LA TIMES / A GRAND STAGE FOR HIS ART BY CAROLINA MIRANDA
When artist Alexandre Arrechea was 9, his father, Jesús, took him to the sugar mill where he worked as a machinist. The Arrecheas are from Trinidad, a graceful Spanish colonial city on the southern coast of Cuba that emerged as an important center of the sugar trade in the 18th century. For Alexandre, the tidy furrows of cane that surrounded the city were a familiar part of the landscape, but stepping into the mill was a whole other experience.
Arrechea, now 53, says he was overwhelmed by the scale. “We’re talking about these giant pieces,” he says. “It’s these ginormous wheels and these incredible machines.” Seeing them was an experience so indelible that it has shaped his work since.
Currently the subject of an exhibition at the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, Arrechea has long been intrigued by architecture and its meanings. Another formative experience was watching protesters target colonial buildings during the turmoil of the Mariel boatlift, a massive migration of Cubans to Florida in 1980. “Those stories hidden in those buildings,” he says, “have been a way for me to understand architecture.”