Roland Jean: A Modernist Portrait

Michelle Anne Bess

1999, 22:00 minutes, colour, English & French w/ subtitles


Roland Jean: A Modernist Portrait looks at how African and western / European influences shape the life and art of this Toronto visual artist. Jean's complex views on the Modern tradition, jazz and existentialism reveals why Modernism continues to be strong, even after the post-modern era.

Since the mid 1990s I have been interested int the apocalyptic vision in the work of Roland Jean. Distorted caricature portraits; ritualized Vodon aesthetic and (re)contextualized Renaissance paintings often lends the work disturbing and controversial. As a writer and first time documentary director I felt challenged to explore the source of those tensions and urgency in Jean's work.

Mixing curatorial narrative text and interview footage, Jean's complex views on African consciousness, a dominant European culture, the persistence of the Modern tradition, Existentialism and the significance of jazz emerge the focus of Roland Jean: A Modernist Portrait. These themes are punctuated by interviews with Smithsonian Institution curators Deborah Macanic and Marquette-Folley Cooper as well as Toronto arts writers Carol Laing and John Armstrong.

A resistance to cultural domination and the importance of individual freedom find bold expression in the art of Roland Jean.

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