Frantz Zephirin is one of the leading contemporary painters working in Haiti today. A self-taught artist born in Cap Haitien in 1968, Zephirin has variously been described as a visionary, a surrealist, a visual satirist and an “historic animalist”. His work has been featured in museums and galleries around the world. Indigo Arts Gallery, in association with Frank Giannetta of Giannetta Gallery, is honored to host Frantz Zephirin: Art and Resilience, Zephirin’s first U.S. exhibit since the January earthquake.
The nephew of Cap Haitien painter Antoine Obin, Zephirin began painting at the age of seven. He was soon selling paintings to the tourists who came to Cap Haitien in cruise ships. By age 13 he was selling to galleries, and soon moved to Port-au-Prince. While completely self-taught, Zephirin gained a reputation as a skilled “animal painter” in the tradition of the first generation Haitian painter Jasmin Joseph. But if this evokes images of happy children’s books, it is deceptive. Zephirin’s animals owe more to George Orwell than Walt Disney. His paintings are frequently social and political allegories of Haiti’s history and its tumultuous present. Zephirin’s work was included in the ground-breaking exhibit from the UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History, the Sacred Arts of Haitian Vodou, and two exhibits at the American Visionary Art Museum, Holy H2O and Home and Beast. A painting by Zephirin was on the cover of Bob Shacochis’ 1999 book about Haiti, The Immaculate Invasion.
After a very close call with the earthquake Zephirin immediately went back to work recording his visions of a violently transformed world. He had no choice but to paint, as he told Le Monde (Feb. 13, 2010). “I can only think of this. The earthquake. I walk in the devastated streets, I drink, I think, and I go back to paint. I do not sleep. I paint. I paint like I breathe.” His painting, “The Resurrection of the Dead “ was the arresting image chosen for the January 25th cover of the New Yorker magazine.
Since the earthquake Zephirin has been featured in stories in the New York Times, Le Monde, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Times of London, the Guardian and the BBC - website and broadcast. During March through May, 2010, Zephirin has been exhibiting his work in the exhibit Haiti Art Naif: Memories of Paradise? at the Denkmalschmiede Hofgen art center in Gimma, Saxony, Germany. A portion of the sales of Zephirin’s work will be donated to Haitian earthquake relief. Mr. Zephirin was present for both the Thursday night and Saturday afternoon receptions.
For a June 3rd, 2010 article about Frantz Zephirin and this exhibit click here.
For a June 6th, 2010 review of this exhibit click here.
Artist and critic Andre Juste has also written Frantz Zéphirin’s Paradise of the Mind, a perceptive critical piece on Frantz Zephirin for the June 11th, 2010 issue of Haiti Liberté.
In September 2010 Zephirin's work was once again featured prominently, this time on the cover of Smithsonian magazine. The Smithsonian article, The Art of Resilience, by Bill Brubaker, describes the effect of the earthquake on Haiti's cultural resources, including the destruction of the Centre d'Art, the Musée Nader, and the Cathedral Sainte Trinité, as well as the restoration efforts by conservators from the Smithsonian Institution. It also looks at the plight of Haiti's artists, including profiles of Prefete Duffaut, Frantz Zephirin, Nacius Joseph and others.