SURFACE – Dynamic Latin American Duos
Campana Brothers (Fernando & Humberto)
Guerra de la Paz
Fall 2013 – Surface Desing Journal
SDA Publication – USA.
Chiachio & Giannone
by Vic De La Rosa and Kate Nartker
pag 12 – 17
Dynamic Latin American Duos
b y V i c D e L a R o s a a n d K a t e N a r t k e r
Multiple artists collaborating on creative endeavors is common practice in film, theater, and dance, but the fine arts mystique is that of solitary angst and isolated toil. Historically, exceptions have been few compared to the vast number of solo artists, but the rosters of recent international biennials and art fairs worldwide show an increased number of collaborative groups. Has there been a rise in the acceptance and recognition of multiple authors in the art world or has there simply been a rise in the number of Gen Y and Millennial artists for whom working in this egalitarian manner is the norm? In either case, there has been a paradigm shift in how collaborative versus solitary art making is viewed today.
Perhaps cultural influences can be a factor. Artistic co-ops are prevalent throughout Latin America, from the numerous modern art collectives in Mexico City to niche artisan guilds in the surrounding small villages. Are Latin America artists and designers more accustomed to this collective way of working as an extension of communities more closely tied to the tribal traditions of their cultures?
Three successful partnerships with roots in Latin America explore this idea of collaboration. At their core, the Campana Brothers, Guerra de la Paz, and Chiachio & Giannone are each a determined relationship; one is forged by a sibling bond, another through shared inspirations, and the third by a life partnership. All possess an undeniable chemistry and shared artistic vision.
One can almost see the collaborative effort of Brazilian siblings Fernando and Humberto Campana within each object they create. Their contemporary furniture presents an endless set of dualities seemingly born out of an ongoing dialogue. Ideas bounce back and forth, evolving continuously into complex juxtapositions and hybrid forms. Pieces that are at once absurd and refined are common within their extensive oeuvre.
Scraps of wood, plastic, rope, and even stuffed animals are transformed into bold, highend designs and otherworldly creations. Recycled material remnants speak to the past, while innovative designs look to the future.
Their signature 2006 TransRock Chair perhaps best illustrates the dual nature of their work. In a precarious heap, wicker and plastic are mashed together in a sort of wrestling match.
Natural caning undulates and spills into an elegant wave, swallowing colorful plastic chairs. Fragments of the mass-produced lawn chairs barely peak out amongst the folds of artisanal basketry. Here the tension between the airy lightweight wicker and artificial plastic is embedded in a captivating narrative that also serves as a usable, and seemingly comfortable, piece of furniture.
Known for their experimental use of recycled materials, the brothers have been collaborating since 1983. Their daring works push the limits of contemporary furniture design and call into question the values we place on discarded materials. As a team, their collaborative working model is built into a brand. Rather than romanticizing the genius designer grinding away in the studio, one imagines two brothers working things out and brainstorming new ideas. Each stage involves ongoing discussions and critiques, but their overall creative process is completely chaotic. They have said that there is only one constant in their studio— the task of not designing something that has already been created.
A recent project achieves this goal and demonstrates their ever-expanding breadth of concepts. In tandem with the Carpenters Workshop Gallery, they produced the Ocean Collection, an evolution of their iconic Sushi series. Specifically designed for this Paris-based exhibition space, the Ocean Collection stems from an earlier investigation of finding new methods to make upholstery. By rolling fabric, carpets, and rubber mats, they built a surface that resembles the cross section of sushi rolls. Coral-shaped mirrors framed with the same mix of materials were hung from the ceiling. Installed in a blue-green space, the pieces work together to create an underwater fantasy world.
Guerra de la Paz
Miami-based artists Alain Guerra and Neraldo de la Paz collaborate under the combined name of Guerra de la Paz, which translates to the oxymoron “war of peace”. Known for working with massive amounts of second-hand clothing,
Guerra de la Paz creates large-scale installations, sculptures, and performance pieces. Through unsettling yet often humorous scenes with anthropomorphic forms, their work offers sociopolitical critique on power, consumerism, and modern conflict.
In many of their installations, Guerra de la Paz arranges and manipulates clothing into thought-provoking narratives. Anonymous figures stand or lie beneath the crushing weight of clothes; their work speaks to excess, overconsumption and complacency. In Follow the Leader, dozens of figures blinded by the draping garments line up only to become an amorphous pile sprawling on the floor.
Charged with social discourse, clothing is an ideal material for their work. It also makes sense that Guerra de la Paz chose to collaborate rather than mining individual self-expression; they are invested in raising questions and starting a dialogue. They work together to create puzzles, and hope that there are as many answers as there are viewers.
The Cuban-born duo has bypassed many of the complications a collaborative working model could present, including dividing up labor, communicating ideas, and incorporating two viewpoints. By setting aside their personal creative needs, they are able to harvest a new vision, taking on interchangeable roles, separating, coming back together, and taking turns. They come up with projects that allow them to work at an equal level, permitting each to develop a range of methods and techniques. After 17 years, their studio practice has become an organic process that revolves around constant dialogue and shared experiences.
It is clear that their work benefits tremendously from collaborating. Like a meandering discussion, they push ideas, circle back, and delve deeper into specific areas. In the recent performance Cicatriser, they go beyond the representational use of garments to explore the properties of fabric itself. Performed this summer at the Biennale Internationale du Lin de Portneuf in Quebec, Canada, they focused on the healing quality of linen bandages. Dressed in protective white suits, they engaged in what appears to be a violent act, throwing red soaked clothes inside a white tent. They ultimately restore order by recovering the garments and wrapping them in bandages. In this piece, Guerra de la Paz are the anonymous subjects, replacing the frozen anthropomorphic forms so familiar in their work. Acting as the aggressors but also the rescuers, they explore the regenerative capacity of linen to preserve both life and death.
Chiachio & Giannone
Like the Campana Brothers, the guiding principle of not repeating oneself is a tenet that led Argentines Leo Chiachio and Daniel Giannone to work together with textiles. They met as students in art school and decided to challenge themselves by working with any technique other than painting that forced them to re-associate the skills and craft of the canon, such as color and composition. This media mash-up is apropos, as their work is a combination of Argentine mythology and a forward-thinking openness to alternative family structures.
In general, Latin American legends surround themes of eternal or lost love, luck, family, or abundance. Chiachio & Giannone release these legends from their imposed traditional meaning by inserting themselves as protagonists with 21st century ideals, to bring the subject matter into a contemporary discourse. The work is lush, multitextured and steeped in embroidered depictions of a new family unit juxtaposed in traditional settings.
They use this visual language and media as a decidedly political act of two gay men who describe themselves as “partners in life and in art”.
When they met over a decade ago, the couple decided to share their lives in the broadest sense, interested in the challenge of joining their two worlds. Leo Chiachio’s work was painting and drawing on men’s tailoring pattern tracing paper, representative of a world inhabited only by men. Daniel Giannone painted flowers in a childlike style akin to those found in embroidered tablecloths. Eventually, Leo’s masculine visual world began to fill with the flowers and animals that inhabited Daniel’s visual landscape.
In each tableau, they are always accompanied by their “son”, Piolin the Dachshund who is featured prominently throughout their body of work.
They are equally involved in all aspects of the creative process, from drawing to photographing themselves for the embroidery stitching cartoons. Tattoos, hairstyling, makeup, and clothing for the characters they dream up are all carefully articulated in real time to help them fully inhabit these alter egos. Stitch by stitch, they build alternate universes that would otherwise be impossible due to cost, improbability, circumstance, or history.
The desire to manifest a world, idea, or object that does not exist is what motivatesmost artists, but creative partnerships represent a unique commonality forged by shared working processes and world views. Whether originating from sibling relations, friendship, or love, these partnerships come with double the power to filter the changes, influences and trends in our modern world. There is an automatic confirmation and assessment of what is seen and felt, and in turn a symbiotic visual response is created. Artistic collaborations have existed throughout history, but the contemporary duos from Latin America are unique. As Chiachio & Giannone observe “We believe that these models for creative partnerships are emerging strongly in Latin America due to the political and social changes that we are living. And we are happy to be a part of—and protagonists of—these times.”
The Campana Brothers www.campanas.com.br.
Guerra de la Paz www.guerradelapaz.com.
Chiachio & Giannone www.chiachiogiannone.com.
—Vic De La Rosa is an artist and professor of art at
San Francisco State University, CA.
—Kate Nartker is an artist and educator living in
San Francisco, CA