Alumni Profile: Paul Claude Gardère A’67
Submitted by Allie Bryan, Archives Manager for the Estate of Paul Gardère,
Paul Claude Gardère was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti in 1944 and emigrated to New York City in 1959 at age fourteen. He earned his undergraduate degree from The Cooper Union School of Art in 1967 and his Master’s of Fine Arts from Hunter College in 1972. Gardère’s formal training influenced his stylistic progression deeply. He began to adapt Haitian regionalist ideas, painting styles, and cultural symbols to the larger aesthetics of Modern art. Gardère’s personal experiences of immigration, race, and class drive much of the sociopolitical subtexts conveyed in his work. Throughout his career, his work portrayed tensions inherent to “belonging” in incongruent social spheres, often illustrated by stark juxtaposition of Western and non-Western cultural imagery.
He returned to Haiti in 1978, where he lived and painted for several years with his wife and children. The family returned to New York in 1985, fleeing the dangerous climate of the Duvalier regime.
Back in New York, Gardère completed residencies at The Studio Museum in Harlem, the Jamaica Arts Center, Long Island University, and a 5-month tenure at the gardens of Claude Monet in Giverny, France courtesy of the Lila Acheson Wallace Foundation – an esteemed opportunity that was particularly influential for his work.
He received a fellowship from the New York Foundation for The Arts and received the Joan Mitchell Foundation Award for Painting. Gardère had solo shows at Le Centre d’Art and Le Musee d’Art Haitien, the Figge Art Museum, the Jersey City Museum, Lehigh University, and Skoto Gallery among others and exhibited extensively in group shows in the US and Haiti. Works of his proudly reside in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum of Modern Art Library, the Brooklyn Museum, Le Centre d’Art, Figge Art Museum, Studio Museum in Harlem, the Jersey City Museum, and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in NY, to name a few.
Religious and mythological symbolism became vital elements both in his work as well as the way in which he understood his role in the world. There exists, Gardère describes, a “very real dilemma of carrying one culture internal while having to operate in another.” He strove to employ symbols of each as a way of “metaphysical bridge building” between cultures, drawing inspiration from the Old Masters and European Catholicism as well as Haitian regionalism and Vodou.
Gardère’s former Brooklyn studio has been revived, and now operates as his studio archives. Led by his daughter, Cat, the archival team has begun to reintroduce Gardère’s work into the contemporary art circuit.
The first solo show since Gardère’s passing is set to open on December 7, 2017 at Skoto Gallery in Chelsea. Titled Goudou Goudou, this exhibition is a selection of Gardère’s final series before his death, produced in the aftermath of the earthquake on January 12, 2010 in Haiti. These mixed media works offer a visceral peek into the artist’s personal response to the disaster. Mud relief and carved wood come together with haunted figures and Kreyol text to emphasize the nature, experience, and survival of “goudou goudou” – the Kreyol term for the earthquake, the syllables of which evoke the sound of the shaking earth. The exhibition, which will be on view during the 8th anniversary of the disaster, opens December 7th and run through January 20th, 2018.
Paul Gardère Website Link
FIGGE Art Musuem Link