Gabriel Alejandro Sanchez’s New Paintings Depict Peoples’ Daily Life in Havana, Cuba

Let Me In is a show about isolation and solitude. The painting are of young artists in isolation during this past year in Havana Cuba. Each paining is a unique world in which subject is immersed in. Engaged in their own mind, the isolation brings forth deep thoughts about life and existence. The year and a half long quarantine of Havana and the entire world has its effects on everyone’s mental health, that is not always accounted for in the impact of the pandemic. The Pianist dives deep into the dark and religious depths of the subject, using chiaroscuro and other renaissance techniques to dim the light of the painting, while the religious image shines through. In Roberto, the classical colonial tiles of Havana are the backdrop of the painting as the subject turns away from the audience. In Any Place But Here, the figure is sitting on a wooden box symbolizing the empty crates of food at a Havana market, representing the lack of food in Cuba. The girl sitting on the wooden crate in an isolated floor also represents a wooden boat which is the means of escaping the island by any means necessary. The background colors of red white and blue are also symbols of the Cuban flag. Her face is in agony as she hopes for something better. Prayer hands is a painting of hope, that things will get better in Cuba and the rest of the world. The bracelets on her wrists are representative of the Cuban Yoruba religion, more specifically the goddess Oshun”.

MONTI8 is delighted to announce its second project at VISTA: “Gabriel Alejandro Sanchez – Let Me In”. In this occasion, the small room of VISTA will host a selection of a new series, specifically thought for the space, small and medium scale works which reflect on the theme of isolation at the present time.
Gabriel Alejandro Sanchez was born and raised in Miami, from a Cuban family. His grandfather migrated to the States over sixty years ago, but his family always kept a connection with his roots. This connection brought Sanchez to leave the United States to go to live to Havana, being the first of his family returning to Cuba in decades. Moving to a new country was incredibly relevant to his practice. Living in Cuba, for him, meant meeting a different society, less affected by technology and more focused on relationships and human contacts”.

Gabriel Alejandro Sanchez, Let Me In, Installation view at MONTI8

Can you tell us about the process of making your work? 

I collaborate with young Cubans in Havana and we work together to create scenes which are represented on a canvas. I work with oil paints on canvas and I use a Northern Renaissance technique to create my work. So underpainting and grissaille, etc.

How would you define your work in a few words (ideally in 3 words)?

Narrative Figurative Realism.

You are currently presenting your new solo show, Let Me In’, at Monti Gallery in Milan. Could you talk about your new works that you’re showing there? 

The work for the show ‘Let me in’ is about the isolation during the pandemic. The vulnerability of letting someone take a look at your private life after you’ve been quarantined and isolated for many days. 

Could you share with us some insights on your ‘No Way Out’, (2021) painting? Is there any particular story behind this new work? 

My paintings communicate the lives of young people in Cuba. Many of which would love to be able to travel around the world and live an overall more accessible and free life. The feeling of wanting to leave an island but not having the resources to make that happen, the feeling of being stranded.

Gabriel Alejandro Sanchez, There Is No Way Out, 2021, Oil on canvas, 66 x 81 cm

Looking at your figurative paintings, the combination of a serene colour palette as well as a strong sense of sensuality and affection depicted on your protagonists’ body language is remarkably highlighted on your canvases. Do specific artworks have been created by random experiments in your studio or do you always come up with a particular concept or narrative in the very beginning? 

I really enjoy allowing the models to express themselves during the creation of the work. Sometimes I have an idea in mind for a particular pose or concept and other times it becomes a very organic development.

Paintings, such as ‘Mambi’, ‘Felix and Luis’, ‘The Pianist’ or ‘A country in the hands of a woman’, are some works which bring up an imagery of ordinary people living in Cuba. You were born and raised in Miami but your family is originally from Cuba; do your paintings reveal an open invitation to the viewers to familiarise themselves with pictures, figures and cultural themes from the Cuban society? 

Of course I think that a lot of people feel that Cuba is a forbidden place and a lot of my work invites the viewer to embrace how these people are feeling or how they live. Cuban people are the friendliest and will invite you inside their house and talk for hours. The paintings attempt to create that welcoming sensation.

Nudity is a recurrent motif in your recent paintings. Male or female bodies coexist unapologetically on your canvases depicting people in a quite confident and untroubled body language or even delivering a rather meaningful gaze to the viewer. What’s your perspective about gender and sexuality in your work?

I love creating new images for the canon of art history; I love including people who were not always depicted in the museums. My work celebrates all people in their natural beauty. My paintings pay homage to the multitude ways that humans can express themselves. Creativity comes in many forms, and that’s what really makes this world a beautiful place.

Is there any particular theme that utterly triggers you to engage your art with?

I think living and working in Havana, Cuba, it is impossible to not be affected by the current political situation and as much as I can try and paint other things, the innate activism inside of me gets triggered to engage in the dialogue.

Which are your plans for the near future? 

I’m going to keep painting people in Cuba and sharing their stories with the rest of the world.

Additional Images

Gabriel Alejandro Sanchez, Felix and Luis, 2021, Oil on canvas, 50 x 50 cm
Gabriel Alejandro Sanchez, Let Me In, Installation view at MONTI8
Gabriel Alejandro Sanchez, Prayer, 2021, Oil on canvas, 40,64 x 40,64 cm
Gabriel Alejandro Sanchez, Cannibalism, 2021, Oil on canvas, 55,88 x 42,75 cm
Gabriel Alejandro Sanchez, The Pianist, 2021, Oil on canvas 90 x 110 cm

All images courtesy of Monti8 & the artist




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