Born in Havana in 1971, Ernesto Leal studied art in Cuba at the Vocational School of Visual Arts, at “Paulita Concepción” from 1983 to 1986, and at the National Art Academy San Alejandro from 1987 to 1990.
His work uses a variety of media, from painting and drawing to installations, performance, photography, and video, each chosen to best express a particular idea. During the 1980s, he belonged to the militant group Arte Calle.
Through various visual media, Ernesto Leal has been exploring spoken language and written text for many years. He investigates how they are used, misused, appropriated, and subverted, comparing and contrasting the different evolution of the spoken language instead of the written. His work centers on the analysis of the social uses of language and images that become subversive when fragmented put back together and taken out of context. In this way, art becomes a path to knowledge, which instead of pointing to the object itself, centers on its dynamics, its random, mobile, and incomplete nature.
“To believe that one can approach the ideas of Ernesto Leal casually is to misunderstand his work completely. Leal is an artist who revels in layered complexities. His aesthetic is coated in subtlety, restraint, and residue. His artmaking process is forged within a disciplined conceptual viewpoint tempered by a sophisticated visual sensibility. Leal asks a tremendous amount of his audiences. He challenges them to devote the time necessary to arrive at an understanding that is as much visceral as it is visual. His demands are rigorous, but they are never more than he, himself, gives as an artist.” Tim Wride
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. 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.
He is now part of the Cuban representation at the 2022 Kassel Documenta curated by Tania Bruguera.