Yanelys Nuñez Leyva
HAVANA TIMES — While heading to work on a bus, I saw an elderly gentleman reading a newspaper and, out of the corner of my eye, caught a glimpse of a note on the artist Lazaro Saavedra and an award he had won.
I couldn’t help but smile at the thought that he had been granted the National Fine Arts Award this year.
When I got off the bus, I went to buy the day’s edition of Juventud Rebelde (something I never do) to satisfy my curiosity.
Indeed, Saavedra had become the twenty-second artist ever to be honored with this award, created in 1994 (counting the only time the award was shared by two artists, Rita Longa and Agustin Cardenas, in 1995).
I first came into contact with his work while studying at university. I was immediately captivated by it.
He struck me as a spectacular and highly versatile artist.
At the time, he was experimenting with video-art, painting, installations, photography, performances and other forms of expressions, and everything he did had both a playful quality and a rigorously critical tone.
It is said the number twenty-two “simbolizes the manifestation of being in its diversity and history, that is to say, in space and time.” Lazaro’s work may well embody this allegory.
Having graduated from Havana’s Higher Institute for the Arts (ISA) in 1988, where he was a student of Consuelo Castañeda and Flavio Garciandia, he produced his first professional pieces with the Grupo Pure art collective. The portrayal of Cuba’s popular imaginary, which would characterize his later works, was already evident in those early pieces.
For the Bambaras, the number twenty-two represents “the end of words,” but Saavedra’s art is exactly the opposite – the start of an endless, satirical, irreverent and shocking exchange.