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A contemporary art exhibition explores the unique heritage of corn in the Americas
Jorge Rojas, Tortilla Oracle.

SAN JOSE, CA.- MACLA/Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana presents MAIZE Y MÁS: From Mother to Monster. The Latino artists in this exhibition present the unique heritage of maize and corn in the Americas and illustrate this crop's journey from pre-Columbian times to today: once a sacred staple associated with a mother/virgin figure, today an engineered product which many compare to a monster.

On view from November 1, 2013 through February 15, 2014, Maize Y Más features painting, sculpture, mixed-media work, video, and performance; 16 new and recent works by Yvonne Escalante, Yolanda Guerra, Fernando Mastrangelo, Viva Paredes, and Jorge Rojas express conceptions and interpretations of food and corn through themes of colonial history, personal identity, ethnicity, family, community, and even divinity.

In the Americas, corn (maize, maíz) has a unique heritage. From pre-Columbian times to today, corn is a dominant feature of social, cultural, political, economic, and food systems. Aztecs, Mayans, and Mesoamerica in general revered this crop. Gods were created in homage to corn, and many indigenous and pre-Columbian cultures believe that human beings were made of corn. Today, 40% of U.S. corn is genetically engineered, likely different from its pre-Columbian cousin. Still, corn, one of the first domesticated foods, has a history full of ritual, expectation, and myth. The artists in this exhibition pay attention to our complex historical and contemporary relationship to corn, illustrate the role it plays in our current food system, and explore the idiosyncratic role of corn in Latin American culture.

Exhibition highlights include portions of Gente de Maíz, Jorge Rojas’ exploration of the uses of corn in ceremonies and mystical practices of divination; Rojas will also provide a live tortilla oracle reading at the exhibition opening. Made entirely of cornmeal and corn kernels, Fernando Mastrangelo’s This Too Shall Pass illustrates the often-synonymous relationship between the Virgin Mary and corn, and comments on the military and missionary conquest of Mexican indigenous populations by the Spanish. Yvonne Escalante presents Keeping Time, a sound box with a glass corncob, to represent a landscape that continues to be altered by human touch and consumption while simultaneously capturing the eating event. Yolanda Guerra’s feminist and contemporary take on the Miracle Tortilla pays homage to the women who are the lifeblood of cultural customs and shows the symbolic content of corn as a miraculous crop—a divine phenomenon that ensures human survival. Illustrating the great diversity of the corn cultivated in the Americas, Viva Paredes’ works includes vessels filled with various types of heirloom corn, speaking to its genetic complexity, long history of cultivation, and most importantly, our interdependent relationship to it.

The Artists
Yvonne Escalante received her M.F.A. in Spatial Arts from San José State University and a B.F.A. in Metal Arts from California State University, Long Beach. Her work explores themes of social and environmental justice. Yvonne draws connections between the degradation of our planet and the marginalization of peoples across the globe, whose skills, livelihoods, and cultures are replaced by modern agriculture and commerce.

Yolanda Guerra was born and raised in San José, CA and received a B.F.A. from San José State University. Guerra has exhibited her work throughout the Bay Area and is the recent recipient of an encouragement grant from the Center for Cultural Innovation. Guerra’s current body of work pays homage to Latina grandmothers, aunties, mothers who continue to pass on cultural customs, like making homemade flour tortillas for their families.

Fernando Mastrangelo lives and works in Brooklyn, NY and Los Angeles, CA. Mastrangelo received an M.F.A. from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2004 and a B.F.A. from Cornish College of the Arts in 2002. Currently, he is at work on Al One (2010-2012), which is to date the most ambitious and comprehensive sculptural installation to address the increasing complexities of social networking.

Viva Paredes is a Bay Area native born and raised in San José, California. Paredes graduated from the California College of the Arts with an emphasis in sculpture. Influenced by her grandmother Petra, a native of Chihuahua, México, Paredes was initiated into the ancient tradition of medicinal plants and curanderísmo (physical and spiritual healing through medicinal plants). Paredes’ work has been included in group exhibitions throughout the U.S. and México.

Jorge Rojas was born in Morelos, México and studied art at the University of Utah and at Bellas Artes in San Miguel de Allende, México, where he focused on painting and sculpture. Rojas’ work has been exhibited in galleries and museums across the United States, México and India and is included in numerous private and public collections, including The Mexican Museum in San Francisco and Museum of Latin American Art (MoLAA) in Long Beach, California.

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