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Gloria Cortina CG 4.48.26 PM
Gloria Cortina

Great design happens when ideas collide, creating new and unexpected objects, spaces, and concepts. When an architect meets a client; when a craftsman experiments with a new material; when a straight line meets a circle. When these things—material, proportion, shape—work in unison, something is created that anyone can recognize, but can be difficult to describe. The work of Gloria Cortina (b. 1972) achieves this feat we simply call the sublime.

Gloria Cortina CG 4.46.41 PM
Gloria Cortina

“I like to understand the essence of things. It’s about understanding the world, but there’s this connection with the wellbeing of a piece. It’s something that brings you peace and joy.”

— Gloria Cortina
Gloria Cortina CG 4.48.01 PM
Gloria Cortina

Raised by two grandmothers in two comfortable homes in Mexico City—one traditional, the other early modern—her taste developed in two extremes. Initially forbidden to follow her passion to pursue architecture, she studied philosophy. It was only after moving to New York when she was able to enroll at the Parsons School of Design where her teachers recognized her sense of proportion informed by her lived experience. Mrs. Barragan, they called her.

“I take into account the human touch. Design is like an extension of myself. While Barragán searched for the divine in the supernatural, I look for these moments in the everyday. I go the extra mile in how things smell, how they age, and how they feel to the touch.”

— Gloria Cortina
Gloria Cortina CG 4.49.50 PM
Gloria Cortina
Gloria Cortina CG 4.46.58 PM
Gloria Cortina

Curves are found throughout Cortina’s work. In each piece, form and materiality integrate in a way that feels unique to her oeuvre. The black Plume Table has a sculptural quality when seen from any angle; her first free-standing screen, covered in leather marquetry, invites both a long gaze and a sensual touch.

Gloria Cortina CG 4.47.51 PM
Gloria Cortina

“It’s about the connection between myself, nature, and the piece. It’s about being in the moment. It’s not a tribute to beauty, but to yourself. Whereas Barragán would have centered it in the divine, I center it within you.”

— Gloria Cortina
Gloria Cortina CG At 1.47.53 PM
Gloria Cortina

Rather than hewing to aggressive, masculine ideals of Modernism and their industrial references, Cortina looks to Pre-Columbian aesthetics for inspiration. Her use of sparing color also comes from her love of materials like obsidian.

“I have something with the color black, but it’s not a New York thing. In the Aztec culture, black is the color of infinity. It’s so central to what I do. Total emptiness, but also fullness. That’s how things grow.”

— Gloria Cortina
Gloria Cortina CG 4.49.22 PM
Gloria Cortina

References to nature in Cortina’s oeuvre can occur in handpicked marble or hammered brass, but sometimes these notions are more overt or even decorative. Her North and South Cabinet is rendered in blackened steel and Negro Monterrey marble, with doors and sides made from thousands of porcelain “feathers” that take 10 days to assemble by hand.

Gloria Cortina CG 4.49.04 PM
Gloria Cortina

“It’s a mind space. I wanted to represent how I think about form in a two-dimensional way. It’s a glimpse into my mind.”

— Gloria Cortina

The exhibition also includes the designer’s first foray into two-dimensional design with a wool tapestry called Sketch. Inspired by the works of Anni and Josef Albers, the seven-foot handwoven work in Mexican wool was handmade in Guadalajara and conceived as a form of abstract communication. A graphite sketch by Cortina’s hand has been brought to life by a rare atelier in Guadalajara that dates back to the 17th century and can only produce a handful of pieces each year.

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About the Artist

Her work expresses ideas and emotions prompted by modernity and myth – ‘a search for the harmony and beauty that can be found in conscious and unconscious imaginings.’ Her designs avoid familiar international styles. The furniture and individual objects that she creates produce very specific shapes and aesthetics – and they are extremely place-sensitive.

Gloria Cortina’s design inspirations range from Mayan artifacts to Cubism, 20th century Modernism, México’s unique Arts and Crafts heritage, and natural and archaeological environments. These, and other sources, enrich her designs, giving them meaning and a uniquely individual character, balancing warmth and refinement.

Her designs flow from an intense interest in the physical, emotional, and creative qualities of spaces and materials. She develops and curates settings that bring together architecture, design, art, and culture in a way that creates place-sensitive atmospheres and aesthetics.

The designs are sensually sophisticated, emotionally engaged, and her beautifully crafted individual pieces have greatly increased international awareness of Mexican culture in contemporary design.

Her work can be found in the permanent collections of international museums like Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, Cooper Hewitt Design Museum, New York, and Museum of Fine Arts, Denver.

Born in Bethesda, Maryland in 1972, Cortina’s design practice is widely seen throughout Mexico and the US.

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