The powerful lyricism of Cuban artists Leyva and Mendive.
Work by two of the currently active Cuban artists with the greatest international prestige coincide in the next contemporary auction in Setdart.
From different generations but united by a frank militant feeling, Alexis Leyva, better known as “Kcho” (1970) and Manuel Mendive Hoyo (1944) share a similar commitment to their cultural roots and to burning problems in their country, but also a lively interest for updating languages and experimenting with materials and techniques, which places them at the forefront of art. The local and the global intertwine in his art.
Manuel Mendive, his grandfather introduced him to the knowledge of the Yoruba, whose culture has continuity in Cuba . Continuing the collective ethnic spirit, he creates a universe with the poetry emanating from the Afro-Cuban deities. Tradition and syncretism open up expressive mechanisms that are rooted in life experience. In “The Dialogue” (2003), the painting that Setdart is putting out to tender these days (see lot 35148833), the autochthonous referents merge with the formal language learned in Europe. In it, the characters of the Yoruba pantheon that inspired much of his career continue to appear. Curved shapes dominate the entire composition, denoting an artistic activity based on the roots of a people that, in the painter’s opinion, should regain their dignity. We observe a game of perspectives that intermingle with the artist’s dreamlike and surrealist style.
Mendive received the International Prize at the II Biennial of Havana, in 1986. In 2001 he received the National Prize for Plastic Arts. That year he entered his upward career as a milestone. The jury unanimously agreed to grant him such a distinction, which inserted the artist into the group of most relevant Cuban creators. Mendive also has the Alejo Carpentier Medal, and is a Knight of the Arts and Letters of France. Currently his work is preserved in museums and galleries in Latin America, Russia, Africa, the United States and Europe.
The twentieth-century Cuban school was characterized by welcoming the European avant-gardes and developing, based on that basis, its own language. This generalized current of artists trained in Europe, who returned to Cuba, was a great artistic impulse for the country. Thanks to painters who merged their roots and experiences, thus creating a new personal and independent language.
As for Kcho, it was from the 1994 Havana Biennial and the 1999 Venice Biennale that his work reached a notable projection. At that time, he was working with poor materials, resuming the legacy of the Italian “povera” but with a clearly political message.
The sea and the rafters are always present in Kcho’s work. The painting on linen that Setdart tendered from Kcho (lot 35217597) belongs to the series “Bola de Churre”, made in 2019. In this large-scale oil painting, as in his sculptures and installations, he refers in a poetic way to the Cuban topography and alludes to the most decisive element of life on the island, the isolation marked by the geographical limit of the water frontier. His work It evokes the sea voyage as an ideal territory for remembrance and nostalgia. Kcho reflects on the phenomenon of migration, theme from which he makes his stage sets about the trip and which speak about the impossibility of the flight from our memory, our destiny and our roots.
Existential awareness, poetry and militancy without rhetoric or demagoguery, as the famous French critic Pierre Restany asserted, characterize Kcho ‘s work. The same qualifiers could apply to Mendive . Two artists who have contributed to give visibility to the Cuban reality and to place the artistic production of the island at the forefront of international visual arts .