Mauricio Cortes at saltfineart
through January 28
saltfineart, Laguna Beach
By Evan Senn
While the L.A. art scene winds down its obsession with Latin American art through PST: LA/LA and flexes its muscles for show, through art fairs and big gala events, the remnants of the Latin American artistic pride that was felt all over California seems to have dwindled into a faint memory of the masses. However, over the county border, there is a small gallery that has persisted in exhibiting and highlighting Latin American artists since its inception and continues to push the talented art of Latin America to the forefront of our collective consciousness. As necessary as the salt in our oceans, this gallery fights the strong fight for acceptability, equality, awareness and appreciation of the amazing work coming out of contemporary Latin America. saltfineart is a gallery in Laguna Beach that is unassuming and humble but one of the only unique art spaces in the area that has innovative and revolutionary works of art by Latin American contemporary artists from all over the world in museum quality exhibitions.
Currently on view at saltfineart is the work of an artist who is fascinated with the expression of the human experience. His timeless creations feel as though they are ancient, unmoving relics from a secluded Mayan civilization, imbued with mystical charm and magical powers. Through the use of the human form, Mexican artist Mauricio Cortes explores the majesty of life and breath. He seeks to find that simple detail that separates the human form from humanity. Exploring the visual expression of life through his creations, he finds the most powerful details, movements, and emotions to aid in his quest to convey the eternal truth we all hold dear: the magic of life.
Cortes’ most recent body of work, on view at saltfineart, is of the fragility and strength of the female. Glazed porcelain female busts, torsos, and whole forms seem to float in the space. With the salty breeze of the beach coming through the gallery doors, the experience of viewing these strange and beautiful creations feels even more mystical and spiritual.
The full figures are posed as if floating—bent knees and arms with hip joints that seem like doll parts, objectifying these forms into a state of idolatry. Their colorless forms have added details to further express their timeless magic and significance; with sculptural headpieces that teeter between hair and crown, and expressive faces, these forms almost seem as if in a state of woe, ecstasy or turmoil.
The wall-hung busts by Cortes are larger. With seemingly religious patterning and design in their headdresses, and the variety of faces on the women, the expressive creatures feel like goddesses, staring directly into our souls. Like relics of a lost culture, these women are homages to the strength and resilience of women as a whole. Celebrating the breadth of human life and all the experience that comes with it, some of these figures are vulnerable, while others are forceful and angry; some are in a dream state, paying no attention to their surroundings, and some seem to draw you in, looking to grant wishes or fulfill desires.
There are also full torso busts by Cortes, on display at saltfineart. These forms cover everything from the top of the headdresses down past the genitals, but cut off mid-thigh. They are most interesting, with their expressive stances, emotive facial expressions, symbolic and very stark headdresses, full female form with breasts, nipples and labia showing. Adorned with objects themselves, like personal tokens for these goddesses, the items they hold seem vitally important to their eternal lives cast in stone.
Details of these forms reference Mexican and Aztec idols, or ancient religious sculptures, he even uses Aztec and Mayan symbology in his headdresses, but the items they carry with them show us what is important to these gracious and simple beings. One carries a handful of bright red butterflies, hovering over her cupped hands. Another carries two black branches crossed together, with one black flower blooming in their crossing. Another delicately holds a cluster of ventricles, abstract but bright red, simulating the visuals of a human organ, possibly a heart. With each of them standing strong and and powerful, these god-like idols are enchanting and hypnotic, beautiful and innocent, and mesmerizing with their intimate power and feminine strength.
Cortes studied at the University of Monterrey in Mexico and at the University of Valladolid in Spain. He has said that he is interested in how we, as humans, are engaged with the human body, in all ways. We think, design and build according to the needs of our human bodies. But, recreating the human body is much harder to do. He says that he looks for expressions that remember the emotions that the soul generates in the body, and in that way, he can give the objects just a small sense of lifelike quality. In these forms, Cortes has managed to bring together the magic of the human soul, the history of human culture, and the spirituality of artistic creation into his objects.
346 N. Pacific Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach