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  |  13. June 2015

FRIEND OF FIDEL CASTRO

Kcho - painter, sculptor and installation artist

Alexis Leyva Machado, known as Kcho, is one of the most important contemporary artists in Cuba. The 44-year old lives in Havana and is financially independent, in contrast to the vast majority of Cuban artists.  Art collectors from all over the world buy his sculptures and his works hang in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City.  At the age of 25, he was the youngest Latin American artist with a permanent collection in 1996. For two decades, Kcho deals with the escape of Cubans over the sea to Florida.

The events of August 5, 1994 were a trigger: thousands of people in Havana gathered to protest against the difficult living conditions on the Caribbean island after the collapse of the Eastern Bloc. This was considered the first major uprising in Cuba since the victory of the Revolution in 1959. As a result of this event, thousands of Cubans fled from the Communist regime. However, many people also lost their lives or were sent back by the United States Coast Guard. According to the "Wet feet, dry feet policy", only those Cubans who manage to land on American soil with dry feet are allowed to stay in the United States.

Again and again, Kcho’s works focus on means of transport with which Cubans attempt to overcome the 170 kilometer long sea way to Florida. In 1995, he won the prize of the Gwangju Biennale in South Korea with a tower of half rotten boats (Para olvidar el miedo) - his international breakthrough at that time!  At the most recent Havana Biennial in 2012, his enormous sculpture raised critical questions: a raft made of rowing, meshing together and showing in different directions - a chaotic but still viable structure. Is this the vision of a society that allows many movements?  His refrigerator with attached rudder blades like a larded saddle of venison symbolizes the dangerous escape across the sea, combined with the dream of greater prosperity.

At the beginning of the year, Kcho opened a private art gallery called "The Ship" in Romerillo, a district of Havana - a new space for contemporary art in Cuba. His "Laboratorio para el Arte" consists of two galleries, a library, a theatre and workshops for children, adolescents and adults. In addition to its own artworks, Kcho currently presents an exhibition on Wifredo Lam, probably the most famous artist in Cuba.

 As a Cuban, Kcho has managed the feat of gaining worldwide reputation and at the same time being considered "Fidel Castro’s favorite artist".  The 45-year-old barely leaves out an interview without emphasizing: "I am proud that Fidel calls me his brother." He advises his Cuban artist colleagues to strengthen socialism in Cuba.  Kcho does not only unite contradictions in his art, but also in his life.

PART I of the art-scene.tv - Cuba-Special

http://www.art-scene.tv/news/newsdetail/datum/2014/11/11/kunst-in-kuba.html

To be continued...

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