Reynier Leyva Novo: The Weight of History, Five Nights
Born and based in Havana, the artist Reynier Leyva Novo acutely responds to his nation’s politics through precisely accomplished visual means. His work carves out new space within an older generation of politically minded Cuban artists who, over the past several decades, have worked across media to address issues of censorship, freedom, and utopia. Novo takes on the same challenges with a heightened sense of formal accomplishment, producing highly refined conceptual artworks. In the series El peso de la Historia (The Weight of History), Novo employs INk, a software developed to compute the weight, volume, and area of the ink used in printed documents and books. With this curious system of measurement, Novo transmutes historically significant texts into abstract visual forms.
As part of the series The Weight of History, Five Nights applies the INk software to five revolutionary texts that constituted the basis of totalitarian regimes in the twentieth century. The incendiary writings of Vladimir Lenin, Adolf Hitler, Fidel Castro, Mao Tse-Tung, and Muammar al Gaddafi are transcribed as rectangles of printing ink rolled directly on the gallery wall. The gesture contains a poignant double meaning: the literal weight of history here is no more than the few milligrams of ink that make up these texts, but each dark rectangle is endowed with a legacy of oppression. Novo materializes the power of words and ideology, identifying them as drivers of history that carry incalculable weight beyond their physical form. The vacant blocks of “text,” legible only by their titles, allude to the censorship practices that have long affected political and artistic expression in Cuba; by using a form that effectively redacts the authoritarian texts, Novo’s work shrewdly seeks freedom through abstraction.