
prized by collectors for over half–a–century.
claimed he painted only when and what the lwas
told him to. Cynics scoffed that the gods spoke to him more often when he
needed money or the
market was good.
surely more to the market than to the lwas' commands,
Pierre's colors became progressively more gaudy from
the early 1970s on. His conceptions, however, were brilliant from the
very beginnings of his art — decorating ounfòs (vodou
temples) and sacerdotal gourdes.
Pierre the animism of vodou is palpable. Everything seems
alive — not only the people and plants, but rocks, water, sky, earth, and the
paintings themselves. That vitality is especially evident in Dambala
Dambala was executed in Pierre's
'pre–garish' period. Erzulie came on the cusp of that style, Mariage
and St Jacques well into it.
In 'Les Trois Esprits des Morts'
Pierre's colors are again less garish, possibly reflecting the reverence
with which he viewed the 'spirits of death.'
I visited Pierre in
1974. His small
vodou temple, was decorated with
gourdes, flags, and small paintings — all of which meant something
to him and his religious practice.
Pierre was working on
Erzulie Dantor at the time. I told him I wanted it; he said I could
have it; I returned some days later, it was done, I bought it.
Dambala Wouedo was
obtained by an artist, the friend of a colleague, who visited Haïti in
and who had asked me before going if there were painters I wanted her to
look for. She brought back to Manhattan, and I bought, this work and one
by Micius Stephane. (The Pierre is dated
1966 on the back.)
Mariage and St Jacques
come from Port-au-Prince galleries.
Les trois esprits was
obtained from a collector in Maryland. It is unusually large for a
Pierre and illustrates again his devotion to the lwas.
pour Agoué was obtained in a 2014
auction of some 1050 works from the
eclectic collection of film director Jonathan (The Silence of the
Lambs) Demme. The catalogue of that auction,
Direct from the Eye,
states the work dates from the 1960s; wear
on the painting (slight chipping on the top of the masonite) would seem to bear
131. 'St Jacques' _
240. 'Les Trois Esprits des Morts'