The artists’ collective Los Carpinteros was founded in 1991, at a time when Cuba was in a particularly precarious economic situation following the withdrawal of Soviet aid. Many artists left the island. Faced with a scarcity of artists’ materials, the group began cutting wood in the forest and salvaging furniture from abandoned houses in Havana’s wealthy neighbourhoods. This was the source of their nickname, Los Carpinteros (the carpenters), which they began using officially in 1994, when they took part in the 5th Havana Biennial, an event that propelled them onto the international art scene. The members of the collective explain their approach thus: “Our work explores everyday objects and their functions. Many of our pieces result from the transformation or excessive use of a piece of furniture or some other commonly used article. We have discovered that beneath the functionality of objects made by humans lie many flaws that reveal their thoughts and behaviour.” A typical example of their work, Estuche a jewellery case in the form of a grenade uses a military symbol to decorative ends.
© Los Carpinteros
Courtesy Sean Kelly, New York & MMFA, Montreal