In Helen Lock’s 1993 essay “‘A Man’s Story Is His Gris-gris’: Ishmael Reed’s Neo-HooDoo Aesthetic and the African American Tradition,” she states, “[Reed’s] aesthetic could be called ‘art as subversion,’ in that it takes the superficial forms of a dominant culture and transforms their meaning while leaving the forms themselves intact: a polemical approach which has been fundamental to African-American writing since its inception.” Cordova’s work is an extension of this approach, seeking to subvert widely held beliefs, often informed by a European theoretical background, to empower histories of the repressed. Similar to artists like Terry Adkins, Howardena Pindell, and Gabriel Orozco, Cordova emphasizes a utilitarian approach that binds African and Latin American diasporas together, encouraging the integration of people of different countries, ethnic groups, and religion into all areas of society.
In his installation Moby Dick(Tracy) (after ishmael, chico de cano y carl hampton), Cordova and collaborators Mark Aguilar and Carlos Sandoval de Leon have transformed a used police car. They sawed the vehicle in half, tinted its windows, and inscribed the last names of social activists and critics, such as (Eldridge) Cleaver, (Russell) Means, and (bell) hooks, among others, onto its tail section, rendering both interior and exterior as sites for contemplation.
In another work, a gold-leaf collage filled with photocopied tires that is titled daniel boone, pat boone y mary boone (or firestone, pero los olmecas venceran), Cordova has composed a chronological history of colonialism in the Americas, while in the sculpture san antonio’s greatest hits (4-claude black, mario marcel salas, rosie castro y jose angel gutierrez), a column of stacked vinyl records becomes a totem of obsolete information and ephemerality. Through these and other recombinations and transformations of artifacts and detritus, Cordova works to demonstrate the commonalities of transition and displacement between past and present cultures.
“All art is propaganda but not all propaganda is art, like Mao said.” -Amiri Baraka
–Emily Morrison, Curatorial Assistant and Lori Salmon, Graduate Intern