Alexandre Arrechea studied at the Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA) in Havana (1994). Together with Marco Antonio Castillo and Dagoberto Rodriguez, he founded Los Carpinteros in Havana, in 1992. In 2003 he left Los Carpinteros and began to develop his own work exploring themes such as surveillance in contemporary society, the loss of privacy, and the sources of power. His first individual project was The Garden of Mistrust (2003-2005), an installation that featured a whitewashed aluminum tree with branches equipped with video surveillance cameras that recorded the viewers and transmitted the images to the internet.
Interested in reviving “dead” zones within urban settings, Arrechea produced works that sought to re-engage the public’s participation while at the same time provoked contradictory emotions in the spectator. In Sweat (2004), a basketball backboard built as a projection screen, the public was able to see a game that had been previously played and filmed on the court. While watching it, the public played both the roles of spectator and player.
After traveling abroad several times, Arrechea decided to move to Madrid, Spain, in 2004. Several trips to the United States led to him to open a second studio in New York. In 2008 he presented Mississippi Bucket at the New Orleans’ Biennial. The large-scale sculpture shaped like the Mississippi River, was made out of driftwood salvaged from the Mississippi River after Hurricane Katrina and represented a metaphor of a natural disaster that not only affected the city of New Orleans and its residents but also touched the general public that experienced the hurricane through the media.
In 2009 Arrechea participated in the X Havana Biennial with Everybody’s Room (2009), a flexible sculpture of a house that expanded and contracted depending on the rise or fall of the Dow Jones Industrial index.
A major change in his work occurred in 2010. In Elasticity, an exhibition presented in Magnan Metz Gallery in New York, he shifted from exploring issues of failure, uncertainty, and suspicion, to defying the senses and creating expressions of continuous movement. Inspired by Cuban architecture as well as landmark buildings in the United States, he began to fuse iconic structures to the body of a spinning top.
Taking the relationship between architecture and movement a step further, he created a series of rolled-up skyscrapers, transforming monumental buildings into twisted shapes. In these works he physically challenged the concept of verticality and monumentality and created a new reality he called “elastic architecture.” The concept could also be interpreted as a metaphor for the challenges of adapting to new realities in other fields.
In March 2010 Arrechea presented Black Sun a video projection on the NASDAQ billboard located on the corner of 43rd Street and Broadway, in New York. The video showed a giant wrecking ball bouncing off the cylindrical eight-story NASDAQ tower “smashing” against the building. According to the artist, the idea was not that the ball was going to destroy the building but rather that it was “knocking” on it. The piece revealed the fact that, as an artist, he was interested in negotiating rather than using force to resolve issues.
After this commission Arrechea developed a new series titled Twisted Horizon that explored his interest in making unlikely connections between places and/or objects that are conventionally perceived as unrelated or opposed. Employing utilitarian structures such as bridges, roads, or buildings as a point of departure, the elements appeared suspended like trophies floating in the air or simply in motion varying in their intensity and gesture. Arrechea’s work is imbued with architectural references steeped in history and his personal experience.
In Ouaquaga Bridge, inspired by the Champlain Bridge, a 19th century historic site located in New York State known for its lenticular trusses, Arrechea transformed the sound structure into a “rolling bridge” on top of a rail of road tracks removing from it all sense of security or stability. The original structure, built in the early 1930s, was demolished after being pronounced unsafe but its removal brought along economic hardships to the community. He included other bridges in this series including Vienna’s Zollamtssteg Bridge, a structure that survived several wars. All the bridges from this series were embedded with histories of triumph and failure. Through the artist’s reinterpretations, the structures transmitted their own past and present histories.
In 2013 Arrechea presented No Limits, an ambitious installation of 18-foot architectural sculptures on the Park Avenue Mall, in New York. Through the appropriation of landmark buildings he called attention to the relationship between man-made environmental interventions and the public space. A series of contorted skyscraper sculptures confronted the viewers with their distorted verticality raising questions about the relationship between architecture and issues of power and control. The sculptures represented several iconic buildings including the Chrysler Building, Citicorp Center, Empire State Building, Flatiron building, Helmsley Building, MetLife Building, Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower, Seagram Building, Sherry Netherland, and the U.S. Courthouse.
Two years later Arrechea presented The Map of Silence (2015) at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes during the XXII Havana Biennial, in Havana, Cuba. This solo exhibition focused on the exploration of the limits of subjectivity. The works included were based on identifiable surroundings and focused on what had never been considered, on things that were obliterated in the complex weft of the city.
Arrechea’s multidisciplinary work reveals a deep interest in exploring both public and domestic realms and requires the viewer’s active participation. Each piece is inspired by human actions and reactions that occur from experiencing life in a contemporary world.
He currently lives and works in New York and Miami, United States.