The Sunset Road

Reynier Leyva Novo

In Residence: Jan 23 – Mar 20, 2023

Exhibition: Mar 16 – May 7, 2023

Reynier Leyva Novo’s exhibition, The Sunset Road, is centered around the transfer of matter and energy in relation to migration. Like much of his artistic practice, Novo combines research and art-making to create a conceptual space that invites the viewer to dive deeper into the subject matter. In this case, a solitary artwork, Sauna Truck, guides the visitors’ experience.  

Sitting in the middle of the gallery, the back of a commercial truck bed has been transformed into a sauna that visitors are welcome to enter. A sauna is commonly used as a place of rest and restoration; it is a space for meditation and cleansing of the body and mind. The heat in a sauna causes blood vessels to relax and dilate, increasing blood flow and reducing tension and soreness in the body.  

While the idea of a sauna itself is relaxing and the experience energizing, the initial idea for the installation stems from the June 2022 tragedy, when a tractor-trailer filled with migrants was abandoned on a desolate road in San Antonio, Texas, resulting in the deaths of 53 people. This incident is considered the deadliest human smuggling incident in United States history. As part of his Artpace project, Novo held a Mass of Remembrance in honor of all the immigrants who have lost their lives on their journey to the United States. Held at the Sacred Hearts Chapel at Our Lady of the Lake University, the bilingual mass included a “Book of life” that included the names of the immigrants who died in last year’s smuggling disaster.  

While the 2022 tragedy was at the root of this installation, the concept surrounding the experience is creating a new, dystopian object “related to the migration and the conservation of matter.” More specifically, the artwork is dedicated to exploring how energy can be transformed in different environments and how environmental conditions have a direct impact on the matter. Ultimately, the Sauna Truck is an extension of our global reality, exploring the impact of migration on San Antonio, Texas, and the world.  


Reynier Leyva Novo

Houston, Texas, USA

Reynier Leyva Novo is one of Cuba’s leading conceptual artists. Working across media, Novo combines anthropological research with cutting-edge technology to examine the psychological and sociological effects of complex issues throughout the history of Cuba and the Caribbean. He develops his projects through mining historical data and official documents, transforming their contents into minimalist and conceptually charged sculptures and multimedia installations that are at once visually engaging and intellectually provocative.

Novo’s work challenges ideology and symbols of power, questioning notions of an individual’s ability to affect change. Among the artist’s most recognized series is The Weight of History (2014-15), a project in which he actualized a software to compute the mass and volume of ink used to print key ideological texts underpinning five totalitarian regimes that shaped the 20th century, including Cuba. Novo’s commitment to deconstructing myths while highlighting the fragments of reality and lived experiences that generate them has led him to political activism through art. Participating in the ongoing social movement in Cuba working to reclaim freedom of expression as well as civic and political rights, he is an active member of the artist-activist group 27N.

In recent years, Novo has secured his position as a rising star of the international art world through participation in biennials and exhibitions worldwide, as well numerous exhibitions and acquisitions of his work by major institutions. Novo’s work has been presented at the Liverpool Biennial, Venice Biennale, Havana Bienal, Bienal de Shanghai, Ghetto Biennale in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Aichi Triennial, among others. His artwork is in the collection of institutions such as the Bronx Museum, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Walker Art Center, Perez Art Museum, and Art Gallery of Ontario. In 2020, he was selected for 20 for the 20s, a publication highlighting the 20 Latin American artists who will define the next decade.

In 2022, Novo moved his family to the U.S. from Cuba, and is currently living in Houston, Texas. This year, he plans to begin a residency as a Smithsonian Institution Artist Research Fellow at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, in Washington, DC. This research project stems from the investigation for his project Patria, muerte y azúcar / Homeland, death and sugar (Havana Biennial 2019) which addresses the transatlantic slavery system developed by European colonial powers, the racial dimension to the slave-slaver’s logic, and the institutionalization of the estrangement of the other and its cultural diversity.

As curator Olga Viso notes, “In post-revolutionary Cuba, successive generations of artists have wrestled with the myths, ideals and icons of the island’s revolutionary epoch as well as its troubling colonial heritage. Reynier Leyva Novo, an artist who has distinguished himself with ambitious installations that mine historical archives he meticulously researches, is an inheritor of this venerable tradition, whose multi-faceted practice meets the demands of our de-colonial moment.”

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Gabriela Rangel

Gabriela Rangel is an independent curator, writer and editor based in Brooklyn, New York. From 2019 to 2021 she was artistic director of the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA). Previously, she was visual arts director and chief curator at Americas Society from 2004 to 2019. She holds an MA in curatorial studies from the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, an MA in media and communications studies from the Universidad Católica Andrés Bello, Caracas, and film studies from the International Film School at San Antonio de los Baños, Cuba. She has worked at the Fundación Cinemateca Nacional and the Museo Alejandro Otero in Caracas, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Rangel have curated and co-curated numerous exhibitions on modern and contemporary art as well as monographic shows on Carlos Cruz-Diez, Marta Minujín, Gordon Matta-Clark, GEGO, Arturo Herrera, Silvia Gruner, José Leonilson, Eric Meyenberg, and Alejandro Xul Solar. She has written for Hyperallergic, Letras Libres, Revista Ñ, Art in America, Parkett, The Brooklyn Rail, and Art Nexus, edited numerous books, and contributed texts to such publications as Emily Mae Smith (Petzeld Gallery, New York); Pedro Reyes: Sociatry (Museum Marta Hertford, Hertford, Germany, 2022); Rosangela Renno (Pinacoteca de SP, 2021); Erick Meyenberg: D Major Isn’t Blue (Museo Amparo, 2020); Lydia Cabrera: Between the Sum and the Parts (Americas Society/Koenig Books, London, 2019); Contesting Modernity: Informalism in Venezuela 1955–1975 (Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 2018); Marta Minujín, Minocodes (Americas Society, 2016); and A Principality of Its Own (Americas Society/Harvard University Press, 2006). She is currently working on her book Strategies of Self Sabotage: Art and Politics in Venezuela 1959-1973

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