Inspired by ancient modes of storytelling, comic strips, and the grit of 1970s street art, David “Lebo” Le Batard surrenders his artwork to the sum of history.
The Cuban-American artist is internationally recognized for his unique style—Postmodern Cartoon Expressionism—which harmonizes calligraphy, cartoons, indigenous art, mythology, and modern melody.
Le Batard—also known by his nickname Lebo—was born in New York City in 1972 to Cuban political exiles. He was raised in South Florida, surrounded by Cuban art, which had a great influence on his artistic style.
Since childhood, Lebo was fascinated by cartoons and creating artwork of his own. While in school, he dedicated his free time to teaching himself to draw and learning different forms of art such as brush techniques, ancient calligraphy, and classic cartoon drawing.
In 1995, Lebo graduated from Florida International University and took residency at the International Museum of Cartoon Art in Boca Raton, Florida, lecturing on the practical and technical approaches of illustration.
During this time, he began exploring ways to create art in a more social setting rather than spending hours in his studio. This led him to paint during his friend’s band practices; he found that this atmosphere brought his work to a new creative level.
Lebo also sought ways to be more engaged with local communities through his art. He quickly became a well-respected muralist in Miami, and expanded his mural projects to cities like Detroit and San Francisco.
Lebo’s rise to success began in 1996 during his first public exhibit at Johnson & Wales University. Since then, he has exhibited at a wide variety of events and venues.
Lebo continues to reside in Miami. He enjoys giving back to his community by holding creative workshops for veterans and contributing to animal welfare organizations.
Lebo refers to his artistic style as “Postmodern Cartoon Expressionism,” combining abstract imagery, cartoon drawing, bold hues, and calligraphy into a narrative style that conveys emotion and story.
His artistic aesthetic is characterized by gestural lines, condensed fields of color, and a graphic edge. He gravitates toward themes that evoke hopefulness, an extension of his pursuit for more harmony and consciousness in his life. However, he prefers to let viewers interpret their own narratives.
Since he was a child, Lebo studied comic strips and cartoons, finding inspiration from cartoonists like George Herriman, the creator of the “Krazy Kat” comic strip.
“To me, a cartoonist is somebody who expresses themselves visually and in a very direct manner and a very approachable manner. I consider myself a visual storyteller, so I’m trying to learn from all the different forms of visual storytelling.”
Lebo integrates symbols and prophetic turns of phrase into his artwork as a way to parallel antiquity and modernity. As such, his visual language brings together his studies of metaphysics, philosophy, history, and illustration.
“You can take the most obscure, weird stuff in the world and combine it all together, but if you put a cat in the middle of it, people will get engaged by it, and that’s really cool, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that,” he says. “You have to make it identifiable to who we are today.”
A scholar in his own right, Lebo speaks toward his allegiance to postmodern philosophy, which asserts that history is continuous. The Miami resident pieces together historic and cross-cultural narratives in each of his works, establishing the notion that culture is linked through time, not separated by it.
Much like the familiar characters of comic strips, Lebo’s body of work includes signature “totems” that have evolved over time. The most recognized are his owls, which he finds fascinating due to their significance in various cultures throughout history.
Like owls, cats appear throughout Lebo’s oeuvre. He grew up with a cat as a pet, but didn’t start including them in his art until he studied the art of Pablo Picasso.
To learn more about Lebo, you can visit the artist’s website.