Beatriz Cortez’s “Nomad World”
at Vincent Price Art Museum
By Jacqueline Bell Johnson
Through January 28th
Beatriz Cortez’s Nomad World is currently on view at the Vincent Price Art Museum. Ms. Cortez is a Los Angeles based artist and cultural critic, teaching at CSU Northridge in their Department of Central American Studies. She is originally from El Salvador, immigrating to Los Angeles in 1989. As described on the gallery space placard, her work exemplifies a “split” experience, one that straddles both locations. However, the artwork gains a wildcard in the viewer, who is encouraged to interact with each piece experiencing a loose version of Cortez’s memory, though muddled and clouded by the viewers own personal history.
This exhibition is a conversation of technology, and brings about an awareness of the different approaches technology is afforded based on the generation and locale of your experience. There is often a question in the art world of why more artists do not take advantage of technology in making their work, especially in the age of conceptual sculpture to which technological aspects would really lend themselves. There are several reasons, a big one being the timelessness of traditional materials contributes to a straightforward interpretation of the work. On the contrary a show like Beatriz Cortez’s Nomad World is layer upon layer of complexity within the object intermingled into an installation that creates a non-linear narrative. Through the use of machines, each work then becomes an exercise in the post-modern idea of truth as a personal perspective, culminating in all the baggage that the viewer carries with them of their own histories with technology. The collection of works is interactive, utilizing both new and dated electronics in every piece. Computers, mechanical machines, lights, motion sensors, and even social media all have a role.
The Fortune Teller is one works presented in this “arcade.” A bright yellow and green bird sits atop a wooden box on a pedestal. When approached, the bird lets out an electronic tweet. Surrounded by decorative blue tiles, the top of the box has a white button and a spout for receipt paper. Pressing it prints out a fortune. These fortunes are written in a vague, strange past/future tense that not only describes the future but describes a future where the viewer will have successfully collaborated with Beatriz. For example: “When the future comes…. We will have explored our potential.” The paper is printed in English with Spanish written directly underneath. The instructions are to take the paper with you. Perhaps the fortune is not a specific claim to the interaction between viewer and artist but a well-wishing salutation for the future of humanity; an invitation to the viewer to fulfill the fortune’s prediction.
There is an instinctual delight that comes with being able to tough the art, but especially if it responds to that touch. Cortez’s works all deliver on that premise, but one wonders if the delight is hers.
This exhibition is up until January 28th at the Vincent Price Art Museum. Admission is free.
Beatriz Cortez: Nomad World
Vincent Price Art Museum at East Los Angeles College
1301 Avenida Cesar Chavez
Monterey Park, CA 91754