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Alexandre Arrechea: Space Defeated

Alexandre Arrechea, artist, in conversation with Michelle Bird, curatorial assistant, department of French paintings, National Gallery of Art. Alexandre Arrechea (b. Trinidad, Cuba, 1970) graduated from the prestigious Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA) in Havana in 1994 and was a founding member of the Cuban artist collective Los Carpinteros (1991-2003). Arrechea’s work employs visual metaphors for social themes of inequality, cultural disenfranchisement, and the disputed position of art in a global, media-driven society. Like many artists of his generation, he manipulates symbols and materials in an ambivalent manner, causing the viewer to walk away without a specific point of view about the work. In the spring of 2013, Arrechea exhibited a series of monumental sculptures that reflect on New York architecture along the Park Avenue Malls. Arrechea represented his homeland in the Cuban Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2011, as well as at the Havana and Sao Paulo Biennials. His work has been featured in group exhibitions at such venues as the Arizona State University Art Museum; Art in General, New York; Kunsthalle, Berlin; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Art and Design, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; New Museum, New York; P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, New York; and Shanghai Art Museum, China. He currently lives and works in New York. In this conversation held on January 25, 2016, as part of the Works in Progress series at the National Gallery of Art, Arrechea discusses with Michelle Bird his development from working as an art student in Havana to his international career. He shares how the term “Space Defeated” was born as a reaction to the stiffness of cultural institutions and how this understanding has evolved over time. The conversation was preceded by a film screening of NOLIMITS, based on Arrechea’s 2013 project, directed by photographer Juan Carlos Alom.