A Visit to Alexis Leyva Machado’s (Kcho) Studio


A Visit to Alexis Leyva Machado’s ( Kcho ) Studio Cuban Art Rachel Sukman Alexis Leyva Machado's studio in Havana is surrounded by a high wall with a large iron gate bearing stylized letters spelling the artist's nickname , Kcho . On the stone wall leading to the gate is a cluster of symbols : two bronze impressions created by the artist on the revolution celebrations ( one marks its 55 th anniversary and the other–its 60 th ) , accompanied by the slogan "Viva la revolución , " and next to them–a painted Cuban ֳ ag . All of these are supplemented by a giant sign announcing : "free Wi-Fi" ( quite an unusual luxury in Cuba ) . A woman welcomes us into the studio lobby , explaining that the artist had traveled to Baracoa where Hurricane Matthew hit , and asks us to shorten our visit . The studio itself consists of nine large work spaces ; the extraordinary drawing skill of the 46-year old artist–on papers , canvases , and the walls themselves–is discernible in all of them . Finished works await in each room , either before or after exhibition . The chance to peek at Kcho's work tables elicited awe at his ability to express his ideas with simple means of painting , drawing , and sculpture . A recurring symbol in Kcho's work ( and in Cuban art in general ) is the boat motif , which also serves as a metaphor . In some of the works the boat is present as a wooden object , carrying a palette , and may be construed as a self-portrait of the artist . Repeated symbols attest to thoughts about Cuba's isolation as an island within the surrounding world , which the majority of Cubans have never seen , let alone visited . The artist's travel to Baracoa after the devastating hurricane indicates his sensitivity to and identification with the suffering of the locals . While Kcho's handwriting is distinctive and unique , his works also attest to in ֳ uences of contemporary art , to which he is constantly exposed . ✦ Alexis Leyva Machado ( Kcho ) was born on the Isla de Pinos ( today's Isla de la Juventud ) in Cuba's capital , Nueva Gerona , in 1970 . He studied at the National School of Art ( ENA ) in Havana ( 1986–1990 ) , where he specialized in painting and sculpture . In 1994 he won a scholarship to study art at the Ludwig Foundation in Aachen , Germany . In 1995 he participated in the Gwangju Biennale , Korea , and has often exhibited in international biennials since . He has won numerous prizes and awards , and his works are included in the collections of many of the world's leading museums . All photos : Rachel Sukman

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