Beatriz Cortez, Cosmic Mirror (The Sky over Los Angeles), 2022. Steel with patina, dimensions variable

Beatriz Cortez: Cosmic Portals

February 5 – April 12, 2022

Beatriz Cortez’s new body of work continues her exploration into Indigenous knowledges, multiple temporalities, and ancient forms of abstraction. A two-part installation, the exhibition features a large-scale indoor sculpture referencing an ancient Mayan observatory placed in dialogue with an outdoor work inspired by a mosaic built 29 centuries ago by the ancient Olmec people. While one structure looks out toward the skies the other is directed toward the underworld.

The Classic period observatory El Caracol, or snail, was constructed in the city of Chichen Itza, in what is now the Yucatán State of Mexico. A circular-shaped structure, from which the building took its name, is believed to have been built based on Mayan astronomers’ charts of the movement of the stars and planets, leading to the interaction of the building and a series of ceremonial cosmic events. In Cortez’s reimaging of the observatory, a thirteen-step spiral staircase leads to a platform where viewers can contemplate other worlds and the cosmos.  

The verticality of Cortez’s observatory is complemented by the horizontality of the outdoor sculpture comprising a configuration of large-scale hand-hammered sheet metal rocks. While inspired by the stone arrangements placed on the landscape in Complex A at the site of La Venta—one of the most important centers of Olmec culture in ancient Mesoamerica—it also references the jaguar head mosaic made by the ancient Olmec people for the gods of the underworld, which was buried underground. Cortez’s rock configuration evokes the idea of a labyrinth and because of its scale functions as a hyperobject intended for non-human viewers. Ideally observed from above, the installation in the artist’s words “calls upon powers that supersede human forces, it calls upon the ancient and cyclical powers of the universe.”

Cortez’s installations provoke an understanding of the impact of ancient and contemporary Indigenous histories, knowledges, and forms of abstraction on the present and possible futures. Gesturing towards cosmic communication, they ask us to consider other temporal and spiritual dimensions as well as worlds and realities beyond the human.   

About the artist:

Beatriz Cortez (b. 1970, San Salvador, El Salvador; lives and works in Los Angeles) received an MFA in Art from the California Institute of the Arts and a PhD in Literature and Cultural Studies from Arizona State University. Cortez’s work explores simultaneity, life in different temporalities and different versions of modernity, particularly in relation to memory and loss in the aftermath of war and the experience of migration, and in relation to imagining possible futures. She has had solo exhibitions at the Craft Contemporary Museum, Los Angeles (2019); Clockshop, Los Angeles (2018); Vincent Price Art Museum, Los Angeles (2016); Monte Vista Projects, Los Angeles (2016); Centro Cultural de España de El Salvador (2014); and Museo Municipal Tecleño (MUTE), El Salvador (2012), among others. She has participated in numerous group exhibitions, including at the Henry Art Gallery, Seattle (2019); Ballroom Marfa, TX (2019); Tina Kim Gallery, New York (2018); Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2018); BANK/MABSOCIETY, Shanghai, China (2017); Ballroom Marfa, Marfa, Texas (2017); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2017); Centro Cultural Metropolitano, Quito, Ecuador (2016); and Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (2016). Cortez is the recipient of the Artadia Los Angeles Award (2020), the inaugural Frieze LIFEWTR Sculpture Prize (2019), the Emergency Grant from the Foundation of Contemporary Arts (2019), the Rema Hort Mann Foundation Emerging Artist Grant (2018), the Artist Community Engagement Grant (2017), and the California Community Foundation Fellowship for Visual Artists (2016). She teaches in the Department of Central American and Transborder Studies at California State University, Northridge. Beatriz Cortez is represented by Commonwealth and Council, Los Angeles.


Beatriz Cortez: Cosmic Portals is curated by Ciara Ennis, Director and Curator of Pitzer College Art Galleries. Ennis received a PhD in Cultural Studies and Museum Studies from Claremont Graduate University and an MA in Visual Arts Administration, Curating, and Commissioning Contemporary Art from the Royal College of Art, London.