); Alexis Alvarez: from a transvestite self to the empty city | Visit Cuba


Alexis Alvarez: from a transvestite self to the empty city

By Ricardo Alberto Perez / Posted February 13, 2013

Reposando, el alma.

Born in San José de Las Lajas, 28 km southeast of Havana, on March 14, 1968 Alexis Álvarez is a risk taker showing no respect for tradition or conventional limits. He is aware of the breaking of norms and seeks to express himself with sincerity.

The starting point of this exuberant journey through the colors and devices is 1991, which marks the beginning of the country’s Special Period. During this time, Alexis produced works such as Destello de lápiz (Pencil Marks), Adefesios (Freaks), and Fantasmas (Ghosts), in which the use of such basic materials as watercolors, cardboard and oil paint prominently converged, showing a strong expressive quality linked to the lack of inhibition he showed in his work from the very start.

2 destello de lapiz 16x22cm tecnica mixta

Alexis Alvarez understood and quickly began to observe the codes that identify the creative actions of those who adopt defiance as the essence of their work. His work is characterized by intervening at times with an almost narcissistic pride, turning the murky whirlwind created in his mind and transferred to the canvas into a clamor. 

His incessant search and need for self-expression have led the artist to seize multiple languages, which at times he combines. His achievements in photography–a highly conceptual photography- include his series Hijos y novias de Cuba (Sons and brides of Cuba) and No somos de plástico (We Are not Made of Plastic). Alexis has also made significant incursions in the field of design, considering art what others deem purely decorative. As part of this vocation, he has intervened in public spaces creating disturbing ceramic murals where passers-by can unexpectedly discover their own vocation or the incitement to a wish, which until then had remained dormant. Certainly, his link with popular culture is authentic and is usually expressed in the title of paintings such as Murió la flor (The Flower Died), Me gustan los Mulatos (I Like Mulattos), and Soy de la Loma (I’m from the Hills), which mix vernacular language, proverbs and verses from famous popular songs. The symbolic value of blood continuously erupts in his performances, always from a laceration that at the same time comes from rituals.

I recently visited him at the quaint garage that he uses as a studio.  “To consider myself part of the Cuban art scene seems to me very unusual. During all these years, my work has been a personal therapy. As I create my own discourse, I ponder and decide the path to follow. If I were to define myself, I would say that I am an artist whose self-referential work has allowed me to contextualize and defend my sexual identity, being one of the first artists to address gay themes, in which I am directly involved with the discourse in question.

On erotic imagery he commented: “I believe that eroticism is validated by the subtleties one experiences daily in the gay world, which is a completely unpredictable universe due to moral impositions and canons that enforce male chauvinism as a role model. We were forced then to duplicate our erotic imagery and to create communication codes in the most unpredictable places, oftentimes in front of a crowd that cannot become aware of what we are experiencing. This is the origin of erotic refuges such as movie theaters, buses or parks.  The inability to possess everything I see and want generates an emotional overload that impels me to create. This island is a virtual explosion for the imagery of any individual with a single drop of sensibility.” 

“For me the future is uncertain, I am living the here and now. I only know that I have worked and explored many fields of art–painting, performance, theatre, dance, cinema–and in anything in which I feel the need of doing.”

Ricardo Alberto Perez