California State University, Northridge Central American Studies professor Beatriz Cortez’s large sculptures tell stories about the immigrant experience and are increasingly drawing positive attention.
She recently received the Los Angeles Rema Hort Mann Foundation Emerging Artists Grant and was selected to participate in the Hammer Museum’s 2018 “Made in L.A. Biennial” exhibition.
The Rema Hort Mann Foundation — an organization that advocates for emerging artists and supports individuals suffering from cancer — awarded Cortez a $10,000 grant in February. She plans to use the funds to support her future artwork.
“I’m excited because it will allow me to make new work,” Cortez said.
Cortez and her assistants create her large metal pieces in the Los Angeles-based welding shop Molten Metal Works. She plans to use the grant money to create pieces that display the metaphorical relationship between space, time and immigration, Cortez said.
“I’m originally from El Salvador,” she said. “As an immigrant, you’re constantly trying to be in two places at once. My art is like the metaphor of having different realities cross in front of you like déjà vu.”
“In my newer pieces, I’m interested in the broken communication that exists in different realities for families divided by borders,” Cortez continued. “I’m also interested in the hopeful types of communication that we experience through social media.”
Hammer Museum curators Anne Ellegood and Erin Christovale selected Cortez as one of 32 participants in the “Made in L.A. Biennial” — an exhibition that highlights the practices of artists working throughout Los Angeles and the surrounding areas.
The exhibition will feature Cortez’s new sculpture “Tzolk’in,” a piece made out of steel that is based on the Mayan agricultural calendar and is shaped in a hypocycloid motion — a curve at the point on the circumference of a circle that rolls internally.
“[My piece is] a motion that exists within the body, in machines and in the cosmos,” said Cortez. “The motion evokes simultaneity since it is at once circular and linear.”
The project will be divided between the Hammer Museum and The Bowtie Project – a partnership between Clockshop and California State Parks to activate an 18-acre post-industrial lot along the L.A. River. Clockshop — a multidisciplinary arts organization in Los Angeles that creates new conversations about art, politics, and urban space — has commissioned her work at the banks of the L.A. River.
“Both sculptures will have a similar shape and mechanical process, but each will be installed in a different context, with different sets of protections, risks, and opportunities,” said Cortez. “Given the different realities within our city, as well as globally, [the piece will be] evoking the experiences of families and communities divided by borders.”
Cortez’s work at the Hammer Museum is funded by her grant and the museum.
“Made in L.A.” is organized by Ellegood and Christovale and is the fourth iteration of the museum’s biennial exhibition. The Hammer Museum and all of its exhibitions are free to the public. The exhibition will run from June 3-Sept. 2.
The Rema Hort Mann Foundation was created to celebrate Rema Hort’s life and sustain her spirit. “It’s beautiful to see what her family is doing in her memory,” Cortez said.
Through the efforts of friends and supporters, the foundation is able to carry out its goals. The organization offers unrestricted and community-based grants, by nomination only, to promising emerging artists who demonstrate an ability and commitment to making substantial contributions in the arts.