– Spring/Summer 2004

Los Carpinteros Updated

Marilyn Zeitlin

Poised over Havana, behind the Fortaleza de Las Cabañas, is an old fotingo of a missile.1 As I took a photograph of the city it appeared on my view finder like a comedian darting from the wings of a vaudeville theatre.

Its presence probably dates from the Crisis de Octubre, what we in the United States call the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, when Soviet and American political forces nearly enacted the final scene of Doctor Strangelove. My first thought when I saw it was that it must have been part of an installation, which of course it is, though not an art one. The missile today enjoys more nostalgic value than military but, like so many monuments, slogans and pronouncements in Cuba, it evokes both patriotic pride and a shrug from Cubans who are accustomed to the slippage between heroic revolutionary heritage and present reality.

Born a decade after the triumph of the Revolution, Dagoberto Rodríguez and Marco Castillo, the two individuals that comprise the artist-team Los Carpinteros, share the attitudes of their fellow artists who are identified as the 'Generation of the 90s'. These artists emerged from art school (most of them from the Instituto Superior de Arte) to take up where the generation that preceded them abruptly left off. Those who came of age in the 1980s, with a few notable exceptions, were now elsewhere, having left the island for Miami or Paris, Spain or Belgium. Those who emerged in the 90s, however, chose not to directly confront the limitations of what they could show. Instead they opted for a more deeply subversive and, ultimately, more engaging strategy. Irony

  1. Fotingo is the Cuban name for the old cars, lovingly and ingeniously maintained, that survive since pre-revolution days.

  2. Galería Angel Romero, Madrid, 1997.

  3. Dagoberto Rodríguez, 'Interview', in Los Carpinteros, Tampa, Florida, 2003