Guerra de la Paz is the composite name of Cuban born, Miami based artist duo Alain Guerra (born 1968) and Neraldo de la Paz (born 1955), who have been collaborating since 1996. They primarily create sculptures from clothes; whether new or old, handmade or manufactured. Socks, shirts, pants, dresses, sweaters, and skirts become a forest of tree trunks, family portraits or magical creatures. Their work consists of seemingly limitless numbers of garments, each telling the story of its prior owner and effectively mourning their losses.
Deemed obsolete – the garments are a testament to the passing of time and the realization of a modernity fading away – their roles are redefined when they become components in their compositions. The recycling of the clothing comments on material excesses, while the fusion of the articles presents the notion of a society that, in spite of heralding the individual, is ultimately interconnected and whole. Guerra de la Paz use a visual language that conveys a universal message; a cross-cultural humanist look at dichotomies and parallels, mixing classicism with the general consensus of the day and iconic imagery with a complexity of identities.
Guerra de la Paz are often visually stimulated by their immediate surroundings. Their neighborhood has been the catalyst for much of their work – a paradox where gritty industrial warehouses cohabitate with lush tropical vegetation. Their close proximity to the Pepe businesses that once thrived in Little Haiti has been a major source of inspiration. Gaining access to an overabundance of discarded clothing – relics that once helped define an individual’s personality and communally speak of environmental issues, mass consumption, and disposability – opened the doors for them to working with garments as a material. They often see themselves as vehicles guided by the garment‘s essence and silent histories.
For many years, our neighborhood was a hub for Haitian export businesses known as Pepe: an industry that buys secondhand goods for resale to Haiti. Inside these operations, bails of clothing enter a sorting process where purchasable items are separated and the rest is discarded into incredible piles that accumulate on a daily basis. The spectacle of vibrant colors, patterns, sheen and textures peaked our interest and led us in the direction of considering the possibility in using this readily available material charged with cultural, ecological and psychosocial connotations.
Building relationships with these resources permits us to rummage through their mounds of rejected apparel in order to accumulate vast quantities ourselves and utilize the clothes we have collected as a prominent medium. More importantly, it has enabled us to depart from the notion of individual expression and jointly evolve to develop a method of continual experimentation that combines our conceptual and creative energies with the archeological quality and absorbed histories of salvaged garments: each of which encapsulate the identity of the individuals who once wore them and simultaneously safeguard their anonymity, but when gathered together they harmoniously chronicle public perceptions within the bounds of a frenetically consuming population.
The plasticity and heterogeneous capacity of the clothes gives us an open window to explore the manipulation of the material while breathing new life to these rescued “relics” and transcending their original purpose. Because textiles have a fundamental familiarity that everyone can recognize, we strive to transfer the same universal quality to our subjects by using archetypal imagery to reflect on current global issues and contemplate reoccurring themes of the human condition and the cyclical pattern of life, death and rebirth. Through this narrative, we have developed numerous compositional methods of modeling the garments into sculptural components: from compiling what we have abundantly amassed into a particular order to a distinctive approach of displaying a single object.
In our attempt to harness the elemental potential of the flotsam and jetsam, much of what we find is incorporated into our work as the building blocks or palette that make it feasible to execute three-dimensional impressions of the world around us. This approach allows us to transpose the fundamentals of painting, sculpture and installation onto each other and has resulted in a dichotic body of work with a wide range of characteristics, drastically varying in both content and execution. From applying principles of impressionist color theory into simulated scenes of nature’s peaceful splendor, to employing the attributes of iconography onto personifications of war dynamics, we amalgamate a multiplicity of styles that demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the abstract and figurative.