Strolling along the Obispo in Old Havana, one finds many artists’ workshops and galleries. If you are in search of Cuban art, you must talk a walk on this very famous street called the Obispo. Many of the little shops along Obispo sell what can be labelled as “tourist art” or what we have fondly nicknamed “Bodeguita” art. It’s “cute,” produced for the masses, but not what we are in search of. Tourist art or “Bodeguita”art is what the artists of Havana paint for tourist souvenirs for a quick profit for survival in Cuba. It is mass produced and features time and time again the quickly painted images of Cuban cars, sexy Cuban nudes – like “velvet paintings” or the street where you’ll find one of the most famous tourist hangouts – a very lively bar in Havana called La Bodeguita del Medio. The sign for La Bodeguita del Medio dominates the paintings and everyone seems to want one as a souvenir of their Cuban holiday.
Strolling along the Obispo, we enter into every artist’s studio and shop that sold art. Curiosity will lead the way along this interesting cobblestone street of cafes, tourist souvenir shops, artists’ studios and once grand hotels. This is how we found the studio of the young Cuban artist Manuel A. Alvarez Suazo, otherwise known as “Lolo.” We immediately fell in love with his surrealistic paintings of that which is Havana.
Manuel A. Alvarez Suazo studied art at the Academia Nacional de Bellas Artes San Alejandro majoring in drawing and painting and graduated in 1995. He has also taught art at the Educación Artística program at the Félix Varela School from 1996 to 1998. He is already a discovered and established artist in Havana. His works have been exhibited in the major art galleries in Havana, Mexico, Panama and Denmark. Perhaps a measure of his success is that he already owns one of those legendary old American cars, a classic convertible.
“Lolo” as Manuel A. Alvarez is fondly known, was busy working on a series of paintings for an upcoming exhibit in Denmark, his second exhibition in Denmark. This series of paintings concentrates on the famous old American cars still running and seen everywhere in Cuba and especially Havana. But his perspective of the old American cars so loved by Cubans is a surrealistic view of the classic cars of Havana. In one painting, a car is suspended in the air under a full moon. Beneath the moon and the car, the island of Cuba is reflected by the light of the moon. In another painting, a classic American car was balanced precariously on an island in the sea, an island of old tires and garbage. In another of his paintings, two cars form the support structure of an old Cuban house, its verandah draped with the daily laundry hung out to dry, so often seen when walking the streets of Havana.
Lolo’s previous theme in his paintings represent an almost photographic realism of the balconies of Havana, so remarkable they are like actual photographs. His photo realistic painting technique and skills are superior while staying close to the themes, objects and concerns of his native country. This is the reason that he will succeed in becoming one of the great artists of Cuba. His works are not the commercial art of the “Bodeguita” paintings; his art is fascinating and interesting, begging a variety of interpretations from the viewer. The works demonstrate his superior skills as an artist, but seen through his original eye, closely tied to that which is Cuban; the classic cars of Cuba, and the hyper realistic representation of the balconies of Havana. “Lolo”cannot go wrong. If you wish to see more of his works or more information on this brilliant young Cuban artist, you can visit his website at lolopaintings.com.