Reynier Leyva Novo On Representing Cuba At The Venice Biennale

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Curated by José Manuel Noceda and commissioned by Jorge A. Fernández Torres, “Time of intuition brings into dialogue artists from different promotions, artificers or followers of some of the advanced procedures of the most recent decades. In the discursive lines of the invited artists, the context and commitment to it, are keys when it comes to the rethinking of reality. The artists do not lose the anchorage with the original space, although in a few cases they overflow it. From the peculiar vision of art, they translate themes and concerns related to the inner world, gender poetics, raciality, faith and spirituality, the oscillations between past and future (‘the time of waiting’ according to the Cuban writer Alejo Carpentier) in the deconstruction of history and the reflexion on everyday life”. (Excerpt from the Biennale di Venezia catalogue.)

The 57th Venice Biennale’s Cuban Pavilion presents the work of Abel Barroso, Iván Capote, Roberto Diago, Roberto Fabelo, José Manuel Fors, Aimée García, Reynier Leyva Novo, Meira Marrero & José Ángel Toirac, Carlos Martiel, René Peña Mabel Poblet, Wilfredo Prieto, Esterio Segura and José E. Yaque. Veronica de Mello, co-creator of the international Contemporary Art agency REDE, spoke to one of the participating artists, Reynier Leyva Novo, about having his work featured in the pavilion.

Veronica de Mello: How did you understand Time of intuition, José Manuel Noceda’s curatorial proposal for the Cuban pavilion of the 57th edition of the Venice Biennale?

Reynier Leyva Novo: For me, with Time of Intuition, Jose Manuel Noceda refers to the current time that Cuba and the Cuban people are living through with respect to the world and to ourselves. A moment in which the economic and political formulas raised from a historical perspective could hardly help solve the harsh Cuban reality. A moment of self-reflection, of meeting with oneself. That is why perhaps Noceda has opted for collective intuition rather than personal intuition with a very extensive list of artists that all reside within the borders of the national context.

V.M.: In your opinion do the 14 Cuban artists of this show represent the current Cuban panorama?

R.L.N.: Art works differently than sports. Although sometimes some artists assume their practice as a sport. It is not possible for a group of artists to represent the Cuban panorama as the national baseball team does. It also should be kept in mind that these 14 artists are representing Cuba in an international event with a nationalistic structure, which is an old structure. You can no longer look at the world that way, thinking of borders that do not exist for art. In my opinion there are important absences and excesses, as in almost every list…

V.M.: The fact that the pavilion is so central in the city is almost a metaphor for the very centrality of contemporary Cuban art. The work of Cuban artists has had a great success in international fairs, what is your opinion on this rediscovery of Cuban art?

R.L.N.: The central location of the Cuban pavilion in the city of Venice is something of a conjuncture and is due in the most part to the efforts of Rubén del Valle, former president of the National Council of Plastic Arts (CNAP) of Cuba, and initiator of this project. The rediscovery of Cuban Art and the attention it is having now is a necessity of the market. It is a further turn of the Art Industry clock in its need to constantly reinvent itself. But this interest is also due to the fact that Cuban Art is a reflection of Cuba’s social, political and economic reality. An anthropological rarity that we hope is coming to an end.

V.M.: Is the work you’re showing in this edition an entry point for understanding the social and political history of Cuba?

R.L.N: One could say that.

Reynier Leyva Novo was born in 1983 in Havana, Cuba. He studied at the Instituto Superior de Arte ISA in Havana, Cuba. Novo has exhibited regularly since 2000 and has been invited to show his work at the Venice Biennale on two occassions: “Between ever and ever” (54th edition) and “Cuba Times of intuition ….” (57th edition). In 2017, he participate in the exhibition “Goodbye Utopia: Dreams and Deceptions in Cuban Art Since 1950” at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH). His work has been shown very regularly in major international museums and can be found in several important institutional collections.

All photos by Oak Taylor-Smith and courtesy of the artist and GALLERIA CONTINUA, San Gimignano / Beijing / Les Moulins / Habana.

Veronica de Mello

Veronica de Mello lives and works in Lisbon. She studied Architecture at the Universidade Lusíada de Lisboa and also studied at the Politecnico di Milano, Italy. Veronica holds a Master's Degree in Architecture, Art and Ephemeral Space from UPC in Barcelona and a Postgraduation in "Curatorship and cultural practices in Art and New Media" from the MECAD / Media Center d'Art i Disseny of the ESDi Higher School of Disseny /ZKM karlsruhe. In 2008, she received a Master's Degree in Curatorial Studies from the FBAUL and Fundação Gulbenkian. Since 2008, Verónica has developed curatorial and research work for, with the support of DGartes. She was a speaker at the 55th Bienalle di Venezia, at the roundtable "The Portuguese Artistic Scene: Artists for Now". With the co-creation of the International Contemporary Art Agency, REDE in 2014, she develops several curatorial projects and cultural events, nationally and internationally. In 2016, Verónica de Mello was invited to join the programming team of Carpintarias de São Lázaro in Lisbon. Veronica writes for Arte al Día and Attitude Magazines.