Disbanded last year, the artmaking duo returns for “Cuba Va!” at the Phillips Collection. [See our previous post Los Carpinteros and Cuba Va.] In “One More Time: Los Carpinteros on Their New Exhibition in Washington DC,” Cuban Art News interviews the former team called Los Carpinteros, artists Dagoberto Rodríguez and Marco Castillo. Here is a short excerpt; see Cuban Art News for full interview.
Last summer, Dagoberto Rodríguez and Marco Castillo—the acclaimed artmaking duo Los Carpinteros—announced the dissolution of the group. Since then, both artists have pursued solo careers. But last month, Los Carpinteros returned with Cuba Va!, an exhibition at the Phillips Collection in Washington DC.
In a pair of email interviews, Rodríguez and Castillo talked about Los Carpinteros and its future, Cuba Va!, and their own recent and upcoming projects. Here are their responses, combined into one document and edited for length.
How did Cuba Va! come about? A little over a year ago, Los Carpinteros announced their dissolution, but this is a Los Carpinteros exhibition.
Dagoberto Rodríguez: Los Carpinteros has had 26 years of collaboration, with a lot of works that are barely known.
Marco Castillo: The legacy of our collective will continue to be exhibited and published, like that of many artists who are no longer around. For our part, we have every intention of continuing to defend this valuable heritage, which we built in our best years. We already have invitations to participate in upcoming projects in highly reputable and worthy institutions.
DR: This exhibition was organized before 2018, and it’s been great to see it become a reality. I would like to publicly thank Phillips curator Vesela Sretenovic for her perseverance, and gallery owner Peter Kilchmann for supporting this project. I also want to thank Sean Kelly Gallery for making this show possible.
Tell us about Cuba Va!
MC: The curator of Cuba Va!, Vesela Sretenovic, is originally from the former Republic of Yugoslavia, so she has a background similar to ours with respect to socialist issues. We started from the fact that this was an exhibition for Washington, a city full of monuments. This somehow established a relationship with the place the curator comes from, a country that’s also full of monuments.
We in turn come from a country that has some very defined characteristics in this field. In these explorations, an idea came to light that we’d been pursuing timidly: to transform and manipulate the monuments of Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos in the Plaza de la Revolución.
DR: The exhibition consists of seven portraits made with the backlight technique, similar to the spectral portraits in the Plaza de la Revolución—with the detail that the heroes are different.
The exhibition uses the propaganda resources and imagery of the revolution. It focuses on the generation that has carried the load of daily life in Cuba during the last 60 years. It’s a kind of tribute, combined with the political landscape that this generation has lived through. [. . .]
MC: These sculptures are made from a technique inherited from American Pop and consumer culture, in which a drawing is at the same time a monument. It’s a practical way of making a monument, with minimal resources and maximum expression. Using a backlit, illuminated line, anyone who is portrayed is exalted. In fact, the Plaza has an aura that makes it a kind of mecca, a sanctuary of the Latin American left.
We tried to use a process similar to that of Enrique Ávila, who created the portraits in the Plaza. The series It’s not Che , It’s_____ is a work that questions, through the misappropriation of monumental representations of history, the aging of a political project that today is at the point of breaking. The New Man, the fundamental entity of the revolution and the protagonist of the construction of a bright future for all, has grown old. [. . .]