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Atis Rezistans: the Sculptors of Grand Rue

Grand Rue is the main avenue that runs a north-south swathe through downtown Port au Prince from Bel Air and La Saline to La Cimetière and Carrefour. At the southern end of Grand Rue, amongst the labyrinthine warren of back streets that line the avenue, is an area that traditionally has produced small handicrafts for the ever-diminishing tourism market. This close-knit community is hemmed in on all sides by the makeshift car repair district, which serves as both graveyard and salvation for the cities increasingly decrepit automobiles.

The artists Celeur and Eugène both grew up in this atmosphere of junkyard make-do, survivalist recycling and artistic endeavour. Their powerful sculptural collages of engine manifolds, TV sets, wheel hubcaps and discarded lumber have transformed the detritus of a failing economy into bold, radical and warped sculptures. Their work references their shared African & Haitian cultural heritage, a dystopian sci-fi view of the future and the positive transformative act of assemblage.
The artists from Grand Rue are extending the historical legacy of assemblage to the majority world. Their use of the readymade components are driven by economic necessity combined with creative vision and cultural continuity. Their work is transformative on many different allegorical levels, the transformation of wreckage to art, of disunity to harmony and of three young men, with no formal arts training, to the new heirs of a radical and challenging arts practice that has reached down through both modernist and post-modern arts practice.

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Jean Hérard Celeur

Jean Hérard Celeur was trained as a sculptor by his brother. At first he was involved in more traditional sculpture but gradually his work became more subjective. His most powerful piece to date is in the permanent collection of the Frost Art Museum. The work evokes the horsemen of the Apocalypse, three skulls crown three skeletal equine contraptions made from motor-bike chassis’, the central figure thrusting a massive thick wooden carved phallus. The piece is bristling
with menace, anger and a dark sexuality evoking the triple tragedies of AIDS, political oppression and poverty. ‘My work has social aspects, intellectual aspects and represents the people's
demands for change. I live in the reality that deals with poverty everyday which informs my work all the time.’

André Eugène

Eugène started out as a house builder, but influenced by the creative energy of his neighbourhood he started to learn traditional sculpting in wood. ‘There was always something happening in our neighbourhood with music, many sculptors and Vodou all around. This made me begin the life of an artist.’ Eugène’s work became increasingly influenced by contemporary Haitian artists such as Nasson. Eugène fused the fetish effigy with an apocalyptic MTV futuristic vision. Much of his work is figurative using human skulls for heads and imbued with a bold sense of irony, sexuality and humour. “It's usually always the bourgeoisie who own the galleries. But I wanted to have a gallery, not only a gallery, but it must be a museum. This is the reason why I have given the name 'E Pluribus Unum' Musee d'Art to my studio and yard.”

Jean Claude Saintilus

Claude started working with Andre Eugene in the mid 1990's and with 'Atis-Rezistans' in 2002. Most of his work is figurative and Vodou-laden. He has created an incredible structure dedicated to Gede in his yard which is half altar and part art installation. He represents the strongest blurring of boundaries between religion and art, citing the spirits as his biggest influence and inspiration. “My whole family is mystical. I asked the spirits that I could do work with my mind and be creative. They told me to do work that is mystic and so I can better understand the mystic. The mystic is an absolute truth. It exist, so therefore I love it.”
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