The group of work (see MASKS for the complete series) Emmanuel Cortés is presenting focuses on the portrait and what it has signified to humans historically and currently. It is the power of 500-year-old colonial iconography and the instant marvel of a selfie manifesting itself in the artwork of a Mexican-American immigrant working in Brussels. It is through these portraits that the artist explores the multiple aspects of his personal culture. A “culture” here is not a singular corpus that one belongs to or comes from, but the network composed of the connections between a person and their cultural influences.
The complex series of self-portraits allows you to enter into the world of the artist. The child of immigrants, an immigrant himself, a warrior, such as his ancestors fighting the first Spanish armadas, a simple man giving you the key to the features of his life that caused him pain in the western white patriarchal world we live in. Granting you access to his culture through the experience of a Mexican who was not Mexican enough for his heritage and not American enough for his peers.
During an exhibition: A gallery space serves as a sacred space, where you can wear and mask your fragility with pride. You can hide from mockingbirds and camouflage yourself by being so-called “woke.” In the end, you are in a white space, surrounded by white faces attempting to persuade “the other” that they are on their side. To reiterate, this is a sacred space, one dedicated to hiding, masking, and flaunting that which you are not.
This gallery is a white box built for you. The artist has consecrated this space during November to allow you to mask yourself with his culture. Outside of this sacred space, you should not be allowed to.