Yanelys Nuñez Leyva
HAVANA TIMES — Cuban visual artist Leandro Soto (Cienfuegos, 1956), renowned performer who left the country during the Special Period exodus, returns to us with the beguiling aura of a gypsy.
The first time I had the opportunity to see his work was during the May-June 12th Havana Biennale, where Soto staged a performance at the lobby of Teatro Nacional with artist Santiago Hermes.
It wasn’t till recently, however, that I was able to get a glimpse at the essence of his work, when the La Acacia gallery opened his exhibition, titled Y hacia todas partes ir (“And Go Everywhere”), borrowed from a verse in Jose Marti’s famous poem Yo soy un hombre sincere (“I Am A Sincere Man”).
On this occasion, Soto presents us with a philosophy, an artistic trajectory marked by travel, spiritual search and the revelation of the world and its wisdom.
The pieces are large papyri unfolded across the gallery space, divided into the geographic and intellectual spaces he has visited.
In these, Egypt is represented with its symbols, its ochre tonalities, its iconic pyramids. India is depicted with its green wilderness, its sensual sculptures posed as lotus flowers, and Mexico comes alive with pre-Hispanic, indigenous imagery.
These collages also include the artist’s experiences with faith and/or religiosity. Examples of this are the pieces Las muletas de Babalu Aye en los caminos de elegua (“The Crutches of Babalu Aye On The Road of Elegua”) or Yemaya en el Caribe (“Yemaya in the Caribbean”),as are numerous texts and notes found in most of the pieces.
Soto both describes and conceptualizes the spaces he discovers. He offers a spontaneous interpretation of these, sometimes employing simple codes.
“Art as wandering” is one of the phrases that comes to define the artist’s collage. It is very much in keeping with the tone of the exhibition, as is another fragment of text one comes across in one of the pieces: “At age 11, Leandro Soto leaves his native town to pursue art studies in the capital. This would be the beginning of his wandering, an experience that would set his art apart, where the notion of travel, of keeping a diary, operates as one of the essential tools for reflection, teaching and recollection.”
The fact a fire extinguisher was (accidentally?) activated at the end of the opening gave the exhibition what it had lacked to that point: a bit of mischievous fun and spiciness.
Soto’s works will be on display at La Acacia until November 30. The gallery is located at San Martin 114, between Industria and Consulado, Centro Habana.
Click on the thumbnails below to view all the photos in this gallery. On your PC or laptop, you can use the directional arrows on the keyboard to move within the gallery. On cell phones use the keys on the screen.