Critics’ Picks

View of “Trinidad / Joy Station,” 2019.

View of “Trinidad / Joy Station,” 2019.

Los Angeles

Beatriz Cortez

Craft Contemporary
5814 Wilshire Boulevard
January 27–May 12, 2019

If you were migrating to outer space, what would you bring with you? Beatriz Cortez raises this question in three interconnected installations at Craft Contemporary. Visitors first encounter Nomad 13, 2017/19, a portable garden in the form of a space capsule that Cortez created in collaboration with artist Rafa Esparza. Displayed in nearby niches are Burned, 2012, a charred tome from Cortez’s “Books of Memory” series, 2012, and seashells from a suitcase she packed in 1989 as she was fleeing the civil war in her native El Salvador for the US. Elsewhere, in Clandestine Garden, 2012/19, verdant shoots sprout from a poetry book.

Upstairs, Cortez’s installation Trinidad / Joy Station, 2019, transports visitors to a sci-fi realm modeled partly after Joya de Cerén, an ancient Mayan village in present-day El Salvador, and after Drop City, a 1960s artist commune in Colorado. Here, Cortez has recycled rusty industrial refuse into structures for a communal society. A geodesic igloo and a walk-in hut are modularly fabricated from automobile door parts connected by zip ties, allowing for easy and adaptable reconfiguration. The interiors of these shelters are largely empty; viewers are left to fill them with their own visualizations.

A neighboring seedling garden bathed in violaceous grow lights provides nourishment and calm, but not all is rosy in this cosmic realm. A silver bedroom set nearby lends the room the austerity of a penitentiary; woven from Mylar and chain-link fencing, it evokes contemporary immigrant detention centers. The most radically transmutative work in the show, Jumbo, 2018, reimagines an atomic bomb silo as a repository for seeds of sustenance. With her ethos of hopeful resourcefulness, Cortez makes a strong case for harnessing the relics of destruction as foundations for a different fate.