Dr. H. Alexander Rich
Executive Director & Chief Curator
Llanes (b. 1985) is a fast-rising art world star, whose symbolist narrative paintings underline not merely his immense talents as a realist but also his ability to conjure convincing not-quite-real realities of his own imagination. Indeed, Llanes’ fascination with the blurred boundaries of time and existence, as well as the fine lines between mysticism, belief, and science, stem from his own experiences between two worlds; as a young emigré from Cuba, he came to the United States in 2007 at twenty-two years old and as an already enormously talented, academically-trained artist, but one who spent his whole life up to that point immersed in one set of traditions before fleeing his country to seek asylum in Florida.
Art historian & curator
A line can be drawn through the work of Reynier Llanes from wondering about the origins of our beliefs to the future of our species. This line is not straight nor definitive since it does not reference an evolutionary time. It tells a story about the human experience going back to what we have learned through time, the actions that affect our life, and the impact it has on our insides. One of his first series, “Patakis”, delves into the African ancestry that takes part in Cuban history. They are African gods, a syncretic representation of Catholic saints, or even the souls of dead slaves that come from the past to support the present. This sense of beginnings can be also tracked back to pieces like “The Guardian” where a man treasures a bitten apple, frozen in time.
Things worth saving
By painting his interpretation of the Patakies, Reynier says he was working to preserve part of his cultural heritage. But why is it important to preserve them in more than Wikipedia articles?
Samuel Butler, author of Erewhom, the first novel to deal with the inevitability of our subjection to machines and technology, wrote “there are few of us who are not protected from the keenest pain by our inability to see what it is that we have done, what we are suffering, and what we truly are.” I believe Reynier’s paintings are meant to make us see what we must preserve. It is estimated that the average North American is exposed to 100 times more information than in the 1980s. How will our origins survive in this ocean of data? As we navigate the war for the conquest of our minds by new technologies, we must salvage the things that have been real and palpable and carry them with us wherever we go. In case we ever need to return, the act of remembering can be the route back to shore. As forests become virtual, nature becomes a memory or a place we visit once a year, and our minds are uploaded, people must imagine what once really was. We must save the difference between real and virtual mythologies.
When there is no frontier
A native of Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Reynier Llanes cultivated his artistic talent from a young age, despite the difficulty of the time period within the country, following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Llanes attended the Instructores del Arte, studying with nationally renowned artist Juan Miguel Suarez, and moved to Havana at the age of 20, where he continued his work, study and collaboration with other artists (…) The central use of Cuban coffee as medium is a distinguishing factor of Llanes’ work. His initial conception of coffee-as-paint involved family within a home environment in Cuba when Llanes was a child. Llanes was enjoying the daily tradition of socializing over a cup of strong Cuban coffee, when it spilled on his paper. As it dried, Llanes noticed the characteristics of the substance and how it manipulated colors and images, similar to watercolor paint.
When There Are No Words
Llanes is a seeker of knowledge, beauty and that which is beyond our grasp – the mystical – all of which are inherently sewn into the makings of his paintings. In his large oils, he creates sweeping, majestic spaces into which viewers are welcomed to enter, explore and get lost in contemplation. In Mom (study), – a detail of which is pictured to the right – Llanes depicts a white bunny staring out into the distance at a giant, puffy cloud shaped like the head of a rabbit. The perspective the artist has bestowed upon the viewer – just behind the bunny in the foreground – all but beckons us to step right in and get a closer look at what has the motionless bunny's attention. Surely, we can all relate to looking at cumulus clouds to conjure images for our enjoyment or comfort, and many of us find ourselves looking upward to the sky or out across the vast horizon to seek answers that seem beyond earthly confines. Llanes has provided us with this luscious, green-and-blue landscape through which our imaginations may run wild. It is up to us – the viewers – to incorporate our own experiences and states-of-mind into the unfolding narrative.
Museum of Art DeLand
Reynier Llanes Artist and Alchemist
Curator of Education
If you ask Reynier Llanes what his profession is, he will probably answer, “artist”, and a visit to the exhibition, Reynier Llanes: Where There Is No Frontier, on view at the Museum of Art – DeLand, May 20 – August 28, 2022 certainly confirms that answer. However, when personally experiencing Reynier’s art, there is a distinct feeling that something more than the artist’s hand and eye is at work. The exhibition space vibrates with a palpable, almost frenetic energy. Animals take on human characteristics and qualities. Human bodies transform into shimmering, crystalline vessels. The past and present, natural and man-made, spiritual and mundane join together in a parallel universe creating new dimensions and realities. Colors, - soft and subtle or firework vibrant – drip, ooze and explode from the paintings’ surfaces. Images of hauntingly familiar characters whisper and shout from the gallery walls sparking memories with their stories. And then there is the light, a bright beacon or glowing ember, but always reassurance that the darkness will not prevail. Yes, Renier Llanes is an artist by profession, but he is an alchemist by vocation.