LOS ANGELES — There are flowers growing at Pasado mañana, Beatriz Cortez and Rafa Esparza’s exhibition currently on view at Commonwealth and Council. Water lilies in red buckets reach for the ceiling of a plastic-encased, makeshift greenhouse; pothos in planters spread their leaves along a wall; succulents and red cactus buds sprout from a cardboard Coca-Cola box that itself appears to grow downward from the ceiling and from which strings of old photographs dangle. Next to the cacti is an old phone that looks, and feels, mummified. Something about this particular piece reminds me of a reliquary, but also of a time capsule, constructed as much for the memories as for its eventuate rediscovery by a future civilization.
Esparza and Cortez —along with Rubén Rodriguez, Brenzy Solorzano, Fabián Guerrero, Sebastián Hernández, María Maea, and Gabriela Ruiz, six queer artists invited by Esparza — have created a simulacrum of a lush future, where multiple races, sexualities, classes, and desires can coexist. In a rich installation by Rodriguez, found wood, clay, and womb-like effigies are attached to the wall, and old clothes — donated to him by the Los Angeles queer community — wrap around sticks. I thought of the poetic adage about vintage clothing: that you’re enrobed with the stories of the outfits’ previous owners, re-inhabiting and imbuing them with a new life.
The cultivation of water lilies alludes to the agricultural labor taken on by immigrants, by ancient Mayan peoples, and, eventually, by bodies in the future. Esparza and Cortez present a vision of a more diverse, utopian future: a triumph over colonial forces, who have downplayed the significance of labor and the rebirth it symbolizes. “The Mayan king Pakal wore water lilies in his headdress,” reads the show’s accompanying text, “symbolizing the rivers, streams, and waterfalls that would run in his kingdom, but also its technological advances in the field of agriculture.” Labor and growth are ways of honoring the present-day landscape, but they also contribute to the environment of an unseen future, one in which the flowers, hopefully, are growing.
And so Cortez’s “The Argonaut: after Pakal” (2018) speaks to what comes later. The steel structure, which nearly scrapes the ceiling, is a kind of spaceship (a common motif in her work), and it seems to come from the same future imagined by the water lilies. Maea’s “From ancient matter, she takes form” (2018), an altar made of plants, branches, mirrors, and crystals, feels both futuristic and ancient — not only in its aesthetic, but in the ideas it evokes about construction and labor, and who’s doing the building or praying. One might be viewing an archaeological site, or impressions left by the beings inhabiting Cortez’s spaceship, but sacred work was undertaken here.
In Hernández’s beautiful video, “Brown Zero,” a collaboration with Brenda Guevara, the artist’s own identity is made fluid: video game fighters, voguers, laser lights, and explosions all form a strange self-portrait — the point being, of course, that sometime from now, who you are — who I am — is of your own making and nobody else’s.
“Pasado mañana” means the day after tomorrow, though its literal translation is “after tomorrow has passed.” The idea of tomorrow is anxiety-inducing, but Pasado mañana, which seems to recall an imagined architectural site from a distant realm, is a balm, precisely because, in this space, tomorrow’s small unknowns are tended to like flowers.
Pasado mañana continues at Commonwealth and Council (3006 West 7th St #220, Los Angeles) through March 3.
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Closes Over Climate Protest
The institution shuttered in advance of an action planned for the 33rd anniversary of its infamous art heist.
Remembering the Migrants Who Died in US Detention
Artist Jackie Amézquita will lead a caravan of trucks with the names of the deceased to LA sites representing systems of oppression and solidarity for immigrants.
Mondays at Pratt Institute: Weekly Openings of Work by Graduating Artists
Free and open to the public, Pratt Shows celebrate the school’s graduating students. MFA and BFA work on view this spring in Brooklyn, New York.
Mark Thomas Gibson’s Cartoons See the US Going Nowhere
If Thomas Nast, who is considered the “Father of the American Cartoon,” has an heir, it is Gibson, who goes one step further and elevates caricature and commentary into art.
Kahori Kamiya Transmutes Grief Into Play
Through artworks that encourage viewers to explore varied vantages, Kamiya conveys her accrued wisdom and experiences without the weight of their pain.
LSU School of Art Grants Highest MFA Stipends in the Southern US
With funded assistantships, full tuition waivers, and generous stipends, Louisiana State University helps students lay the groundwork for a successful lifelong art practice.
Maya Deren in Vivid Focus
Maya Deren: Choreographed for Camera depicts how the artist’s life and ideas cemented her place as a champion and influencer of culture.
AI Image Generators Finally Figured Out Hands
Midjourney fixed its inability to render hands realistically, one of the telltale signs of an image being AI-generated.
School of the Art Institute of Chicago Offers Summer Art and Design Courses Online and On-Campus
Emerging and established artists can choose from over 50 Adult Continuing Education courses at one of the most influential art and design schools in the US.
Lorraine O’Grady, Emily Jacir Among American Academy of Arts’s 2023 Awardees
Artist Faith Ringgold and scholar Helen Hennessy Vendler received this year’s gold medals.
MTV’s The Exhibit Needs a Cutthroat Judge
In episode three, the artists created works about the pandemic and bonded with each other, which is cute but doesn’t really make for good TV.
IDSVA Offers a Non-Studio PhD in Visual Arts: Philosophy, Aesthetics, and Art Theory
With no campus, the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts is a truly nomadic institution, existing everywhere our students and faculty are.
Cauleen Smith’s Drylongso Depicts a Bygone Oakland
Smith’s 1998 film exudes the DIY charm of a low-budget, first-time feature while keenly depicting the complexities of both race- and gender-related inequalities.
Take Ai Weiwei’s Middle Finger Anywhere in the World
A new collaboration between the artist and Avant Arte invites users to flip the bird anywhere and everywhere on Google Maps.