Cortada’s Mangrove Ceramic Murals

Plaza Azul (detail)

Within his public art practice, Pinecrest Gardens Artist-in-Residence Xavier Cortada utilizes a large array of mediums to engage in a dialogue with the viewing community, specifically through an environmental focus. In this way, his work not only strives to be aesthetically striking, but conceptually thought provoking. For decades, Cortada’s community-based work has demonstrated sensitivity to the cultural, ethnic and economic background of the project’s participants.

Cortada, who serves as Professor of Practice at the University of Miami Department of Art and Art History, has exhibited and produced works internationally, including in Antarctica, Bolivia, Canada, Cyprus, Holland, Northern Ireland, Panama, Peru, South Africa, Switzerland, Taiwan and the North Pole. Cortada’s work is in the collections of the Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), the NSU Museum of Art in Ft. Lauderdale, the Whatcom Museum, the Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum, the MDC Museum of Art + Design and the World Bank.

Seen throughout the entirety of Cortada’s oeuvre is the inclusion of the mangrove as an essential aspect of his work. The mangrove is an integral element of the natural ecosystem across South Florida, providing shelter to a variety of avian and marine life as well as protection of our coastlines against storm surges. Within the public 

Xavier Cortada, “Plaza Azul,” Hand-painted ceramic tile, 96” x 192” x 18”, 2009 (Curtis Park, Miami, FL)

art sphere, this ubiquitous nature of the mangrove imagery has ingrained itself into a variety of the artist’s works, notably that of Plaza Azul in 2008, Mangrove Cove in 2013, and Miami Mangrove Forest in 2020.

Mangrove Cove (detail)

These works serve to present the mangrove as a member of South Florida’s ecosystem, the ceramic tile murals alluding to a metaphorical reforestation of the urban areas throughout the community. While employing different aesthetic strategies throughout their respective compositions, the works of Plaza Azul, Mangrove Cove, and Miami Mangrove Forest depict a visually stunning entanglement of mangrove roots and leaves that gradually pulls its audience inwards. This emphasis on the mangrove as the source of aesthetic inspiration can also be seen at Pinecrest Gardens, where Cortada’s Pinecrest Mangrove Forest mural finds itself alongside a literal mangrove forest.

Xavier Cortada, “Mangrove Cove,” Ceramic and glass mosaic, 2013, Dante Fascell Apartments, Miami, FL (Miami-Dade Housing Authority)

The mangrove can also be seen in Cortada’s more socially-engaged work, as seen through the usage of the plant as the centerpiece of the artist’s Plan(T) project. On exhibition during Art Basel 2019 within the Hibiscus Gallery at Pinecrest Gardens, Plan(T) functioned  as a point of departure for communal engagement towards issues of climate change and sea-level rise through the juxtaposition of the built and natural environments.

Xavier Cortada, “Miami Mangrove Forest,” Hand-painted ceramic tile, 2020 (Palmetto Bay Art in Public Places)