The Argonaut, after Pakal
Steel and lacquer marker
This sculpture takes the form of a capsule that references the sarcophagus lid of King Pakal of Palenque and the misreading of the representation carved in stone of his spiritual passage to the underworld as a narrative of space travel that contributed to a racist understanding about ancient indigenous cultures in the Americas. Instead, this work recirculates this image as it invites the viewer to imagine a future of space travel where there is indigenous participation and an indigenous aesthetic impacting the construction of the vessels of the future.
The woven metal straps on the chair evoke a petate, that is the woven construction of floor coverings made with grass leaves, which symbolized the strength of community and the complexity of culture in ancient times in what came to be known as the Mesoamerican region.
The architectural details on the sculpture could at once evoke an abstraction of ancient representations of the god of rain Tlaloc, or an abstraction of a rocket fueled engine.
The designs on the playful curved elements on the piece come from the carved designs on the tree that is at the center of King Pakal’s imagery in his sarcophagus. They are based on artist Linda Schele’s drawings of the sarcophagus, which are housed at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)’s archives today.
According to the press release issued by Commonwealth and Council: “Multiplicity of time and space recurs throughout Cortez’s practice, which navigates the simultaneity of immigrant experience as a truly critical nexus, with its differing and often competing versions of modernity, urbanity, technology, and culture. For Cortez, the spaceship provides what time machines and fortune tellers have elsewhere: a protective clairvoyance through which to chart and better understand what could otherwise become an intractable state of cognitive dissonance.”
The Argonaut, after Pakal by Beatriz Cortez is part of “Pasado mañana,” an exhibition by Beatriz Cortez and Rafa Esparza, with Fabián Guerrero, Sebastián Hernández, María Maea, Rubén Rodríguez, Gabriela Ruiz, and Brenzy Solorzano, on view at Commonwealth and Council in Los Angeles from January 20 to March 3, 2018.
Photographs courtesy of Commonwealth and Council.