Perhaps it was a happy rhetorical coincidence when curator Nelson Herrera Ysla asserted that “engraving is the terrain best tread” by artist Alcides Pérez Toledo, whose exhibition Infra- Muros (which could be translated as Beneath-Walls) precisely vindicates the ground in Havana and the stories—sometimes unknown—that lie under our feet.
“His wanderings seem to be sure and with their own destination,” Herrera Ysla suggest in his walking analogy, confirming what for Alcides is a certainty and a provocation: every floor holds the energy of all who walk upon it. And those of his hometown of Havana especially seemed to call to him while he was living in Chile, longing for the footsteps of a city beautiful in its ruin.
The ground as the recipient of so many steps and the eclecticism of architecture with so much vital force inspired this exhibition, with which Alcides returns to his origin, an origin that he never completely left, although he does admit that in the distance, Cuba became “pixelized” for him, like images that become deformed when we try to make them larger.
A graduate of the San Alejandro Academy, where he specialized in painting, Alcides spent the last 15 years teaching at a Chilean university, but without becoming disconnected from the Cuban creative scene: his participation in many solo and collective exhibitions testify to his rejection of creative immobility, the comfortable maturity understood as a repetition of itself.
Infra-Muros was born fortuitously, emerging as revelations tend to do: when he lifted up a canvas that was stuck to the floor of his studio in the Havana municipality of Cerro, the “unconscious engraving” that was made gave him the idea of proposing a reflection on the beauty immersed in the precariousness of his Havana, using as amold the possible arabesques of floor tiles, mosaics, and paving stones.
One idea is that human experience is intrinsically linked to the buildings we inhabit. Another could be that each body is a building, with its hallways, pipes, and balconies, which one could restore, but its destiny is ruin. At least, that’s how I understood it, and that should be enough, but Alcides cares very much about his public’s interpretation. For that reason he makes his techniques work toward an idea, because he knows that art is like certain loves: at first sight, they may be fascinating, but without content, that passion becomes exhausted.
His work ranges from mosaic engravings to more digitalized and colder pieces, to be consistent with his challenge as an artist who is never intimidated by certain esthetic patterns, in virtue of a certain formal
maturity. “Art is social upheaval, always in constant vibration, and my idea is to keep experimenting, learning, and making incursions into things that motivate my creativity,” he told Cubaplus.
He also sets out to maintain an exhibition dynamic in and outside of Cuba; to keep showing,interacting, and proposing, because “nothing is said until the work goes out of the studio and is placed somewhere where it can engage in dialogue,” he affirms.
At 37, this admirer of the technical and conceptual solidness of the late artist Belkys Ayón feels that he is going through a very creative stage of his life: the Chilean experience was enriching, but he always knew that he would return to his studio, and one of the reasons is that Cuba and Brazil are Latin American powerhouses of engraving, his favorite technique because of all the experimentation
that it fosters.
As a former member of Havana’s Taller de Gráfica (Engraving Workshop), Alcides recognizes that the high quality of Cuban engravers places him before a seductive challenge, but he is not worried about that; on the contrary, he views competitiveness as a stimulus for professional growth, and that is why he is advancing toward excellence on a road that he himself is building, driven by the energy that is imprinted, like engravings, on the Infra-Muros of his life.