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Francesco Giusti

Caribbean – Los Angeles

September 27th - November 8th, 2014

Recipient of photography awards, Francesco Giusti is a freelance photographer who has primarily worked in Africa, the Mediterranean, Central and South America. He has exhibited internationally in France, Italy, Colombia, Germany, and the US. This is his first solo exhibition at HVW8.

A ribbon in green, yellow and red is strung with Junior written in 70′s bubble font, as memorial. The epitaph commemorates the death of a man who contributes a meaningful part of the neighborhood, a supermarket and a garden. Yet these angel investors, are commonly, and most plausibly, drug pushers. They make their money through crime, yet this same cash funds community based projects. These are the issues of moral ambiguity that underlie Francesco Giusti’s images. This image that at first glance, holds a degree of violence, or one dimensional sort of ‘slummy-ness’ or criminality, reveals that sort of duality of urban life in the Caribbean. That somewhere between crime is an economy, a community based system of justice that is as easily codified.

Broken down cars are overridden with foliage from the tropics. Palm trees commonly associated with paradise are wilderness, unhampered. Where utopia and dystopia exist in a zone with an unrestrained rawness. This sort of cultural hybridity is often the remnants of European hegemony where it’s post-colonial history is traced through the in-the-street as a playboy icon, through the print heavy patterns of the dancehall queens, or in the particular way a woman poses, hips out, in essence of the dancehall attitude.

The images show that these vestiges of colonialism are still very much at conflict by threatening local heritage or progressing the flattening, or globalization of culture. How a gift store grass skirt, and machete may seem like a costume hodgepodge, actually represents the struggle for an indigenous past to serve under western influence. That in order to preserve deity of Ogoun, locals developed visual strategies to incorporate catholic imagery to escape Spanish catholic effacement. These gestures of dress or, markers of identity, are often expressions of a conflicted relationship between indigenous preservation and steps toward modernity- a syncretism for folkloric survival. Mickey deviously summons images of candy and popsicles as if to demonstrate a fantasy, suspended just out of reach.

His images have romance that do not ignore the social realism, but instead, posit these factors that are generally considered to be a-civil, as civilizing in this particular socio-economic system. The people in Giusti’s photographs reveal a location and time that is constantly caught between an ideal that is constantly present, and remotely attainable.

Queens of the Dancehall, Vodou dancers, gun-wielding teens, and hysterical Disney characters populate shantytowns. These images play on the exotification of Caribbean street life. However, Francesco Giusti is careful to counter these preconceptions with human moments of community and pride–scenes of children at play, couples embracing, lush utopian tropics, and brothers in camaraderie.

His photographs are as much about markers of identity–attitudes, accessories, or icons–as examining the complex and contentious cultural history between center and margin.

Caribbean is a selection of works in an ongoing project that documents post-colonial subcultures, trauma, and spirituality in Haiti, Jamaica, and Cuba in the 2000s.

Recipient of photography awards, Francesco Giusti is a freelance photographer who has primarily worked in Africa, the Mediterranean, Central and South America. He has exhibited internationally in France, Italy, Colombia, Germany, and the US. This is his first solo exhibition at HVW8.

Opening this Saturday, Sept. 27th at 7pm – 10pm. Please RSVP at rsvp@hvw8.com

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