The earth beneath our feet serves as the subject of choice for artist Esperanza Cortes in her current exhibit, “Arrested Symphony,” on view at Jonathan Ferrera Gallery in New Orleans, LA with an opening celebration from 6-9 pm on Sat, Jan 4th. The artist is specifically interested in the minerals and elements that can be mined and utilized from the soil: extracted ethically or… otherwise. Cortes’ work shines a light on the darker sides of gemstones, investigating the implications of how rare and precious substances become a source of geopolitical trauma. The Colombian-born, America-based artist works with an object-based approach to examine injustice in contemporary society. The fragmentary faces and delicate, shimmering cascade of chains defining works such as “Arrested Symphony” (2017) serve as both an elegy and a hopeful perspective, a longing for renewal.
The underpinning themes of injustice and the human cost of labor simmer beneath the surface of Cortes’ delicate and evocative artworks. The artist has a penchant for cretaing artwork that appeals to the sense: inspiring a lingering sense of wanting to touch: wanting to examine more closely. Her hanging installation works in particular – “Suspended Thoughts” – utilizes beads, clay and wood to comment on hierarchy and hegemony. The artist’s lingering dialogue with the effects of colonialization permeate the exhibition: a concurrent theme running alongside the inquiry into how blood diamonds and mining for uranium have been produced at tragic human cost. Cortes has the subtle talent of hinting around the issues that underpin our society. Her work serves to provoke a reconsideration of the means by which we have arrived at where we are now. Through a measured blend of texture and material, Cortes creates new pathways of discovering – and uncovering – why we are living in the world today by examining what we built in the past.
With this exhibition, the artist returns to the borders of the Caribbean that reach the shores of her homeland Colombia, as New Orleans rests on the shoulders of the Gulf of Mexico. The weight of examining the context of the post-colonial in contemporary art is especially poignant in this colonial port city. Her engagement with postcolonial dialogue persists through various fellowships with the Joan Mitchell Foundation, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, BRIC Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship. Through these initiatives, the artist mounts a multi-disciplinary practice that continues to push the boundaries of contemporary art’s ability to grapple with this complex, convoluted legacy. The exhibit opened on December 18, and will host an opening reception on Saturday, January 4th from 6-9 pm during the New Orleans Art District’s upcoming Saturday Arts Walk. With a second opening to fête the exhibition those same evening hours on February 1, the exhibit remains open through Friday, February 14, 2020.