ART IN HAVANA
RAFAEL PEREZ ALONSO+LA LAVANDERIA
The last thing you expect to see as you’re walking in the Havana suburb of Playa is an art gallery. Even the building that houses the gallery stands in sharp contrast to the urban landscape around it, a densely-populated area yet hardly anyone realizes what is inside the lonely white warehouse. When you walk inside you are taken aback, not expecting to see so many colors, and so much beauty.
La Lavanaderia, which means laundromat, is in the Havana neighborhood of Playa on Fifty-Fourth Street between 27th and 29th, and is home to the creations of several artists. The artists who make up The Merger, Alain Pino Hernandez, Mario Gonzalez, and Niels Molerio Luis, use is as their studio, and Rafael Perez Alonso uses the space as his studio and gallery. They share the space, but Rafael is the one who is usually there.
When someone knocks on the big double doors he is the one who emerges from the back of the building to attend and fuss over them. Whether their looking for one of the artists, or it’s someone who is curious about the building. Even though his work isn’t officially sanctioned by the government, his work is popular in Cuba, and he has many admirers on the island. As he makes his way among his own works, it doesn’t take long for him to make you feel at home. Boxes full of his art that were on display in another gallery, and now are back at the place of their creation. Always different subjects and styles, but every painting beautiful and stimulating, but it’s his sculptures that really stand out. His daring works include his most famous, a hybrid, as many things in Cuba, Mickey Mouse’s body with the head of Cuban cartoon hero Elpidio Valdes. They are the characteristic cartoons for two different generations from two different countries, and Rafael brings them together naturally. Also among his works is the statuette that is awarded to the winners of the Gibara International Film Festival, which is held in the province of Holguin. The statuette is named Lucia, after the iconic Cuban film by the same name from Cuban director Humberto Solas.
You could spend the whole day walking around La Lavanderia, there is beautiful art everywhere, in every corner there is something that will surprise you. We had a great time there with the artist, who I would say is very Cuban and warm, someone who entertains you with his mere presence. That is how you leave La Lavanderia, sure that you have missed seeing something, and that you would have loved it!
By Luz Grajales