RANCHO PALOS VERDES, CA – OCTOBER 01: A general view of atmopshere during Havana Noir: The Party on October 1, 2016 in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Palos Verdes Art Center)
Kadir López: HAVANA NOIR / HAVANA LIGHT
October 1 – December 31
Curated by Joe Baker and Adolfo Nodal
Palos Verdes Art Center announces HAVANA NOIR, a neon installation by Cuban artist Kadir López and HAVANA LIGHT, studies on the restoration of neon signage in Cuba.
Kadir’s site-specific installation, HAVANA NOIR, was created during his residency at Palos Verdes Art Center with the technical and creative assistance of Michael Flechtner.
“In the real Havana—the lawless Havana that never appears in the postcards or tourist guides–the concept of sin has been banished by the urgency of need. And need—aching and hungry—inevitably turns the human heart darker, feral, and criminal. In this Havana, crime, though officially vanquished by revolutionary decree, is both wistfully quotidian and personally vicious.”
Achy Obejas, Havana Noir
Havana is a living example of a Noir city. It has all the heroes and villains, leading ladies, and cinematic allure that Raymond Chandler saw in Los Angeles. The gorgeously neglected streets belie the tensions of the postwar urban culture of the 1940s through the 1950s, when the Havana street scene was a blaze of neon signs and gleaming American cars. Within the current context—a Havana that has not developed its urban image beyond the late 1950s—artist Kadir Lopez Nieves works to highlight the streetscape that is often abandoned and sometimes gone. Kadir’s gaze towards these mean streets full of faded beauty falls upon the remnants of painted steel, light bulbs, and glass tubing that were once part of the urban jewelry of the city and witness to the rolling stock of those same cars plying the streets worn shiny and wet.
The tarnished jewels hanging on seductive buildings, with names like Montmartre, Lafayette, Florida, El Encanto and Maravillas, are among the thousands of neon and electric signs that graced Habana when business was booming, rum was flowing, and the dice were rolling. This was an urban vision during the middle of the twentieth century that gave the city of Havana its enduring modern image.
Kadir Lopez Nieves creates new layers of metaphor that interpret memory and our perception of the present. His public art project aims at recovering the midcentury urban historic fabric of the City of Havana. His work is both pure historic preservation, such as straight restorations of signs like Payret, El Megano and Prado 259, and art projects as direct interventions on run down elements of sign structures that create entirely new works of art such as Ferreteria Las Americas, Norge, and Hotel Nueva Isla. He is also creating installations of decommissioned signage such as his neon boneyard installation currently being created at an old urban farm in the outskirts of the city.
The exhibition, Havana Noir / Havana Light, will showcase this romantic vision and the stark reality that is the City of Havana today with an installation of images, neon and other visual and narrative clues in the galleries that will evoke Havana Noir as much as taking a walk on almost any street of the city around 2 am on any Saturday night.
La Habana, also known as La Ciudad de Maravillas, is a proud city full of incredible people. Its legacy is not yet extinguished because it is still an electrifying city at night. And, it is recovering lost urban lighting that will love and caress the city and let it grow. What was once a city of lights rivaling Paris is turning the switch back on, one light at a time.
This is Kadir Lopez Nieves’ public practice and another beautiful story of Cuban art today.
Adolfo V. Nodal
Kadir was born in the provincial town of Las Tunas, Cuba. He was trained at the Escuela Profesional de Artes in Camaguey and the prestigious Instituto Superior de Artes in Havana, commonly known as ISA, graduating in 1995. Known for his moody, atmospheric works incorporating re-purposed American signage overlaid with applied prints or painted in oil, Kadir’s works relate a personal recollection of the history of post-1950s Cuba. Recently, he has turned his eye to historic neon signage of he pre-revolution era.
Kadir has exhibited his work consistently since 1990 in over 120 solo and group shows in North and South America, Europe, China, and the Caribbean. He has participated in several of the art world’s prominent international art fairs and events. Among his many outstanding solo exhibitions, Signsseries, brought him critical attention and he was named one of the top ten artists to watch in 2011 by The Huffington Post.
Kadir has lectured at conferences at universities and museums worldwide. His work can be found in several major museums collections, as well as a large number of private collections all over the world.