Cuban-born and Bronx resident Alexis Mendoza is an interdisciplinary artist, independent curator, and author. He has organized unprecedented exhibits, introducing and championing some of the most exciting voices from NYC communities often marginalized or ignored by the mainstream. Alexis is a true maverick and a force to be reckoned with in contemporary art.
How do you describe your latest series of paintings?
My series of paintings is titled “Ilé Ife”, according to Yoruba tradition and the Lukumí language a big house, a vast land, is also the name of the land where the first man and the first human community were created, the cradle of humanity, the first dwelling of Orunmilá on earth, before moving his residence to Ado, and name of the land and of the empire that was manifested therein, located in the territory of present-day Nigeria. The color, as it turned out, is the matrix of memory, and within it, the images surface, utopias and its denials.
By radicalizing the object representation, presence lets us grasp time. I register this knowledge by depicting the mutual invasion of color and representation, in some sense have nothing to do with the way color behaves or represent itself in the shared world of experience.
Can you tell me about the use of the black line?
The black line is an element, a tool that I have been using for the last 20 years it’s a physical representation of what is call in the Briyumba Palo Monte religion, Rallado (Scratch). Every Initiated individual is scratch in various part of the body, sometimes with a blade and sometimes with a black charcoal. This method gives me the answer of one of the elements I was missing in my creative process.
As a result, I let color, hard dark lines, distance, desire the locus of the image and volume do the explanation, all these characteristics come together simultaneously, equally, and in terms of each other.
Who are your influences in both writing and painting?
Black Painting is the style and philosophy that I employ in my painting. The term was established in Cuba in the 1950’s by Guido Llinas, a prominent Cuban abstract painter, printmaker and member of the Eleven Group. A general characteristic of my Black Painting is the use of three predominant colors with emblematic function, as in Abakua drawing, where yellow signifies “life”, white “death”; or as in Santeria, where every Orisha is defined by a color. The work and techniques employed by Manuel Mendive, Jose Bedia, Flavio Garciandia, Mark Rorthko, Jackson Pollock, and Willen de Kooning are all strong influences on my work. I also use the literary work of anthropologist’s Cuban writers and ethnographers such as Fernando Ortiz, Lidia Cabrera and Alejo Carpentier as an inspiration in my paintings, sculptures, installations and more important for my writing.
How do you divide your time curating, writing and painting? Is it scheduled or intuitive?
I must confess, I enjoy very much the balance that all of these activities create in my life; they complement each other. I use the investigation part of the curatorial ideas to find meaning and purpose in my personal work. This dynamic is a part of my life; long ago I made a conscious decision that being involved in many projects is what I want to do and so far, it is working out
What sets an artist who curates apart from curators?
The artist who curates is an artist who is also an art historian, he finds answers in other artist’s work to all questions that keep coming to his head as an artist, as a curator and as a person. I am an artist, I am a curator, I know for sure that I am not going to stop presenting the ideas to audience, discuss my findings, listen to other options. It’s an ongoing exploration to have a better understanding of what we do and why we do it. By doing that we educating others.
What is "Relocated “and what do you hope to it will bring to viewers?
The exhibition "Relocated: Contemporary Cuban Art", reveals the artistic panorama developed by Cuban artists living outside Cuba over the last fifteen years to the present days. Far from being the result of a representative selection of current Cuban art, the exhibition aims to expose the fabric of artistic discourse that remains in this country beyond the exoticism shown so often by European and American centralism. The show explores the echoes and the subtle relationships that are established between works that are sometimes critical, and always fascinating. It has been a long time discussion about the erroneous statement, “Cuban artists working outside Cuba, their creations for some art organizations, galleries and institutions in the United States are not considered Cuban art”. With this exhibition we are sending a clear message, “We are Cuban artists”. The focus of attention is centered on artists from different generations. Many of the works selected have in common the fact of working with different levels of meaning at the same time and show in parallel a special taste for the common, the popular and the everyday, aspects that are conferred poetic status and a strange and attractive beauty. The works comprise a broad spectrum of interests, although their diversity does not prevent the interaction between all of them. Hope the audience Cuban or not can see themselves reflected in some of the artworks in the show, the issues aboard in the show affect all us, issues such as, social understanding, political awareness, migration and exile.
In your opinion, what's shifting for independent artist and curators in relation to the art-world? Do you see progress?
I don’t know if there is progress, progress can be relative to each individual or a specific institution. What I see is an evolution, the institutions or the art-world are taking independent artists and curators a little more serious, there’s still a long way to go don’t get me wrong, but now independent projects are being approved by the institutions, artists and curators in the independent field are proving themselves to a level that now we start seeing a bridge, years ago wasn’t even a possibility of communication. The reality is that we have to keep trying, we have to continue creating projects, proving ourselves that we have what it takes to educate at the same standards of these institutions that control the art-world.
To find out more about Alexis works and curatorial projects. Visit:
Alexis Mendoza Curatorial Projects
BLOT has been featured in Artsy and selected works are hitting the road as a traveling exhibit in Nicaragua under it's new name "Manchas Literatas." Curated by DAM, the series includes Nicaraguan greats such as Gioconda Belli, Ruben Dario and Warhol muse Bianca Jagger; as well as personal favorites like Sylvia Plath and Emily Dickinson. Selected print versions of works on view are also available at the Artefacts online gallery.
"Drawing from Ruben Dario and other great literary masters, de las Mercedes in his Blot series, like Dario encourages Modernism, but in an unique sense in that this is Modernism in 2018, and where de las Mercedes is not reacting to 19th century post Colonialism, he is reacting to his own transplanted life, and what one can label as an Urban Modernism of the displaced. " --The Directed Art Modern What else is new at the FdlM Studio FRANCKLORE: A digitally created visual memoir of a childhood in Nicaragua, re-shaped by an American upbringing. IN THE STUDIO: FDLM IN SUPPORT OF SURGEONS OF HOPE:
As always, many thanks for your continued support!
You walk in a metropolis of warped ideas,
where there is disregard for ritual and street processions.
Instead of leaves, you now step on stubs numbered with ephemeral hope.
No one could see you, though you walk naked and unsteadily.
Few could hear you, as you're screaming to your death.
In that cheap high, you begin to walk a little faster,
demanding to uncover a more attractive side of town.
© 2002 Franck de las Mercedes
Que no interese
si tomé pluma o un pincel para aliviarme.
Sólo intento reparar símbolos vagos que me dejó la niñez.
© 1999 Franck de las Mercedes
Otro fragmento del video-diario. Memorias de mi niñez in Nicaragua.
It's been a very busy 2018 so far. I'm very proud to be supporting Surgeons of Hope in their efforts to bring children in Nicaragua life-saving heart surgeries. I'm finishing a new painting titled "Soul of Hope" which I will be donating for their upcoming fundraiser gala in NYC. All proceeds from the sale will go support their next surgical expedition in Nicaragua this March. I have also pledged to donate proceeds from sales of selected prints and artworks available via eBay Charity to the cause. I invite you to check them out and learn more about their mission to create a world in which every infant and child with a damaged heart has an equal opportunity to receive life-saving surgery. Fellow Artist: Please check out my latest installment of "Fellow Artists" at my blog. I talked with artist Laura Ricciardi about her thought-provoking body of work "Bedda Da Nanna" which deals with beauty, legacy and her maternal grandmother's struggle through dementia. Videolog en español: Bueno, el pueblo me lo pidió y aquí finalmente les va el primero. FDLM en español por medido de algo que yo llamo Fragmentos. Sera un video diario el cual tratare de hacer cada dos semanas. Este incluirá reflexiones en mi vida de artista y fragmentos de videos de mi arte y más. Espero les guste y me envíen sus comentarios. New series of works on paper: Floret 2018
Until next time. Thank you for staying in touch!
"Thank you madness,
I could not do it wihout you."
Long before I discovered the visual arts, I walked around with a pack of intrusive inner voices. I always understood that they were not a part of me, but implanted in my head by traumatic experiences in my life, as child. I didn’t know how to make them go away. Ignoring them and trying to run away from them, got me into a self-destructive path and almost got me killed a couple of times. No matter what I tried to do to make them shut up, they would always resurface. Eventually, therapy, meds and a diagnosis that explained quite a lot. But I may or may not talk about that later. Though finding counseling helped, it wasn’t till I was forced into the silence and solitude of an art studio that I began the scary task of facing them one by one. One day I began to ask myself - How do I know these voices are not just characters in a play, a short story, a poem, a song or painting? That’s when I began to listen to them. I invited them in, despite my fear of the outcome. Eventually I learned to trust them and employ them in my work. Some of them could be very abusive, beyond what you’ve imagined the inner critic to be like. I still listened and even put in practice some the things they told me I couldn’t do, or that I lacked. This approach ignited entire art series and made open to explore. The more I work, the better it gets. It gets quieter and to my surprise, some voices have even disappeared without saying goodbye; while new ones emerge. I find myself sharing this today to face one of them actually. The one that tells me “You got no story, you’re not a writer, you didn’t even go to college, you loser. You can’t spell and nobody’s going to read your crappy blog. You’re weak for sharing this shit.” As I began to write this entry, I created an image of this enraged character pacing behind me, while saying such things. He knows that I’m no longer listening, as I continue typing to expose him. He knows that I’m winning and now he’s fading into nothingness. Should he return I will be kind enough to beat him into a work of art.