Friday’s entry didn’t do justice to the breadth and depth of Pierre Sylvain’s work, so I’m doing another entry. I mentioned the influence of Cubism, but there is also folk art and neo- expressionism.
Among the most stunning images are the black-and-white acrylic on board that portrays aspects of slavery and abolition. As soon as I saw them, I thought of the Haitian-American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat,
Pierre’s “Door of No Return” is among the best expressions of the horror of the slave trade. The door is in a building “La Maison des Esclaves” on Gorée Island in Senegal where many captive Africans last saw their homeland.
With its bold colors and liveliness, Basquiat’s “The Radiant Child” forms a counterpoint to the dark and brooding “Door of No Return,” though the child’s American flag smile does have a macabre quality. (The meaning of “Apokhes,” which appears on several paintings, remains obscure).
Both artists’ images share an energy and a passion. Basquiat’s have more elements of folk art and appear rougher, but their messages of black empowerment resonate equally. People who control these things should arrange an exhibit of works by these artists.