Choco | Cuba

Choco Story Image_2.png

“…Choco was born in a small village near
Santiago de Cuba in southeastern Cuba
that he describes as "marvelous, in the mountains,
with incredible people, and the best carnivals.
From time to time I return to it in my mind and it
makes me stand taller.”

— Havana-Cultura

Edwardo Roca Salazar, known as Choco, is a painter, engraver and sculptor. Since his first solo exhibition (in Santiago de Cuba in 1976), Choco has been the subject of one-man shows in Cuba, Spain, Mexico, Colombia, Sweden, Japan, Paris, London and San Francisco, and he has participated in group shows and biennial exhibitions in Spain, Chile, Canada, Vietnam, Mexico, Puerto Rico, India, Russia, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Italy and the United States.

I visited Choco’s studio in Cuba in 2014 when I was among a group of artists and arts professionals who traveled to Havanna on the occasion of the exhibition and related symposia, African American Artists and Abstraction at the National Museum of Fine Arts.* Since Choco exhibits and works regularly outside of Cuba, it was a treat that he was at home in the studio at the time of the visit. The following short excerpt is from an interview I found on the website in a section called havana-cultura. Choco, and the atmosphere of the studio as described here is close to my experience. Choco greeted our small group (my partner and three friends) and spent time talking about and showing us his work.

The floor is concrete and the walls are high and white, hung with big, boldly figurative paintings in rich, brazen colours. Eduardo Roco (“Choco”, 63, looks 15 years younger, a powerful man with an infectious laugh. And he doesn't mind that his studio, a large space on a busy street in Habana Vieja, can get noisy. “The noise is wonderful”, he insists. “In general I start working here very early in the morning when it's not so loud. And then it builds. Passers-by are saying things, some of them bad things, and they enter my studio and introduce alternative possibilities to me. From time to time they shake my concentration. I can ask somebody in to look at my work, see if I’m broadening his spirit. People are and have always been my protagonists.”

At the time, although not as yet named, the HarryLou WorksOnPaper shop was already in my imagination as a project that would highlight and sell works from my own collection that I was willing to share, and the work of a group of artists who I know personally.

With my nascent project in mind, I was tempted to purchase a few of Choco’s works on paper, but along with my partner, decided to think about whether it was wise at the time to spend the money. When we were ready to return home and hadn’t yet made a decision, I thought the opportunity had passed. Happily, the day before our flight, my partner arrived in our hotel room with Choco’s Darwin, a rather large print that now graces and is for sale on the HarryLou WorksOnPaper website. When Christmas arrived that year there was a gift of two small Choco portraits—a complete surprise—and, selfishly, I’m not letting go :(

*The exhibition was organized by American artist and curator, Ben Jones who over the years has made voluminous trips to Cuba. In addition to my partner, Victor Davson, the nine artists included in the exhibit were Nanette Carter, Willie Cole, Jayne Cortez, Melvin Edwards, Bill Hutson, Ben Jones, Senga Nengudi and Howardena Pindell. The exhibition was dedicated to the poet, activist and performance artist Jayne Cortez. For more on my trip to Cuba, read the HarryLou WorksOnPaper November 2018 Journal post.

Detail pictured above:
Eduardo Roca Salazar (Choco)
Darwin, no date
27.5 x 14 inches, Edition 23/25,
Signed bottom right on the front
Provenance: HarryLou/The artist

Price: $975 | Visit our Shop to purchase.

Cicely Cottingham