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Monday January 13 2014 / Art & Design

Alain Guerra and Neraldo de la Paz are not just two artists cut from the same cloth, they are two artists cutting the same cloth.

Both Guerra and de la Paz were born in Cuba. Both were raised in the USA.

Indradhanush (2008) by Guerra de la Paz

Since 1996, the pair have been working together under the nom de plume 'Guerra de la Paz' – a composite of their surnames that translates from Spanish as “War of Peace” – creating thought-provoking sculptural work that broaches themes like conflict and unity, mass consumption, disposability and the environment.

And they have been using an unlikely material to create their artwork... second-hand clothes.

A year after starting to work collaboratively, they moved to a studio in Miami’s Little Haiti, a neighbourhood packed with Pepe businesses – shipping second-hand clothing – that would throw away countless amounts of apparel on a daily basis.

Canopy (2006) by Guerra de la Paz

With so many garments deposited pretty much right on their doorstep, Guerra de la Paz began to root through the waste bins of the apparel companies for possible materials for their artistic creations. 

Unidentified (2011) by Guerra de la Paz

It wasn’t long before these second-hand clothes – and other recycled objects – became the principal medium for their sculptural work.

Neraldo de la Paz sourcing second-hand clothes

“We were initially attracted to these large quantities of clothing as they offered an abundant array of colour, sheen and texture to choose from,” they say of their scavenger hunts among the manifold piles of discarded apparel.

Atomic (2009) by Guerra de la Paz

Once we gained access to several Pepe warehouses where we collect our materials, we quickly learned to appreciate the plasticity of the repurposed medium and to use it in a variety of ways, from individual brushstrokes in three-dimensional paintings to straightforward symbolism.”

Snakecharmer Portrait (2007) and Cub's Uncle (2005) by Guerra de la Paz

For Guerra de la Paz, such clothing cast-offs have an intrinsic value, for they used to define not only an individual's personality but also a whole community at a certain period of time.

“There is definitely a contemporary archaeological reference in what we do,” they say. “We really are interested in repurposing found objects.

Double Threat (2008) by Guerra de la Paz

“We end up composing something that supersedes the original intent of the object, and the energy that comes from its previous life is transformed into the artwork and creates a dialogue that is outside of you.”

Guerra and de la Paz usually go out together collecting – for clothes, furniture, and “weird knick-knacks” – and then work on the acquired material in unison.

Sealing the Deal (2008) by Guerra de la Paz

One of them takes responsibility for a certain task, and the other will take over another task, constantly bouncing ideas back and forth and criss-crossing such that the final artwork is a veritable co-creation. Often, it is one garment that can determine a whole body of work.

Six Thai Trannies in Heaven (2008) by Guerra de la Paz

“Everyone gives us their ties,” they say. “And that got us thinking: ‘What can we do with ties?’ Well, they’re constricting, tight around the neck, and that led us to the idea of nooses and snakes which, conceptually, makes a lot of sense.”

Check out Double Threat, Sealing the Deal and Snakecharmer Portrait above for tie-inspired creations.

Pieta (2006) by Guerra de la Paz

Man Down, Crawl and Pieta tackle the theme of war and the latter has an especially poignant inspiration behind it.

Man Down (2008) by Guerra de la Paz

“During the war in Iraq, there was a woman who was protesting outside the White House whose son had been killed, and that moved us,” they say.

Crawl (2003) by Guerra de la Paz

“Everyone has a mother; they don't have faces. It's a mother and they're her child. When a mother loses her child, it doesn't matter what nationality she is, she feels the same pain.”

Tribute (2002) by Guerra de la Paz

Meanwhile, Indradhanush and Tribute are spectrum-inspired pieces. Tribute is a rainbow heap of clothing, said to serve as “a memorial to people we did not know, cannot recognize or cannot remember”.

It has taken over a decade to collect the clothing for Tribute in its current form. Guerra de la Paz began collecting garments for the piece around 2000, and by 2002, had enough to debut its first installation. From there, they have continued to collect and sort, and add to the piece whenever it is reinstalled.

Indradhanush (2008) by Guerra de la Paz

Indradhanush, a large-scale sculpture composed of steel and clothing, is based on unity, with all the colours coming together to create a material, rather than ethereal, rainbow that you can walk through or even touch.

Nine (2007) by Guerra de la Paz

The theme of unity crops up again in Nine, a massive mound of clothing with strata of prom dresses, Christmas jumpers and embarrassing yesteryear fads, bearing down with the weight of a civilisation and its "disowned memories". Beneath the fringes of the hulking mass can be seen the feet of nine people supporting the load – a testimony to the strength and value of community.

Victor’s Secret (2005) by Guerra de la Paz

And it’s not just second-hand clothing that serves as Guerra de la Paz’s artistic medium. They also wittily use “recycled objects” including dolls' clothes and Action Man figures, as exemplified in the likes of Victor’s Secret and Vanity.

Vanity (2006) by Guerra de la Paz

Guerra de la Paz’s sculptural work has been exhibited extensively throughout the United States and Europe. To find out more, please visit:

Suggested by
Maximilian Büsser