– Spring/Summer 2004

Los Carpinteros: Utopian Model Makers

Jorge Reynoso Pohlenz

The growing international recognition of the Cuban art collective Los Carpinteros is a result of their tenacity and discipline, as well as the growing interest, over the past fifteen years, of collectors, foundations and art institutions in Cuban and Latin American art.

Those who generate the critique and analysis that fuel the international art market have realised that the renovation of proposals, forms and artistic strategies can only be sustained by opening new geographic, cultural and ideological borders. In seeking these borders they look for places where the terms of contemporary art and culture are still open to debate and reflection, where the critical positions among artists, viewers and their surroundings are made evident.

For a century now, western art has regenerated itself partly by the opening of these supposedly peripheral borders. At the same time, these 'peripheries' have demonstrated their interrelation and interdependency with the preoccupations of western cultural centres. In Eastern Europe such critical situations are more than evident, and weigh heavily on the limited space of contemporary art. These countries have experienced accelerated and sometimes violent social transformations that have produced, in the form of a strange and rich residue, numerous artistic manifestations that are seldom long lasting in the capricious interest of critics and the market. In contrast to these radical transformations, the case of Cuba has been significantly different: its image to the outside world has been characterised for two decades by postponement, historical suspense and expectation.

As we all know, North American political and economic pressures, the collapse of Soviet power, and the arthritic condition of the Cuban revolution have all contributed to reinforcing the insular condition of the nation - a place where