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Indepth Arts News:

"Contemporary Projects 6: Los Carpinteros’s Transportable City"
2001-09-27 until 2002-01-13
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Los Angeles, CA, USA

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art—LACMA—brings Los Carpinteros's Transportable City to the West Coast in the sixth installment of its popular Contemporary Projects series. Los Carpinteros (the collaborative name of Cuban artists Alexandre Arrechea, Marco Castillo, and Dagoberto Rodriguez) have been working as a group since 1991 and have been known under their collective name since 1994. The artists have received considerable attention for their work in Cuba and across the globe. The scope of their art ranges from elaborate drawings and sculptures to the early hand-tooled wood-works that inspired their name.

Transportable City is an installation of ten tents, made of nylon and aluminum tubing, shaped in iconic architectural forms. The city is composed, like most cities, of buildings that the artists believe convey the essence of modern life. These buildings include a domed capitol, a Gothic-arched church, a lighthouse, a factory, an apartment building, a hospital, a military outpost, a prison, a university, and a warehouse. We wanted to create the basic shell of what a city should be, says artist Dagoberto Rodríguez. Transportable City is about the basic minimum that a society needs to function. The installation will reside on the LACMA Green, the area facing Wilshire Boulevard between LACMA West and LACMA East.

Though the concept of building a completely portable city may seem uniquely Cuban, reflective of a country where the architectural infrastructure is in dire need of rehabilitation, Los Carpinteros view it from a more universal viewpoint. As people of all nations are subject to natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, or hurricanes, and as others experience the need to migrate due to the onset of war, the concept of the fully mobile community is truly a global phenomenon.

Underscoring the migratory, transient nature of contemporary urban existence, Transportable City’s tents are specifically designed to be dismantled, packed up, and transported just as ordinary camping tents would be. For the artists, this portability can be a way to relieve nostalgia. As Marco Castillo says, When people leave their homes they think about their city, the buildings they left behind…if you carry that [with you], you don’t even have to think about it. The tents for the exhibition have already traveled many miles; since their fabrication in Los Angeles, they have traveled to the 7th Havana Biennial, then were shipped to New York for exhibition at the P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center before heading to LACMA for this exhibition.

The three artists met when they were students at Havana’s Instituto Superior de Arte. They shared a desire to investigate what constituted a work of art. Their earliest collaborative works typically were wooden objects created with the hand tools often used by carpenters. Hence the name Los Carpinteros, says Castillo. The name seemed perfect for us because we wanted to investigate issues of the way art is made…To speak of a carpenter is to speak of the way something is made.

The concept of Transportable City first occurred to Los Carpinteros in 1997 when the artists created two tent-buildings for an exhibition of contemporary Latin-American art held in Mexico. These tents -- a church and a lighthouse -- were constructed of the brightly colored nylon used to fabricate modern camping tents. Subsequently, the artists chose to use neutral colors to more appropriately communicate the philosophy of the work. For this exhibition, Transportable City is comprised of ten tents, but as with real-life urban areas, the artists have not eliminated the possibility of expansion, perhaps someday creating a Transportable Metropolis.

This exhibition is made possible by the Contemporary Projects Endowment Fund, initiated in 1997 by supporters of LACMA’s Department of Modern and Contemporary Art to underwrite an ongoing series of small, highly focused exhibitions of cutting-edge art. The series supports the critical exploration of recent and newly created work and contributes to the museum’s endeavors to reflect developments in contemporary art locally, nationally, and internationally. Contemporary Projects 6: Los Carpinteros’s Transportable City marks the West Coast debut of the artists’ work that was first shown at the 7th Havana Biennial exhibition held in the winter of 2000–2001.

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