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Hoesy Corona, 2021 Sondheim Finalist

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More than 100 small horned deities, patterned with luminous gold, red, white, and black glazes, sit on a pedestal, stacked and huddled closely together, encased in a tomblike vitrine. In his Sondheim finalist show, Hoesy Corona displays only a fraction of the 300 miniature glazed porcelain talismans from his “Scapegoat Idols” series, which he has been working on since 2017 as a form of devotional practice. I imagined Corona spending quiet moments over years manipulating the material, contemplating and creating.

The elements, rituals, and processes embedded throughout Corona’s gallery space create their own kind of meditative experience. His corner of the Walters Art Museum for the Sondheim Finalists exhibition is otherworldly and special. I forgot about time in this realm but felt anchored by his sculpture, installation, and performance works, which the queer Latinx artist presents as a survey exhibition titled Sunset Moonlight, spanning 10 years of artistic production. 

 

Hoesy Corona

The exhibition includes five mostly ongoing bodies of work: The Nobodies (2010-20); Mother Death Life Mama (2012-present); Scapegoats (2012-present); White Constructions (2015-present); and Climate Immigrants (2017-present). Sunset Moonlight is a sweeping, generous review of Corona’s examination of themes such as othering, fear of death, white supremacy, and the climate crisis, as well as his exploration of identities. It emphasizes his position as a queer Latinx immigrant in the predominantly white spaces that many artists of color inhabit. It is a gentle confrontation through beauty, ritual, and truth. 

Each piece selected and displayed within the walls of the Walters—an institution with its own admitted history of othering and white supremacy—reveals the evolution of an artistic practice by a multidimensional creator making multidimensional work. Sunset Moonlight is thorough and full of both visual and textual information: Wall text identifies the themes in each body of work; videos are juxtaposed with wearable-art sculptures composed of artificial flowers, animal skulls, wires, fabric, vinyl, and plastic, which the artist and collaborators have donned in past performances. 

 

Sculptures: Hoesy Corona, Mother Death Life Mama (part of the Mother Death Life Mama series), 2020, artificial flowers, fabric, foam, resin clay, hot glue, thread, cardboard, tape, wire. Video: Mother Death Life Mama performances (part of the Mother Death Life Mama series), 2012-2020, 1 channel video

There are two wearable sculptures on view from the performance and sculpture series Mother Death Life Mama (2012-present) which considers human mortality and our perilous connection to the Earth. I was drawn to one piece in particular: a carved wooden face painted in acrylic and adorned with a crown in shades of blue. Funeral flowers sprout from her head and cascade down her body like a wave of ritual adornment. She faces the viewer, solemnly standing next to a video where she dances. Animated in her former life, her shell is occupied by the spirit of performance. On her left, she is mirrored by another figure decorated in red; together they are two material and maternal goddesses shepherding us towards the afterlife. 

In his Climate Immigrants series (2017-present), Corona explores xenophobia, climate crisis, immigration, travel, and bodies in movement. The ongoing site-specific installation and performance consider the inevitable and impending effect of climate-induced global migration and its effect on people of color. Performers wear “climate ponchos” which are decorated with images depicting “the archetype of the traveler.” The climate ponchos from the performance are displayed alongside images and a single-channel video of the performances from 2017 to 2020. I appreciated this ephemeral exercise, seeing still and moving images realized three-dimensionally. In one scene from the video, the performers brave various elements, variegated topographies and geographies, floods, storms—and in one scene a trio dances as the world burns. They are sirens signaling our inevitable futures if humanity does not commit to a course correction. 

 

Hoesy Corona's "Climate Ponchos," vinyl, cut vinyl, plastic rope, metal rod. Video: Climate Immigrants performances (part of the Climate Immigrants series), 2017-2020, 1 channel video.

Each work in Sunset Moonlight employs pure, brilliant hues, and compared to the minimalism strategically displayed by other finalists, Corona’s work feels like a feast. As objects and forms, the works are sudden, ethereal, magical, and deeply true. They feel like decadent pleasures, visual cornucopias decorated with nuance and depth. 

Corona’s survey exhibition was the first opportunity I had to view his work in person. Although I had been aware of his role as a founding co-director of the nomadic art organization Labbodies, and I’d seen images of his art online, I was thrilled by the scale of these sculptures. Journeying around the works gave me a distinct feeling of being home. At different moments, I felt myself wanting to reach out and touch different materials and details, like the plastic flowers that reminded me of the ones that rested on top of my mother’s pearlescent casket. Multicolored gauze and iridescent materials from Corona’s world mirrored and spoke to a history of experiences that I have connected to in my own world. 

Sunset Moonlight, a multicolored and personified memento mori, is an expansive exhibition that covers every square inch of Corona’s available space. Although he draws upon perspectives and experiences that are specific to him, the themes he explores are universal ideas that affect every human being. Through the relics of the artist’s processes and performance, I confronted my own humanity, my own impact, my own creativity, and my own legacy, inspired by the splendor, reality, and decadence of Corona’s universe. 

 

Middle: Hoesy Corona, Climate Poncho, one year after Tenochtitlan (part of the Climate Immigrants series), 2020-2021, vinyl, cut vinyl, plastic rope, metal rod. Wall prints: Climate Immigrants (part of the Climate Immigrants series), 2018, performance print on wall.

Hoesy Corona delivers a free virtual artist talk at the Walters Art Museum on June 17.

More Sondheim info: The Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts and the Walters Art Museum proudly present the 17th annual Janet & Walter Sondheim Artscape Prize Finalists exhibition. The prize awards a $25,000 fellowship to a visual artist or group of visual artist collaborators living and working in the greater Baltimore region and is presented in conjunction with the annual Artscape juried art exhibition of the finalists’ work. A panel of three jurors—Naz Cuguoğlu, Michelle Grabner, and Meleko Mokgosi—has selected five finalists for this exhibition and for final review for the prize. The remaining finalists each receive a $2,500 M&T Bank Finalist Award. The winner will be announced on Saturday, July 10.

Named in honor of Janet and Walter Sondheim, the Sondheim Artscape Prize raises the regional visibility of Baltimore as a vibrant urban center that rewards creativity and continues the Sondheim family’s legacy and commitment to Baltimore City.

Links: Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts: Janet & Walter Sondheim Artscape Prize Finalists
The Walters Sondheim Prize Exhibition dates and programming

 

Photos courtesy of The Walters Art Museum

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