Reclamation Project Mangrove Paintings
As a precursor to the artist’s seminal “Reclamation Project”, Xavier Cortada’s series of mangrove paintings strive to acknowledge the existence of an ubiquitous, yet ignored, South Florida icon. Completed over the course of the artist’s career, these works retain the sensibilities of traditional art aesthetics while embodying the conceptual iconography of the artist’s later social practice.
Mangroves were chosen for their native heritage to the South Florida area. Mangrove forests were the dominant landscape of the state from the time of the first European settlers, subject matter previously portrayed in Cortada’s “Florida Mangrove” painting from 2003. Fully grown, mangroves serve a multitude of purposes, from providing habitats to a variety of marine and avian life, to protecting coastal areas from storm surges. The communal focus of these works is further emphasized through the utility of their imagery, the mangrove being a plant that literally protects and shelters communities of a variety of species, beyond just being conceptually significant.
However, Cortada’s mangrove paintings function as more than just a metaphoric reforestation of the local area, but as a prompt for literal reforestation. This is accomplished through its resonance with Cortada’s “Plan(T)” and “Reclamation Project” works, ambitious efforts to plan for the future through the act of planting mangroves throughout Miami.