Beatriz Cortez: The Volcano That Left

May 20 – November 13, 2023

  • Ilopango, the Volcano that Left
    Photo by Jeffrey Jenkins
  • Stela Z, after Quiriguá (Contrary Warrior)
    Photo by Jeffrey Jenkins

Beatriz Cortez: The Volcano That Left brings together new and recent large-scale sculptures by the El Salvador–born (1970), Los Angeles–based artist. Cortez’s multidisciplinary practice considers the experience of migration through the lens of simultaneity, recalling the multiple spatial and temporal realities that immigrants experience at once. Throughout the exhibition, the artist examines geologic, human, and cosmic conditions to imagine other forms of existence that transcend static definition. Moving beyond colonized notions of time and space, Cortez engages Indigenous knowledge and spirituality, philosophy, and the cycles of the planet to reorient our understanding of the past and present and to imagine an alternative future.

Working in steel, Cortez fashions each sculpture by hand, improvising to create undulating surfaces and organic forms that echo the surrounding landscape. Central to the exhibition is Ilopango, the Volcano that Left (2023), a speculative reconstruction of an ancient volcano that erupted in the sixth century C.E. in what is now El Salvador. Cortez considers the ash deposited by the eruption, an event known as Tierra Blanca Joven, as part of the sacred Mayan underworld. The artist imagines how the eruption’s resulting migratory patterns reverberate across time, drawing connection to events such as the movement of the Maya or her own migration amid the Salvadoran Civil War in 1989, a catastrophe that displaced a million people. Reinforcing nature’s disregard for human boundaries, Cortez explains, “Lava flows under the volcanic range that unites my two homes, Los Angeles and San Salvador. The underworld is not divided by these borders.”

Stela Z, after Quiriguá (Contrary Warrior) (2023), evokes the form of a Mayan stela, a carved stone monolith, to depict the contemporary migration of Cortez’s volcano. Welded-steel glyphs appear across its surface, charting a nonlinear chronology of the volcano’s journey throughout its creation and installation. Elsewhere, Cosmic Mirror (The Sky Over New York) (2022, reconfigured 2023) considers a nonhuman perspective. Scattered over the landscape to mirror the constellation Orion above, the eleven-part work’s relative position to the stars changes based on its geographic location. Relating to an ancient Olmec mosaic that was buried underground in order to be seen by the gods of the underworld, the work lies beyond human perception, only fully comprehended from above due to its scale.

Cortez reminds us that migration is not defined by humans; it is a universal constant. Shifting across time and space, her works are fluid and unfixed in their journeys forward, enacting a manifold existence.

In the fall, Ilopango, the Volcano that Left will leave Storm King in a performative departure, realizing the absence indicated in the work’s title. The sculpture will travel by boat up the Hudson River to EMPAC in Troy, NY, for the exhibition Shifting Center. The volcano’s journey, presented in partnership with EMPAC—Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and the Vera List Center for Art and Politics at The New School, will feature a weekend of collaborative programming along the Hudson River.

Beatriz Cortez: The Volcano That Left is organized by Eric Booker, Associate Curator, with the assistance of Adela Goldsmith, Curatorial Assistant.

Storm King’s 2023 Exhibitions and Education programs are made possible with major support from the Hearst Foundations and the Speyer Family Foundation, with lead support by Charina Foundation, Sidney E. Frank Foundation, Samuel Freeman Charitable Trust, with support also provided by Cornelia T. Bailey Foundation, The William and Elaine Kaplan Family Foundation, Ronald and Sandra Kossar, Lipman Family Foundation, Ohnell Family Foundation, Windgate Foundation, and funded in part by The Helis Foundation, Terra Foundation for American Art and Triad Foundation. 

Storm King’s 2023 Season is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.

Special Exhibition Program: Artist Beatriz Cortez in Conversation with Eric Booker, Associate Curator
Beatriz Cortez: Voids, Portals, and Moving Land, Parsons Fine Arts Visiting Artist Lecture, September 20, 2023
Ilopango, the Volcano that Left—Day 1: Cold Spring to Kingston, October 27, 2023
Ilopango, the Volcano that Left—Day 2: Kingston to Troy, October 29, 2023