About the Artist
Armando Guadalupe Cortés’ works engage the stories embedded in objects and materials. These include the traditions and folklore of Mexico, as well as his own memories of Urequío, a small farming town in Mexico where he was born. In his new installation Castillos (2021), Cortés envelops the gallery’s columns in a wood and adobe structure. Reaching across both time and distance, the materials reference the traditional clay-based buildings of Mexico and how they are often adapted with the wood construction introduced by German immigrants (who farmed cedar) in the former Northwest of Mexico (today’s American Southwest). This physical and metaphorical framework supports a collection of sculptural objects—many made with clay—that, like the hybrid architecture, reflect a mix of cultural influences. A mask made from an armadillo and worn for Las Posadas (pre-Christmas celebration), bottled folk remedies for snake and scorpion bites, and a crown of thorns speak to both Indigenous and Catholic rituals and traditions, expressing the complexity of post-colonial cultural identities.
Cortés’ adobe structure also functions as a proscenium for a stage. The platform’s circular form is repeated throughout the installation: in an alabaster grinding stone (a material historically used for windows), clay discs embellished with gold and obsidian, traditional mezcal bowls, and brightly colored feather balls (referencing Meso-American creation stories). Additionally, the stage is inspired by the shape of a cockfighting ring. Cortés likens the bravado and posturing of a cockfight, a sport that has a long history in Mexico, to the exaggerated masculinity performed in the culture. This national pastime is also the inspiration for a performance in which the stage can be seen teetering from side to side, forcing the artist and his brother, Juvenal, to enact the precariousness and balancing act of relationships—the awkward dance between men. The artist wears hand-hewn leather sandals which boast a blade like those attached to a fighting cock’s dew claw. The artists’ movements are recorded in the dusty layer of clay that covers the platform surface. With each successive performance, more marks are left behind, creating a palimpsest of these ephemeral events, layered and blurred like memories.
Additionally, a video El Descanso en la Gloria (2017) documents Cortés performing with clay vessels tied to his long braids. The artist moves his head and body to maneuver his burden as he spins the stoneware in circles, dropping them thudding and crashing onto the floor. The work was inspired by a story handed down from his mother about the first church built in his natal village. It is a tale of a devoted widow named Enecleta who carried water for mixing adobe from the river up a steep hill to the workers. Cortes’ performance, which is a reflection of endurance and gendered labor, is also an homage to the ability of the mundane to become not just myth, but a sacred ritual of devotion.
Courtesy of the artist