Visionary Aponte: Art & Black Freedom takes as its point of departure an extraordinary — and now lost — historical artifact: a “Book of Paintings” created by José Antonio Aponte.

Aponte was a free Black carpenter, artist, and former soldier who was also the leader of an ambitious antislavery movement in Cuba during the Age of Revolution.


During his trial, Aponte was forced to provide testimony describing each of the pictures in his book, which portrayed a wide array of subjects, from Biblical scenes to landscapes to episodes in the history of Africa, Europe, and the Americas. Using those descriptions, contemporary artists working in painting, drawing, sculpture, video, mixed media, and textile have reimagined Aponte’s book.


Co-curators Édouard Duval-Carrié and Ada Ferrer at the Visionary Aponte: Art & Black Freedom exhibit at the King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center, NYU


“Visionary Aponte brings contemporary artists from the Caribbean and North America into dialogue with a rebel and visionary of the nineteenth century. The exhibit bridges past and present and opens up spaces for imagining both our history and future in different ways. It’s particularly exciting to be bringing this exhibit to Durham after its runs in Miami and New York City, since its themes are deeply connected to the histories of slavery and emancipation in the South, and speak to our contemporary debates about the place of art in social transformation. In each location, Visionary Aponte takes on new meaning and brings in new artists, and its time in North Carolina will add important layers to our conversations and to the art itself.”

Laurent Dubois, Duke Professor of Romance Studies and History,
Faculty Director of the Forum for Scholars and Publics





José Bedia // Miami
Leonardo Benzant // New York
Juan Roberto Diago // Havana
Édouard Duval-Carrié // Miami
Teresita Fernández // New York
Emilio Martínez // Miami
Emilio Adán Martínez // Miami
Nina Angela Mercer // New York

Clara Morera // North Carolina
Glexis Novoa // Miami
Vickie Pierre // Miami
Marielle Plaisir // Miami
Asser Saint-Val // Miami
Jean-Marcel St. Jacques // New Orleans
Renée Stout // Washington, D.C.


Visionary Aponte is curated by Édouard Duval-Carrié and Ada Ferrer in collaboration with Laurent Dubois for the Power Plant Gallery edition. The exhibit is based on a digital humanities project called Digital Aponte. The exhibition at the Power Plant Gallery is also supported by The Office of the Vice Provost for the Arts—Duke Arts. The Power Plant Gallery is an initiative of the Center for Documentary Studies and the MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts at Duke University.



Caitlin Margaret Kelly
Director, Power Plant Gallery
(919) 660-3622

Margaret “Lou” Brown
Senior Research Scholar and Director of Programs
Forum for Scholars and Publics
(919) 660-3058

Visionary Aponte: Art & Black Freedom
will be on view from September 19 – November 17, 2018

Get directions to the Power Plant Gallery.


Power Plant Gallery, Durham, NC

The Power Plant Gallery at American Tobacco Campus is an initiative of the Center for Documentary Studies and the MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts program at Duke University.

A laboratory for documentary and experimental art practices at Duke University, the Power Plant Gallery provides ongoing opportunities for Duke students, faculty, and staff and Durham communities to consider the essential role and transformative capacity of the arts in society.

Power Plant Gallery
Suite 100, American Tobacco Campus
320 Blackwell Street
Durham, NC 27701

(919) 660-3622

Tues 11 am – 6 pm
Wed 11 am – 1:30 pm
Thur 11 am – 6 pm
Fri 11 am – 6 pm
Sat 11 am – 6 pm