Kutxak

Kutxak, hand-carved wooden chests, represent a paragon of traditional artistic craftwork of the Basque country. The chests which once were used to store the harvest or warming blankets and therefore counted to one of the indispensable elements of every household, catch the observers attention until today. In a little town in the green mountains of the Basque country, we can find Jose Pablo Arriaga ́s workshop, which he has taken over from his father who inherited it from his grandfather, following the footsteps of two generations of talented and celebrated artisans. What might sound like the beginning of a romantic journey has actually emerged into the tragic destiny of traditional artisan craftwork -a destiny which Jose Pablo Arriaga had to witness himself. In a time when Jose Pablo had already focused on other forms of art, his brother still followed the family tradition of artistically carving wood. Yet, the breakdown of appreciation of proper manual artistic handicraft made it very difficult for the brothers to maintain their business. With drastic artistic performances, like the hanging of the carved chests, the brothers tried to raise the public awareness and sustain the artisan family business. While Jose Pablo with his very characteristic and proper artistic work had found his niche, his brother, Henrike Arriaga, an artisan following the traditional craft, finally had to resign and quit the craft sector. Very symbolically, Jose Pablos’ artisan brother is now working in a garbage dump. The chests we can find in this collection are not only mere traditional Kutxaks, but are clearly marked by the artist’s characteristic style of aesthetic minimalism, dynamics and plainness: The wood of the chests is not touched by any iron, but its promising opening is formed out of the dynamics of the wood itself which reaches out to the observer. A vigorous and vibrant characteristic element that invites to interact and to initiate a relationship. – What might be hidden behind the aperture? While similarly being strongly connected with his roots and open for innovation and new ideas, the artist regards the wooden hand-carved chests as the root and the base for any of his art works. Highly appreciating the artisan work, he has decided to limit the number of chests in his collection to the ones that were produced in collaboration with his artisan brother. Therefore, the chests in this collection follow the characteristic artist line of sharp honesty, unveiling the tragic reality without falling into a paralyzed state of passive deadlock. On the contrary, touched by the creativity of the artist, the chests incorporate the proven possibility and the beauty of the fusion of tradition and innovation. Finally, his chests are not only a linkage of art and furniture, of filigree and rustic style – but even beyond this a connection of aesthetics and social criticism.