March 24, 2006
By Mike Roberts
“Mangroves,” an exhibition of acrylic paintings by Xavier Cortada at Artel gallery, closes today. The solo show is rare for the gallery, whose schedule usually is packed with juried group exhibitions.
Cortada was invited up from Miami, where he holds court as a sort of environmental artist. The mangrove tree, a true Florida native with three species, is his personal symbol for preservation, resilience and a sense of community. The trees’ exposed labyrinth of roots serves as shelter from predators for fish. In this show, Cortada focuses on their seedlings.
Epitomizing his approach is an acrylic on canvas titled “Three seeds on red.” The seeds resemble small pipes with eye-like markings. In “Three seedlings at Sea,” the seeds levitate above water like caught fish. Cortada extends his take on the seeds with the Braque-like painting, “Pelican.” Abstract forms are deconstructed with his same mangrove motif of orb structures.
The show’s largest piece is a 60-inch-by-96-inch painting titled “Music.” Cortada culminates his style here with a huge brightly colored montage of instruments with his kinetic wavy lines and swirls. The sights that he’s set on Miami, the murals on highway overpasses and installations on urban gentrification, are far more visceral.