Light Willing

Interview with Collector Leo Rodríguez

/ 1 June, 2018

He is the classic Cuban, with a talent for people, with a cigar and everything; a coffee drinker and a prankster who likes partying and at the same time staying at home. At first glance no one can guess that he is the current dynamic executive who shares all his time between his Contractors Electrical Service Company and the art center he has founded, apparently two incompatible things that however he manages as if it were a family business, where the person who makes a map outlining the electrical installation is also qualified to organize an art exposition.

Leonardo Rodríguez was born in Matanzas, Cuba, but he set his sights on the world of art in the capital. His parents always fantasized with the idea that their son become an engineer; meanwhile he dreamed about studying history of art, perhaps because he followed closely his mother’s work in the Havana Museums of Arms, Decorative Arts and Fine Arts.

The decisive moment came when during a 45-day stint in the School in the Countryside he was unable to go because he was asthmatic and in exchange he requested making up for it by working in the National Museum (…) there he came into direct contact with the best pieces of the Cuban avant-garde, he was able to get to know and mix with creators, restorers, curators and collectors. Although what really made him fully feel a part of this milieu was to be accepted as a member of the Cuban Association of Arts and Crafts (ACAA).

(…) I acquired works to collect and when I decided to leave Cuba, I had to part with many of them, therefore my current collection has been practically formed here in Miami.

(…) It is structured into two groups, the Cuban avant-garde, and in the post avant-garde I place emphasis on the 1980s. I have had direct contact with the authors that stand out during this period, which has enabled me to explore closer their products, which in my opinion are among the most important of Cuban visual arts. Ever since I’ve lived here I have spent part of my profits in the collection and in generating opportunities for the artists.

And what does that suppose?

It represented a considerable domestic effort for all the relatives working as a team, headed by my son Leito, his wife Adriana and my wife Mari. (…) Moreover, there are people who have embraced my project, I’m referring to the Kendall Art Center (KAC), which is the case of Henry Ballate, who since the beginning was a pillar of the team, currently the institution’s art director and curator.

(…) As part of the greatest achievements of KAC I must refer to the commitment to young people, as well as to emerging figures with very valid products. (…) The KAC has a functional and modern building, with four spacious exhibition areas distributed on its two floors. (…) In its short life— close to two years—, the different displays have been equipped with excellent monographs and catalogs, in which of course that of Rodríguez’ collection is included. (…)

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