Rendered by Los Carpinteros (“The Carpenters”), a collective of three Cuban artists, this uncanny building addresses the tension between the domestic and the public, the handcrafted and the industrial. In this monumental drawing, the artists represent a stovetop espresso coffeepot as if it were an industrial coal oven made of bricks. This collision of objects gives an allegorical dimension to the work: the production of coffee stands in for the process of transforming raw material into consumable objects that characterizes any industrial procedure; yet the obvious purposeless of a building shaped like a coffeepot creates a satire of the industrial world.
The coffeepot is also a metaphor for artistic production. It emblematizes a transfer from the corporeal (coffee) to the incorporeal (aroma), paralleling the transfer, through artmaking, of goods with “real” value into those with symbolic value—famously exemplified by Marcel Duchamp’s Readymades in the early twentieth century. This transfer, Los Carpinteros suggests, is radically opposed to the transformation of raw materials into commodities that characterizes industrial production. In addition, through collective authorship, the group members engage in labor that is itself opposed to both the anonymous condition of industrial production and the ideology of individual artistic genius.
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, p. 186.