In virtuoso drawings and expansive sculptures, the Cuban artist group Los Carpinteros (The Carpenters) intelligently and humorously combines fine art and the applied arts into visual allegories of the present. The use of manual manufacturing processes and the preferred use of wood led in the 1990s to the name of the artist collective that originally encompassed three artists and since 2003 the duo comprising Marco Castillo (born 1971) and Dagoberto Rodríguez (born 1969).
Architecture, design and sculpture merge surprisingly and often ironically in the works of Los Carpinteros. In the consolidation of private space and the public sphere, of everyday objects and urban architectural planning they offer commentaries on politics and society.
The history and present-day social situation of Cuba is a recurring theme in their works. Under the title “National Liberation Movement,” they combine a barbecue grill, the symbol of lifestyle culture in the United States, with the form of Cuba’s five-pointed revolutionary star or shrink Havana’s skyscrapers, for example the Russian embassy—the symbol of former Soviet power—into functional drawer cabinets.
Inversion, transformation and mutation are among the duo’s artistic strategies. Architecture is turned into functional objects, everyday things into architecture. Familiar characteristics disappear, solid bodies liquefy, form and function enter into a productive contradiction—and with uncanny ease at that. Deconstruction is not the artistic goal, but rather the prerequisite for freeing the world from its causal relationships and to reassemble it: when for example a bed mutates into a highway junction or a rollercoaster, restless public mobility is connected to private rest and the realm of cozy security is transformed into a busy traffic intersection or an adrenaline-rich joyride. Relaxing leisure activities blend in the model of an aircraft carrier-shaped swimming pool with military operations and cause irritations as a hybrid of contradictory messages. Los Carpinteros translate the familiar into a state of paradoxical and in part surreal contexts that question the prevailing structures of the world.
A nearly endless clothes rail with black men’s sports coats that bears the sober title “16 m” is revealed to be an ambiguous dramatization. A hole at chest height runs like a tunnel through the articles of clothing, curiously defamiliarizing them. What initially appeared as elegant men’s clothing seem a moment later like uniform mass-produced goods, automatically giving rise to the question whether the hole was caused by vermin, whether the damage was deliberate or perhaps even an outlandish design idea.
With a critical undertone and humorous lightness, Los Carpinteros create a subtle network of ambivalences between object and function in their graphic and sculpture works, but also between language and meaning. A dissolving conga drum entitled “Mucho Caliente – Much Hot” thus evokes Latin American clichés of hot rhythms on the one hand, and deals ironically with the language problems of tourists on the other.
The Kunstverein Hannover will be showing the first comprehensive solo exhibition of Los Carpinteros in Germany. It is being organized in collaboration with the Kunstmuseum Thun, Switzerland.