Alexis Leyva Machado (Kcho)Monumento, 2007
Ceramic sculpture, variable dimensions
Life is Elsewhere
Artistic quality is not objective but contextual1 Luis Camnitzer points out. A sentence that condenses the answer to many of the chimerical theorizations about the supposed values of contemporary art as hermetic, non-historical and non-political. Valuations that come from cultural hegemonic centers and find in these artistic objects, committed to their environment, signs of resistance coming from the so-called marginality or periphery.
Precisely, in this dialogue of the artist with his context lies one of the most discussed points in the third-world cultural research. The artist’s will to create turning points in the panorama of contextual hegemonic productions answers to a view more committed to the art than to the market. In the Latin American and Caribbean stage many are the artists conditioned by the inherent problems of the space, constantly aiming their glances at that fact and endowing these artistic processes with a high reflexive component.
Alexis Leyva Machado (Kcho) belongs to the artists of the region who are actively involved in the alliance of art and politics. And maybe in this aspect it may be the most significant of his style. The way in which the artist manages to make art a prolongation of the surrounding reality shows one of the most urgent needs not only for Cuban art but the world’s. And we’re not talking about making politics from art, although it is well known that there are no such separations between the two spheres. The acquisition and ownership of the context is a political fact and therefore politics is an intrinsic part of the very definition of art. The separation of art and politics in discrete entities is, therefore, not only reactionary and mutilates the artist’s freedom, but is also a theoretical fallacy.2
Those who know Kcho’s work closely will know how to recognize in the artist a visual extension of the previous statements. Emigration, as an imminent problem, not only in the Cuban context, but generally in the Third World, is constantly reiterated in a multiplicity of manifestations and inexhaustible aesthetic procedures of his production.
Monumento (Monument) constitutes a tribute to the lost cause of the frustrated trips. This time, with the use of ceramics, the artist resorts to a singular aestheticization. Cuba, which has in its visual kitsch universe a great prominence of ceramics, is faced this time –using the same technical resource– to one of its thorniest problems. But this does not mean that the work ceases to be an object with strong and attractive sensory potentialities. From the povera visuality Kcho defends since the beginning of his career, Monument creates a series of visual rhythms that overcome the austerity of his monochrome. With the intersection of two axes, one vertical (pedestal culminating in a propeller) and another horizontal (the boat), the artist creates a structural balance that contrasts evidently with the concept he defends. At the same time, these elements are rendered useless by the conceived disposition. For that reason, the work tries to find, if it ever existed, the side that generates the most seduction to some. In the same way, with the insertion of the pedestal, Kcho confers on the work –therefore on the subject– a status of distinction that forces us to look at the warning call with a sacred perspective.
As contemplative as the world’s gaze is, Kcho calls for a reflection on an overwhelming fact that affects the political and socio-cultural values, not only of those involved, but of those who observe automated. In this sense, Monument generates persuasion, hopefully not posthumously.
–Modesto D. Serpa
1. Luis Camnitzer, “El arte, la política y el mal de ojo” (Art, Politics, and Evil Eye), in El Postmoderno, el postmodernismo y su crítica en Criterios, (Havana: Criterios, 2007), 148.