Reynier Leyva Novo is one of Cuba’s leading conceptual artists. He belongs to a generation too young to have witnessed the Revolution but exposed as children to the privations following the 1991 end of economic support from the Soviet Union. His multidisciplinary practice is grounded in his scrutiny of historical data and official documents in order to unearth content that he transforms into formally minimalist and conceptually charged work.
His 2012 series The desire to die for others cast in blocks of clear resin weapons used by various Cuban leaders in the country’s long struggles for independence. This new translucent materiality robbed these objects of any sense of historical sanctification by neutralizing the ideological construction around them. Collages from his more recent The Extension of Words series uses mundane details of grammar and language from the official newspaper of the Cuban government as the nexus of geometric compositions that challenge platitudes and hint at alternative interpretations. In this way, Novo’s work delineates an uneasy dialogue between official history and lived experience.
Trained in Cuba under Tania Brugera’s acclaimed performance art program, Arte de Conducta, Novo’s work has been shown internationally in the Liverpool Biennial (2010), the Venice Biennale (2011 and 2017), the Sorocaba Triennial of Arts in Brazil (2017) and the Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA exhibition Deconstructing Liberty, A Destiny Manifested (2017). It is collected by the Bronx Museum of the Arts, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Walker Art Center, Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation, Perez Art Museum, Art Gallery of Ontario, Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, and Museum of Fine Arts Houston. In 2022, Novo was awarded the Pommery Prize for “What it is, what it has been” at The Armory Show.