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"Nicolás Leiva: Infinite Cycle Under Fire" opens at Ruiz-Healy Art in San Antonio
Nicolás Leiva, Under Fire I, II, & III. Majolica and Mixed Media.

SAN ANTONIO, TX.- Ruiz-Healy Art presents Nicolás Leiva: Infinite Cycle Under Fire. Leiva is renowned for his exuberant fantasies in sculpture and painting that encapsulate a staggering range of expressive traditions within a personal, mystic vision. Focusing on the Argentine-born artist’s works in ceramics, the exhibition is a companion show to Nicolas Leiva: Infinite Cycle, a survey of drawings and paintings presented in partnership with Ruiz-Healy Art at Russell Hill Rogers Galleries, Southwest School of Art, San Antonio.

Born in 1958, in Tucumán, in northwest Argentina, Leiva graduated from the arts faculty of the Universidad Nacional de Tucumán. He continued his studies in Buenos Aires, and moved to Miami in 1990. A painter until 1996, Leiva extended his practice to sculpture and now lives part-time in Faenza, Italy, where he produces his ceramics at the studios of Bottega Gatti.

The Cuban-American poet and critic Ricardo Pau-Llosa has written that, “In his generation in Argentina, Leiva has no equal in sheer originality and power, and few rivals in Latin America or elsewhere,” and likens his drive to expand the theatre of his visual poetics--and its basis on the dream world of the baroque--to the fiction of Jorge Luis Borges and the poetry of Octavio Paz.

In Leiva’s drawings, vessels and dwellings inscribed in black shift shape from boats, houses, to flying carriages in a flower-filled realm that seems to exist somewhere past the margins of a Mayan codex. Transposed to ceramics, the figures inhabiting Leiva’s oneiric realm are revealed in bright, primary colors bossed with silver and gold. Animal and vegetable commingle in a garden of flowers sporting human heads turned skyward like sunflowers; places of shelter are replicated as box-like reliquaries, and plate-like medallions picture in miniature closeup views of territories nearby to those seen in the works on paper. Like a Klein bottle, or a Mobius strip, Leiva’s imaginative world folds in on itself in seeming paradox, containing infinite realms within its many centers.

Like the marks in his drawings and paintings, the ceramic pieces are highly gestural, recalling the strokes of writing as much as forms organic and geometric. But though language is invoked, this is presentation, not description. As Pau-Llosa has it, Leiva presents a host of archetypes in his emblems of flight, safety, and mixed delight--but this is theater, not story. Unabashedly lush in an almost unbearable display of plenitude, Leiva’s delight in visual sensuality is emphatic and immediate.

Such abundance is often identified in the U. S. as a hallmark of the work of outsider artists--naive visionaries who are compulsive, self-taught makers, rather than studied heirs to William Blake and Walt Whitman. In Leiva’s case, the artist is not only far from naive, but is pursuing a vision, rather than compelled by one. Leiva has described his practice as “a street that takes you to the mystic elevation. You pray, you work--it is the same." But, he says, if this is visionary work, it is a vision of his desired future--a realm on the other side of a line that he can only seldom cross. The artist is not his art, but--like a lover--his art is the object of desire, and the object is retinal, sensual--mystic, perhaps, but sexual, too.

Nicolás Leiva has had many important solo and group exhibitions in the US and internationally. His work is the subject of a major monograph, Nicolás Leiva: The Fire of Self and Multiplication, with texts by Ricardo Pau-Llosa and Mariza Vescovo, published in Italy (English texts only) in 2005. His works are in the permanent collections of the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano Buenos Aires (MALBA), Argentina; the Snite Museum of Art at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana; the Berardo Collection, Lisbon, Portugal, the Gollinelli Collection, Bologna, Italy, the Museum of Art, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

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