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“His work centers on the analysis of the social uses of language and images, which subverts by fragmenting, recomposing, and removing context. The artistic process is converted in that way as a means to understanding, not the subject itself, but instead its dynamic, its surprising character, changing and incomplete.” (José Jiménez, El Final del Eclipse. El arte de América Latina en la transición al siglo XXI,Fundación Telefónica, 2001)


E R N E S T O  L E A L  | | |  biography 

[b. 1971, Havana, Cuba]


ERNESTO LEAL graduated from the Art Academy of San Alejandro, Havana, Cuba in 1990.

Through a variety of visual media, Ernesto Leal has been exploring for many years the spoken language and the written text. He investigates how they are used, misused, appropriated and subverted; comparing and contrasting the different evolution of the spoken language as opposed to the written.

His work has been exhibited at LACMA, in the 7th Istanbul Biennial, National Museum of Fine Arts in Havana, in the MADC, San Jose, Costa Rica, at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, New York, in Museo Extremeño e Iberoamericano de Arte Contemporáneo (MEIAC), Badajoz, at the University of Salamanca, Spain, at the Museum of Modern Art (MAM), Mexico. D.F, in the Museum of Fine Arts in Buenos Aires, Argentina, at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MARCO), Monterrey, Mexico, headquarters of the IFA, Germany and the Havana Biennial event organized by the Centre for Contemporary Art Wifredo Lam.

Artist Statement

The flexible ability of language to model and configure our immediate reality has always been one of the phenomena that interests me the most. This role of language as constructor of experience exceeds the scope of the “communicative function” inherent to speaking and writing. It is rather that our lived experience acquires the form we give it through language, and how we speak and write about it. 

My work is based on the conceptual proposition that, if one affects (or complicates) the structure of the language (the why), one is also affecting the specific configuration of reality in a direct and literal way.

According to this idea, I conceive the pieces as essays or parts of open “scriptures,”  models or visual examples that imagine diverse situations of language with the intention to function, perhaps, as ways of constructing my lived experience as well as my environment. To achieve this I use various mediums (painting, drawing, photography, installation, ect…) depending on each project.




1987-90   San Alejandro Academy, Cuba.

1983-86   Paulita Concepción, vocational school of visual arts, Cuba.



2022        Gramatical, Elvira Moreno Gallery, Bogota, Colombia

2018        Triple-Lenguaje, Tasneem Gallery, Barcelona, Spain

2014        Word Cloud: Which are the most repeated words in cuban art? Cristo Salvador Gallery, Havana, Cuba

2013        Four Confused Messages, MAPRI, Pinar del Río, Cuba

                Forced Institutionalization, Cristo Salvador Gallery, Havana, Cuba

2011        Psicofonías (Instituto Superior de Dobleagentes), Espaidos, Sala Muncunill, Terrassa, Barcelona, Spain.

                Titles, Tasneem Gallery, Barcelona, Spain

2009        Dysfunctions of Language, Habana Gallery, Havana, Cuba.

2006        Higher Institute of Doubleagents (Audiovisuals Department), Cultural Center, ICAIC, Havana, Cuba.

2004        Document (with Luis Gómez), La Casona Gallery. Havana, Cuba.

2003        Foto Septiembre. Styrofoam Words, Nina Menocal Gallery, Mexico City.

2001        Civilians in Shock (with Manuel Piña), Habana Gallery, Havana, Cuba.

1999        With Silencer. Fototeca de Cuba, Havana, Cuba.

1998        Chemical Screens. Sicardi-Sanders Gallery, Houston, USA.

                Ten days without speaking. Project “Obsessions”, Wifredo Lam Center, Havana, Cuba.

1997        The stone falls, Sicardi Gallery, Houston, USA.

                Discussion with Betara Desa (with Juan José Olavarría), Farish Gallery, Rice University, Houston, USA.

                Title: Ernesto Leal, Teodoro Ramos Blanco Gallery, Havana, Cuba.

1996        The uncreated, Aglutinador Space, Havana, Cuba.

1995        The Double (17 exercises) (with Juan José Olavarría). CDAV, Havana, Cuba.

1990        Revolution is involution. Artist’s home, Cerro, Havana, Cuba.




2022        To the bitter end, Documenta 15, Kassel, Germany

2019        Mente Perdida, como parte de la exhibición La era Hans Hacke ha terminado, Procesual  Art Studio,

                Habana, Cuba

2018        Malditos de la postguerra, Espacio Aglutinador, Havana, Cuba.

                On the Horizon: Contemporary Cuban Art from the Jorge M. Pérez Collection, PAMM, Miami, USA

2017        Art x Cuba. Contemporary Perspectives since 1989, Ludwig Forum for International Art Aachen, Germany

2016        Growing up in neverland, Scarfone-Hartley Gallery, University of Tampa, USA

                Cuba. Tatuare la storia, PAC, Milan, Italy


2015        Welcome/Goodbye, Torrione Passari Arte Contemporanea, Bari, Italy

                Contaminación, Fine Arts Museum, Havana, Cuba

                The Spaces Between: Contemporary Art from Havana, Bildmuseet, Umeå University, Sweeden.

                La Llegada al Fracaso, 12 Havana Biennial, Parque Morro-Cabañas, Havana, Cuba.

                Sovereignty (post-zone), Cristo salvador, Havana, Cuba

                Nano, 12 Havana Biennial, Teodoro Ramos Gallery, Havana, Cuba

                Pulso; Colección efímera, 12 Havana Biennial, Gallery L, Havana, Cuba.

                De Facto, Xoho, Havana, Cuba.

2014        Cuban Virtualities, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, USA

                Late summer exhibition, Tasneem Gallery, Barcelona, Spain

                Odeón 2014, Odeón Space, Bogota, Colombia

                Las Otras Narraciones, Wifredo Lam Center, Havana, Cuba

                A este lado del paraiso, National Library Cuba, Havana, Cuba

                Pan y Circo, Ruinas de circo, ISA, Havana, Cuba

                Diga lo que quiera, nadie sabrá quien lo dijo, Aglutinador Space, Havana, Cuba

                The Spaces Between: Contemporary Art from Havana, Belkin Art Gallery, Vancouver, Canada

2013        Me encantaría dejar la calle, Cristo Salvador Gallery, Havana, Cuba

                Estampa Arte Múltiple, Matadero, Madrid

                Arranjos Experimentais Audiovisuales de Latinoamérica y España. CINUSP, Sao Paulo, Brazil

                Video Cubano, The College of New Jersey Art Gallery, New Jersey, USA

                Cuban Virtualities, Tuft University Art Gallery, Boston, USA

                Turn On, Fine Arts Museum, Havana, Cuba

                The Removed Fragment, Tasneem Gallery, Barcelona, Spain 


2012        SH Contemporary Shanghai Art Fair

                Revolution Not Televised, Bronx museum, NY, USA

                Herejes del vacio, Habana Gallery, Havana, Cuba.

                India Art Fair, NSIC Exhibition Grounds in New Delhi.

2011        Imagecity: Selections from Video Cubano, YBCA, San Francisco, USA

                Pinta, Earls Court Exhibition centre, London, UK

                With hands and feet, Torrance Art Museum, California, USA.

                Ya sé leer, Wifredo Lam center, Havana, Cuba

2010        The Collectors Eye: Peers Works from the collection of Fernando Castro, FotoFest, Houston, USA

                Digital Ocean, Sala Puertanueva, Botí Foundation, Cordoba, Spain.

                Profane Expressions, David Castillo Gallery, Miami, USA.

                Recent acquisitions, Rubin Foundation, NY, USA.

                Biennial Portugal Arte 10, Lisbon, Portugal.

                Text to speech, Bonelli Lab. Mantova, Italy.

                Pieza única, Delegación del Principado de Asturias en Madrid. Spain.

2009        Crossing cultures, Reininhaus, Graz, Austria.

                Confluencias II. Inside Art Cuba, National Hispanic Cultural Center, Albuquerque, USA.

                Data, Servando Gallery, Havana, Cuba.

                La perra subasta, Aglutinador space, Havana, Cuba.

                Dubai 2015, Simon Bolivar house, Havana, Cuba.

                HB, Pabexpo, Havana, Cuba.

2008        Red, Valle 70, Havana, Cuba.      

                V Contemporary Art Salon, CDAV, Havana, Cuba.      

               Show Off, Pierre Cardin Space, Paris, France.

               The First Collection, Ad Hoc Gallery. Ontario, Canada.

               V.I.P., La Casona Gallery. Havana, Cuba.

               100, CISAS Bolonia, Managua, Nicaragua.

               Ghost posters, 23 y 12 Gallery , Havana, Cuba.

2007        Homing devices, Contemporary Art Museum, University South Florida, Tampa, USA.

                Vostok, Centro de artes plásticas y diseño, Havana, Cuba.

                Arth-goth, La Casona Gallery. Havana, Cuba.

2006        The Doubtful strait, Limits, MADC, San José, Costa Rica.

                Stop & forward, Havana Gallery, Havana, Cuba.  

                The missing word, Rum museum, Havana, Cuba.  

                Personal project, Museum of Fine Arts, Havana, Cuba. 

                Off line, Hispano-American Culture Center, Havana, Cuba.                       

2005        Contact and mediation: Poetics of the digital in Cuban art, Dunlop art Gallery, Regina, Canada.

                Barro de América, Marta Traba Gallery, Sao Paulo, Brasil.

                Havana Auction. Online photographic Project, Habana Gallery, Havana, Cuba.                 

                IV Contemporary Art Salon, CDAV, Havana, Cuba.

2004        Biennial Barro de América, Maracaibo Art Center Lía Bermúdez, Venezuela.   

                Update & download, Mexico House, Havana, Cuba.

                Havana inside-out, Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, New Orleans, USA.

               Sin embargo, Fluid image, Grenoble, France.

               Cuba untitled, Heidi Cho Gallery, New York, USA.

2003        Virus, San Francisco de Asis Convent, Havana, Cuba.

                Suspended habits, Fototeca de Cuba, Havana, Cuba.

                Utopia/post-utopia, Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, New York.

                Re-unión+in-tornada=888 (with Aldo Menéndez), 8 # 211, Vedado. Havana, Cuba

                Double seduction, Sala Amadís, Madrid, Spain.

                From a black hole, Spanish Cultural Center, Havana, Cuba.

                Common sense, Havana Gallery, Havana, Cuba.


2002        From a black hole, Son Espace, Pals, Girona, Spain; De Miguel Gallery, Munich, Germany.

                No place, IFA gallery Bonn; IFA gallery Stuttgart; IFA gallery Berlin, Germany.

                Línea, Oh línea, Someca building, 17th floor, Vedado, Havana, Cuba.

                Made in Cuba, Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, New Orleans, USA.

                Copyright, Spanish Cultural Center, Havana, Cuba.


2001        7th International Istanbul Biennial, “Egofugal”, Istanbul, Turkey.

                Fragments of some islands, Spanish Cultural Center, Havana, Cuba.

                The end of the eclipse, Fundación Telefónica, Madrid, Spain. Caja de Granada, Spain. 

                CD Room, CDAV, Havana, Cuba.

                Shifting Tides, LACMA Los Angeles County Museum of Arts, CA, USA; The Museum of Contemporary

                Photography, New York, USA.


2000        Esta es tu casa Vicenta, 11 and 8, Vedado, Havana, Cuba.

                The last drawing of the millenium, Havana Biennial, National Theatre, Havana, Cuba.

                Art Cologne 2000. Cologne, Germany.

                From the Negative. Parts gallery, Minneapolis, USA.

                EV+A 2000. Friends and neighbours. Limerick City Gallery of Art, Ireland.

                The conjunction of nothingness. CDAV, Havana, Cuba.

1999        Ambient, Aglutinador Space, Havana, Cuba.

1998        From one island to another island, CDAV, Havana, Cuba.

                Arte’BA 98, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

1997        The art that never stops, Wilfredo Lam Center, Havana, Cuba.

                The concealment of the souls, CDAV, Havana, Cuba.

                A temporary misery, Aglutinador Space, Cuba.

1996        Giro de tuerca, Taller de serigrafía Gallery, Havana, Cuba.

                Las otras escri (p) turas, CDAV,  Havana, Cuba.

                V International Cuenca Biennial of painting , Modern Art Museum, Cuenca, Ecuador.


1995        Contemporary Cuban Visual Arts, Belém Cultural Center, Portugal.

1993        The Other Space. Video art, National Museum of Fine Arts. Havana, Cuba.

1991        Born in Cuba, Ateneo de Valencia, Venezuela.

1990        Joins the HACER project working team.

1988        9 alchemists and a blind, L Gallery, Havana, Cuba.

                No por mucho madrugar amanece más temprano, Fototeca de Cuba, Havana, Cuba.

                Ojo pinta, L Gallery, Havana, Cuba.

1987        S.A., San Alejandro Academy, Havana, Cuba.

1986        Untitled, San Alejandro Academy, Havana, Cuba.



                With the group Arte Calle(Street Art)):

1987-89   There is nothing (mural), Víbora, Havana, Cuba.

                Art at the cemetery gates, Zapata Street, Havana, Cuba.

                Building for growing, Plaza Vieja, Havana, Cuba.

                At the other side of the street, Taller de serigrafía,  Havana, Cuba.

                Easy shopping (performance), Havana harbour, Havana, Cuba.

                From Cuba, its nature (performance), Prado Street, Havana, Cuba

                Street Art Laboratory, Sala Villena, UNEAC, Havana, Cuba



2009        Mirada de curador, Corina Matamoros, Letras Cubanas.

2008        El observatorio de Línea, Elvia Rosa Castro, Ediciones Unión.

2007        Collectivism After Modernism: The Art of Social Imagination After 1945, Blake Stimson-Gregory Sholette, Minnesota Press.

2004        Mythologies personnelles. L’art Contemporain et l’intime, Isabelle de Maison Rouge, Editions Scala.

1994-97   Co-editor of the Cuban visual arts publication LOQUEVENGA, in which he also had articles published.



1996        Second prize, 5th International Cuenca Biennial of painting , Drawing section, Cuenca, Ecuador.



Los Angeles County Museum of Art, LACMA. USA

Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, SUNY New Paltz Foundation, New York. USA

Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, Minneapolis. USA 

Fine Arts Museum. Havana, Cuba

Morris and Hellen Belkin Art Gallery, UBC, Vancouver, Canadá.

CIFO, Cisneros-Fontanals Art Foundation.

PAMM, Miami, USA

Private collections in United States, France, England, Belgium, Spain, Brazil.