contemporary art / history of art

Artwork of the Month / November 2022

Listening to the Moon
Glenda León

Installation view at the Aichi Triennale 2022
©︎ Aichi Triennale Organizing Committee, Photo: ToLoLo studio
Courtesy of Estudio Glenda León

Drums: leather, wood
31 x 15,5 x 9 cm; 31 x 15,5 x 9 cm; 31 x 19 x 9 cm; 31 x 23 x 9 cm; 31 x 31 x 9 cm

Glenda León’s installation “Listening to the Moon” consists of five objects, suspended on a wall. By their form, they are reminding the waxing moon in its different states. Since the first piece on the left is a crescent of the moon with its right side dark and the last one a round full moon, it has to be the illustration of a waxing moon in the Southern Hemisphere in five phases. The wooden frames of the single pieces shines through the leather-surface. Here, the central area appears obscure, due to the installation on a dark background. However, with brighter wall painting the effect would be different.

Only regarded as installation, it might be strange to imagine that the moon has some kind of sound. For the human ear, there is no sound recognisable coming from the Earth’s only natural satellite. Rather one might remind sounds during a contemplating of the moon and the stars, which could be comfortable or frightening. At best, the experience might evoke an attachment to nature. Moreover, the influence of the moon to our lives manifests in the tides and many people feel effected by the moon, depending on its phases. Hence, the pure visual approach to the artwork could lead to a reflection, if not meditation about this for us so important celestial object.

However, “Listening to the Moon” is more than a representation of the Earth’s satellite: the objects are at the same time instruments. This is best evident, regarding the rightmost piece, which is similar to a tamborim, a Brazilian frame drum of Portuguese and African origin. Unlike the more popular tambourine, the Latin American instrument has no jingles. Moreover, the head of the Brazilian drum nowadays is the mostly made of nylon, whereas Glenda used leather. This is important concerning the sound. Additionally, the sound varies depending on the form of each single instrument. In consequence and according to the title, it is not only a visual artwork, but also an invitation to the public to play on or listen to it.

As sculpture and visual instrument, “Listening to the Moon” is part of a series, which represents natural elements. Like the present work, the sun, the rain and the stars are using components of musical instruments. Altogether, they are a kind of interactive landscape. Without the intervention of the spectator or a musician, the oeuvre is incomplete. By the sound, they become a metaphor of vibrations of nature. This gives the possibility to get involved, to listen and to absorb the music. By the specific visual forms of the instruments, they refer to nature and might translate our feelings about the celestial objects and phenomena into music. The acoustic waves might arouse echoes in our body or soul that could reflect our relation to nature. One might note the natural vibrations when listening to the sun, the rain, the stars and the moon.

Various musicians have played the series of visual instruments. In December 2020, the Spanish Juanjo Guillem gave a unique concert in the Glenda León Studio in Madrid. On the Aichi Triennale 2022, the Japanese Nomura Makoto played the natural elements. Tomomi Adachi accompanied him with an exclusive performance in the former Earthernware Pipe Factory (Maruri-Toukan) in Tokoname City, Japan. Starting on November the 5th 2022 “Listening to the Moon” will be presented in a solo exhibition in the Juana de Aizpuru Gallery in Madrid.


Glenda León

Born in 1976 in Havana, Cuba, Glenda León had a first artistic education at the School of Plastic Art “20 de octubre” in Havana. Followed by an instruction in classical ballet in the Centro Prodanza, she also studied art history at the University of Havana. Additionally, she made her Master in Art at the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne, Germany and had a research scholarship from the MAEC in Madrid. Furthermore, she was several times artist in residence in Canada, France, Panama, Philippines and the United States and was honoured by Cuban and international awards, inter alia the Premio LARA 2017 by the Asiaciti Trust Foundation, the Pollock Krasner Foundation Grant and the UNESCO prize for the Arts at the VII Biennale of Havana.

The oeuvre of Glenda is very versatile. She creates objects, sculptures, installations and videos. These might reappear in interventions in public space. Moreover, she makes drawings and photos. Additionally, she published several artist books for example a series called “Fragmented Reading”, where a triangle part of the book is cut out and presented as piece of cake on a white plate.

In her work, Glenda often reflects upon conditions in societies. In 2018, she created a series with ancient typewriters. Depending on her additions to the machines, the objects are aiming at language and its fervent applicability (Incendiary discourse), at the fragility of elements added to the body for aesthetic purposes (Noli me tangere – or the impossible writing) or at the insatiable appetite for taking and not giving (The insatiable writer).

Glenda seized money and its conventions several times. The video “Inversion II” from 2011, our Artwork of the Month June 2019, witnesses this interest likewise the later version from 2016 (Inversion III). “Inversion II” was inter alia projected 2017 in the group exhibition “Art x Cuba: Contemporary Perspectives since 1989, Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst in Aachen, Germany and in 2019 in Glenda’s solo show “Listening to the stars” in Turin, Italy at Recontemporary. Also in 2016, reappeared 50 One-US-Dollar-notes in her pocket version of the Holy Bible, where they were added to the binding.

Another recurring subject is music. Already in 2005, she started to work on a grand piano, decorated by artificial flowers. Finished in 2012, “Magical found object n. 5” is currently part of the group exhibition “Hot Spot” (24 October 2022 – 26 February 2023) in the Galleria Nazionale Arte Moderna in Rome, Italy. In 2011, Glenda made some sheets of notes, with visual elements like drops and autumn foliage under the titles “Listen to … Autumn/Rain/the Flight”. The series “Listening to silence” (2012) comprises empty sheets of notes, partly as paper, but also as sculpture with strings. Since then, the note sheet is recurring also in other works. For her contribution to the Cuban Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale (2013), she created “Music of the spheres” where images of the solar system served as score for a sound installation. She arranged and processed music instruments, like the piano, a guitar or harps for her series “Concrete Music” and “Metamorphosis”. In her series of visual instruments from 2020, which represents natural elements, Glenda uses components of musical instruments, to enable the public “Listening to the Sun/the Rain/the Stars and the Moon”. “Listening to the Stars” is also in the current exhibition in Rome and was with “Magical found object n. 5” part of a musical performance in occasion of the opening. “Listening to the Moon” is our Artwork of the Month November 2022 and presented in a solo show from November the 5th 2022 in the Juana de Aizpuru Gallery in Madrid, Spain.

Since 1999, Glenda’s creations were presented in numerous solo and group exhibitions in Latin and North America and Europe, but also in Senegal (Dakar Biennale), China and Japan (Aichi Triennale 2022).

Glenda’s works are part of many public and private collections in Cuba and abroad, for example Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Havana, Centre George Pompidou, Paris, and The Hammer Museum, Los Angeles.

Glenda lives and works in Havana and Madrid.