Rebecca Bates (Paddle 8) interviews Cuban-born artist Alexandre Arrechea on architecture, space, and his first introduction to Wifredo Lam. He is one of the artists competing for The Farber Foundation’s Cuban Art Awards [see previous post Cuban Art Awards to Be Presented in Havana]. Here are excerpts of the interview:
The art world talks a lot about space: how a work on paper plays with white space, how a painting hanging in a living room brings a space together, how a work redefines our relationship to space, and so on. For artist Alexandre Arrechea, space always had a more immediate implication. Originally hailing from Cuba, Arrechea tells Paddle8 that his initial interest in sketching and creating sculptures of buildings stems from observing the collision of gorgeous Havana architecture and the city’s housing congestion. [. . .]
P8: Who was the first artist whose work inspired you to pursue art as a career?
AA: The first artists I heard of were Picasso and Wifredo Lam. I was ten years old when the boyfriend of my grandma brought home two books, one of Picasso, and the other of Wifredo Lam. He knew that I was interested in drawing and sketching.
P8: Who was the first major artist you admired who took notice of your work?
AA: In 2003, I finished my collaboration with Los Carpinteros, and I embarked on a new project in Havana. I was very interested in working with video. The Canadian artist Stan Douglas visited Cuba, and I invited him to my studio in Havana at the time. He knew about my video work and all the experiments that I was doing, and he really encouraged me to continue with my research. I admire Stan Douglas as an artist. I think he’s one of the most solid figures in the art world today.
P8: You were raised and educated in Cuba, but now live and work in New York. What did you do on your first day in the city?
Literally, I went straight from the airport to Brooklyn, where at the time I was producing the project No Limits.
P8: Architecture comes up again and again in your work—in your sculptures and in the drawing you have in the Bronx Museum sale at Paddle8. Where did this interest in architecture originate?
I am obsessed with architecture. I owe that to the fact that I was born in one of the most beautiful cities in Cuba, which is Trinidad. Also, Havana is one of the most fabulous cities in the Western Hemisphere. I’ve been very influenced by living in those two cities, particularly the drawing I have in the Bronx Museum sale. It belongs to a series of drawings in which I add spaces to architecture that already exists, in this case the Hotel Riviera in Havana. The series was inspired by old buildings in Havana. The lack of housing creates these crowded buildings where families live together for years. So, I wanted to try to expand the exterior, rather than to the interior. [. . .]
For full article, see https://paddle8.com/editorial/8-firsts-with-alexandre-arrechea/