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Manuel Mathieu: World Discovered Under Other Skies | Dwelling on the Invisible

April 10, 2024
12:00 am
October 6, 2024
11:55 pm
Manuel Mathieu: World Discovered Under Other Skies | Dwelling on the Invisible


World Discovered Under Other Skies

In his first solo exhibition at a major United States institution, Manuel Mathieu showcases his vibrant paintings that seamlessly merge abstraction with figuration. Mathieu’s works serve as reflections of our intertwined lives, where the boundaries between the past and present, or the personal and political are often blurred. Sharing memories that depict everyday scenes, Mathieu also interrogates the complex history of his familial homeland, Haiti, within his canvases. By unearthing the traumas of state violence, he addresses issues that remain as urgent today as they have been throughout Haitian history.

Presenting a constellation of works – including paintings, drawings, and ceramics – the exhibition, which originated at The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery in Toronto, Ontario, sheds light on Haiti’s relationship to the world. Positioned at the fault lines of modern political and environmental crises, Haiti epitomizes a global longing for liberation, and grassroots resistance to imperialist and capitalist exploits. At its core, this exhibition is an examination of the long-lasting repercussions of Haiti’s pioneering revolt, which launched in 1791 to challenge slavery and colonialism. This, and its quest for self-determination have in recent decades, embroiled the nation in the intrigues of the Cold War.

Some paintings bring harrowing incidents back into contemporary consciousness, hinting at the atrocities committed by Haiti’s ruthless dictatorships. Mathieu reminds us that commemorating the tragedies of the past does not fall solely on the shoulders of a nation’s local or diasporic communities, but it is part of our collective responsibility. His works suggest a distinct understanding of Haiti’s history – a history defined by global currents, which occasionally collide, resulting in frenzied episodes of mass violence. Mathieu, therefore, proposes that the dynamics of the world might manifest themselves in one place, like Haiti. Underlining common links and struggles that unite us despite national borders, he invites us to enter a world discovered under other skies.

Dwelling on the Invisible

Presented as both a continuation of themes presented in World Discovered Under Other Skies and serving as a meditation on Mathieu’s current practice, Dwelling on the Invisible explores the dominant motifs introduced in the exhibition originating at The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery in Toronto, Ontario. It examines the present-day political landscape in Haiti while engaging deeper into the artist’s personal journey towards self-understanding.

In response to Mathieu’s ambitious, wide-ranging, and prolific practice, it was imperative for this exhibition to debut new work from the artist’s studio. Much akin to World Discovered Under Other Skies, here, Mathieu seized the opportunity to explore new mediums, including his first public presentation of mosaic investigations and a short film. These works engage with questions of identity, feelings of loss and separation, and broader, politically fraught current events.

As the artist’s first solo institutional presentation in the United States, it holds special significance for Mathieu to consider the notable Haitian population residing near the museum. This context renders the conversation related to immigration and the story of Haiti’s history particularly relevant to MOCA’s surrounding communities. Scholar Jean Casimir’s statement in the book, The Haitians A Decolonial History, resonates deeply: “All immigrants, I would argue, lay out their paths in their new society in relation to the baggage they carry with them, rather than by donning a straightjacket that the new society tailors for them.”[1]  This sentiment is echoed throughout many of the works in this exhibition, which are center on Mathieu’s grappling with feelings of displacement and his enduring ties to a homeland in turmoil. It could be argued that the works on view here seem to activate the space in a wholly new way, adding yet another layer to the complexities of the artist’s practice.


[1]Casimir, Jean. The Haitians: A Decolonial History. University of NorthCarolina Press, 2020 page 371.


World Discovered Under Other Skies, curated by Amin Alsaden at the Power Plant in Toronto, Ontario, culminates at MOCA with a new body of work by Manuel Mathieu, presented in an additional exhibition curated by Adeze Wilford, titled Dwelling on the Invisible.

Image Credit:
Manuel Mathieu: World Discovered Under Other Skies. Installation view: The Power Plant, Toronto, 2020. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

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