A luminous egg-shaped construction glowing by the oceanfront at night was one of the most frequented hangouts during the 2012 edition of Art Basel Miami Beach – an art fair known for its parties and celebrity sightings as much as it is for the art on display. The mysterious cocoon was in fact a temporary wooden bar erected especially for the art fair by one of its main sponsors, Absolut Art Bureau, conceived and designed by Cuban artist duo Los Carpinteros. Los Carpinteros (“The Carpenters”) is one of the most important names to have emerged from Cuba in the past decade.
Cuarteto Rebelde, 2012 © Los Carpinteros
Formed in Cuba’s Instituto Superior de Arte in 1991, the trio (consisting of Marco Castillo, Dagoberto Rodríguez, and, until his departure in June 2003 Alexandre Arrechea) adopted their name in 1994, in a conscious decision to renounce the notion of individual authorship and refer back to an older guild tradition of artisans and skilled labourers.
Architecture, design and sculpture.
Their work focuses on the intersection of art and society and does so by using a distinctively multidisciplinary approach that merges architecture, design, and sculpture in unexpected and often humorous ways. They have exhibited in their native land, including at the 9th Havana Biennial, in Europe and in North America, and have received a number of prestigious awards. On 1 December, the first comprehensive institutional survey show of their work in Germany opened at the Kunstverein Hannover, with some 20 works spanning more than 13 years.
Sleek caught up with Los Carpinteros in Miami after the launch of their temporary bar, dubbed The Güiro, to talk about rendering culturally specific codes and symbols with art, and the space between the functionality and the visual syntax of uselessness.