Worlds from Within - The pictorial visions of Alexis LagoOct 28, 2020 03:29PM ● By DAVID ACEVEDO
A fine-looking gentleman stands on what looks like an infinite landscape. The vast space resembling the stratosphere is endless. The man’s beard makes him look familiar, and there are birds flying around him. Then, branches and leafs protrude from his body, which is naked and exposed but multicolor. His body is made of colorful clouds, and they seem to move. There are strange formations and a fox, or is it a rabbit? You cannot help but wonder who this character is. Has he been there all along? Did I just notice it?
This, my friends, is a painting by Alexis Lago.
Born near the bay in Havana, Cuba, the Southwest Florida-based artist is a surrealist and a visionary. He grew up in a very colorful part of Havana, or as he describes it: magical. Surrounded by folklore and culture, he witnessed the world differently and embraced the diversity and humanism surrounding him, even as a child.
He graduated as a biochemist from the University of Havana in 1985. At the time, science made sense, and he worked for some years as a researcher. During these years, and even many before, he painted and sketched regularly. Not long after, creativity took over, and taking a leap of faith, he enrolled in the prestigious San Alejandro School of Visual Arts in Havana in 1993.
For Lago, watercolor is the ideal medium, although he paints in oil just as prolifically. “For me, the [watercolors] technique is clean and immediate,” describes the artist, who considers himself a bit of a nomad, and the portability of the medium suits him well. “When I am established in one place, then I work in oils and alternate between the two,” says Lago, who considers both watercolors and oils equally important in his work and artistic development.
The foundation to some of his pictorial studies comes from historical works of art such as those from the ancient cultures of Greece, China and Japan. These earlier works, usually found in pottery, jewelry and frescos, capture Lago’s imagination. “These representations of ideas and complex universes were made in a simplified, elegant and tactic way,” says the artist, who also admires the visual representations and carvings of icons from ancient Egypt and Rome, as well as Persian miniatures. “Many of my ideas come from literature, mythology and philosophy, which I have always loved, and in my work I compiled them all to a certain point, reconciling traditional and contemporary,” he concludes.
The poetry in Lago’s work is mesmerizing. Words are not present, but anyone can read the embedded messages and metaphors. This, to him, is extremely important and has become a strict practice during his creative process.
The artist faults his native Cuba for this thought process. As he describes it, “Cuba is a country of extreme ideologies. Very few expressions are allowed in diversion from the official speech. The great lesson from these circumstances was discovering that I had a personal vision, which I needed to foster, cherish and share,” comments the artist, who developed a teaching workshop that led him to Mexico, where he taught for several years. “Multiple circumstances there [in Mexico] made me realize the oversaturated experience in my country,” he says, and he ultimately decided to move to the United States.
Like many artists, Lago finds the career of a visual artist trying and backbreaking, where exposing one’s vulnerabilities responsibly is part of the daily process. During a time of personal turmoil, he decided to take the most authentic path in life. Since leaving Cuba, he has worked and collaborated with multiple personalities in the art world. “Lago is the synthesis of the fine, subtle artist,” describes art critic and curator Andres Isaac Santana, who worked closely and maintains a close relationship with the artist. “Debtor of a strange humanism that is neither centrist nor peripheral, his work is by far an exercise of reconciliation between the opposites.”
Lago, who has shown in various art centers, galleries and museums in the U.S. and Europe, is now working on new pieces for an exhibition in 2021. He is represented by an art gallery in Madrid, Spain, but most of his recent endeavors have been independent. About the present times, he claims his optimism for better days, while embracing his current life. “The past, now behind me, and the path I am following are the catalysts that move my world. Now, I live in a forest, where the trees and the birds are witnesses to my journey,” he says.
To learn more about the art of Alex Lago, visit alexislago.net.
David Acevedo is an award-winning visual artist and arts writer living in Southwest Florida. He is the founder and owner of DAAS CO-OP Art Gallery & Gifts and The Union Artist Studios. He has a bachelor’s degree in visual arts from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez campus.