“Elegantly Minimalist” Cardboard Shanties
As we recently discussed regarding Hector Zamora’s Brasil, some of the works in Buildering: Misbehaving the City explore what exhibition curator Steven Matijcio describes as “the chaos that plagues many developing countries where time and prudence are sacrificed in the race for cosmopolitan status.”
El Barrio (2007) by the Cuban duo Los Carpinteros (Marco Antonio Castillo Valdés and Dagoberto Rodriguez Sánchez) embodies that predicament.
“Like Brazilian favelas stacked precariously one upon the other, the cardboard shanties in this installation climb towards the ceiling in a jumble that evokes slum housing in mid-collapse,” Matijcio writes. “Its basic units are modular, lightweight cabins that are bound to fail in their inability to carry weight.”
Yet they’re also expertly crafted, prompting Art in America critic Lily Wei, in a 2012 review of a Los Carpinteros exhibition in Buenos Aires, to remark on their “elegantly minimalist” character.
Wei also noted that the artists, who divide their time between Havana and Madrid, “subordinate individual authorship in the guild tradition, and frequently question the inequities of self-centered global consumerism.”
Reflecting on El Barrio‘s implications, Matijcio writes: “In the face of large-scale gentrification efforts, social housing and the people it serves are consequently thrown into tumultuous uncertainty – tossed about like the toys of an impatient child. El Barrio reflects this spectacular dysfunction in monumental fashion, but sheds a glimmer of hope by upending the logic that has led to this raw, but salvageable pile-up.”
Indeed, a sense of optimistic humor underlies much of Los Carpinteros’s work. In the video below, they discuss more recent works in conjunction with their 2013 exhibition Silence Your Eyes at Kunstverein Hannover.