Lebo and the Art of Living
By D. Dominick Lombardi
My immediate thought when I look at anyone’s art for the first time is how it sits in the grand scheme of things. I believe all artists are connected somehow, a collective unconscious if you will. In the art of Lebo we see definitive links to Picasso, Basquiat, a little bit of Tamayo and subtly but most importantly to the great Cuban artist Wifredo Lam. Lebo is first and foremost a storyteller. His narratives often span time and place, but they never forget the here and now. His color sense falls somewhere between masterful and mind blowing, a characteristic skillfully coordinated with bold line and big accents. He captures our minds and stirs our imagination in such a way as to turn even the most incidental moment into something beautiful, powerful and poignant.
At the heart of this self-taught artist is his passion for exploration. Not in the classic physical sense per se, but in ways one can expand ones mind to find true awareness. This quest began very early in Lebo’s life as he stated to me recently: “Not being formally trained in art, and since I lived near a library, I started collecting used books. Very early on these became my primary developing tools as they are today. After studying the works of Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung I became aware of the similar themes carried across storytelling: myth, religion and the journey of the hero, both as archetypes as well as expressing so many elements contained within our collective unconscious.”
It is the wisdom that Lebo has to understanding that there is a common thread that weaves through all that we know and believe, it is that which affords him the ability to present us with such potent imagery that can be both clarifying and mystifying. Take for instance, the instructive, illustrated bible book pages he over-paints with what at first seems to be relatively unrelated abstract forms. Lebo explains: “Having grown up catholic, I discovered and became fascinated by eastern thought in the form of Taoism and later Buddhism in my late teens. It was then that I saw Christ as my Buddha, an enlightened one whose life was an example to follow. That in turn allowed me to see how my spiritual beliefs fall in line with this procession of mystical direction over the millennia.”
The flip side to all this is how all these belief systems and mystical imaginings fit into the burden of proof required in both math and science. In one of Lebo’s paintings he mentions “ the divine pattern.” In another piece he writes ‘The Holy Third’ adding what looks to be a distinct reference to the Fibonacci series. As a deep thinker, Lebo seems to be circling around and occasionally stepping into extensive pre-planning, a more organized or scientific approach that is contrary to the spontaneous, and seemingly unbounded ways in which the artist approaches his compositions. In fact, Lebo finds his golden formula, his method of operation to play out his narratives naturally and instinctively. He was born with this incredibly innate ability to find his way compositionally in his work spontaneously, an extra-added sense that gives him the facility to create freely and fully all while knowing just where to place things. You see this throughout his ceaseless productivity, from the totemic, vertical compositions to the more expansive, horizontal murals.
Perhaps best known for his works that depict the music-scape of Miami’s often Cuban-influenced concerts and clubs, Lebo remains true to his heritage as the preeminent chronicler of his day as a Cuban-American cultural icon. This is not to pigeonhole this young and vibrant artist and thinker as one sided. Quite to the contrary, he is clearly international and universal in his thinking and creating. He has his eye on Cuban-American culture, no doubt, but his intention is that plus truth in general. Artists cannot live in one world. They can’t see things only one way, never being open to contrary thought, divergent beliefs, or unfamiliar settings. The true artist is a filter, a home for new ideas, lost souls, deep thoughts and beautiful dreams. If you can say one thing that colors Lebo’s art it’s his optimism. His spirit rises and his mind rests when he is satisfied he has made someone delight in simply being alive and loving life.