Alexis Leyva Machado (Isla de la Juventud, Cuba, 1970), known in the art world as Kcho, is part of a generation of young artists that, following in the wake of Cuban avant-garde tradition from the Twenties, develop their work by regenerating their commitment to the formal and conceptual concerns of contemporary art. His work, essentially poetic and imbued with landscape and Cuban popular culture, forges a reflection on travel and the environment, on the continual evolution of time and matter.
Kcho's work has evolved since his first sculptures at the beginning of the Nineties, fashioned with woven branches, towards large-scale montages in installations, for instance the piece presented in the Arsenale at the Venice Biennale in 1999. His work gains significant international exposure after being included in the Havana Biennale in 1994, the year he also participates in the Cocido y crudo (Cooked and Raw) exhibition held in the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía.
This exhibition, held in the Palacio de Cristal in the Retiro Park, unites large-scale pieces, sculptures and installations that centre around the theme of The Infinite Column, the title of the exhibit and the concept he spends ten years working on. With clear allusions to the work of Constantin Brancusi, Kcho's infinite columns are icons that reach monumental statures through the repetition of simple forms and ordinary materials.
This time around Kcho has worked in situ to construct the two works that are produced specifically for the exhibition: Como la espuma and a version of the piece El camino de la nostalgia (1994-1999) entitled Ideas mojadas. Located in front of the Palacio, and surrounded by water, they form a kind of road leading to utopia, represented by the large column of water that pours from the centre of the pond.
The sea continually has a strong presence in Kcho's work. His pieces also refer to Cuban landscape and thus allude to the pivotal element on the island, the isolation marked by the geographical limits of the boundaries of water. His work evokes sea travel as an ideal place for recollections and nostalgia and he reflects on the phenomenon of migration, the theme he uses to produce his scenes of travel and to talk about the impossibility of escape in our memory, our fate and our roots.
His beached boats, two of which make up part of the structure in the work Archipiélago de mi pensamiento (1997), placed in the centre of the pavilion, work as a metaphor, like the staircase to nowhere entitled La peor de las trampas (1990), and are constructed with branches and rungs made from machete blades.
The Cuban artist also frequently uses objects found in his journeys along the seashore and the streets of Havana - pieces of wood, rope, clothes, glass - that he works with and assembles to create his sculptures. The handcrafted nature of his pieces is a key component and refer to the culture of recycling whereby everything has various uses that differ from the one they were originally intended for.
The notion that nothing is permanent and everything transforms the present is ubiquitous throughout his work. The piece A los ojos de la historia (1995), a reworking of Vladimir Tatlin's Monument to the Third International, remains, along with his model, a metaphor for utopia, for architecture with no use.
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