People often envision Latin American art as Aztec gold pieces, Mayan design elements, or painters Diego Rivera and Freda Kahlo. But using those images to represent all art from south of the U.S. border is tantamount to mentally defining European art as gilded church altarpieces, Minoan ceramics, Claude Monet’s airy images or Pablo Picasso’s cubism. Many countries, cultures and influences comprise art from Central and South America as evidences by the Latino art invasion that hit Southern California this week and will continue until January.
Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA (Latin American and Latino Art), an overwhelmingly large series of exhibitions, opened at museums throughout Southern California this week. More than 70 cultural facilities from Santa Barbara to San Diego, Santa Monica to Palm Springs, are featuring a wide variety of important Latin American and Latino artworks.
Art history classes and those who frequent art museums in the U.S. rarely look south of San Diego or Texas (if they even look south of New York and Los Angeles) for stellar works or influences. The effort may seem politically timed today, but the plan to break down ‘the wall” and feature a flood of Latino talent began five years ago. Supported by grants from the Getty Foundation, planning began for this unprecedented collaboration and the hundred of concurrent Latino art exhibitions.
The majority of presentations showcase modern and contemporary art. However, there are also exhibitions about the ancient world. Some exhibitions deal with architecture, photojournalism, poster arts, pre-Columbian pieces, or show monographic studies of individual artists. One, at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, depicts images of nature and plants in Latin America from the time of Christopher Columbus to studies conducted in South America by Charles Darwin.
There are also cross-cultural showcases showing Latino art influences on other ethnic century Afro-Brazilian art, Chumash and Latin American works, art from a Chinese Caribbean diaspora, and pieces from a Japanese Diaspora to Lima, Mexico City, São Paulo, and Los Angeles, These cultural mash up and the mix of race and aesthetics created a hybrid cultural style for each group.
It would be difficult to visit everything, and not all shows will appeal to everyone anyway. So, the exhibitions are also thematically grouped (or geographically). The categories PST LA/LA’s management team has sorted them into are: Art & Activism; Border, Diaspora & Displacement; Critiquing Globalism and Modernism; Definitions of Identity; Design/Architecture; From Abstract to Conceptual Art; and Pre-Hispanic to Colonial.
While some exhibitions opened early, this week is the official start to the four-month cultural fiesta. To celebrate the opening, 52 museums in the area featuring PST LA/LA exhibits will be free on September 17. They include the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Skirball Cultural Center, Museum of Contemporary Art LA, Autry Museum of the American West, Japanese American National Museum, Palm Springs Art Museum, and Santa Barbara Museum of Art. (Many others, such as the Getty Center, Annenberg Space for Photography, Orange County Muzeo Museum and Cultural Center, California African American Museum, and Hammer Museum, always offer free admission.)
Besides visual art in museums, the Southern California Latino art invasion includes film, museum and dance series. Also, there is thematic food for a literal taste temptation. For example, Porto’s Bakery and Cafe, an area star serving Cuban pastries and food in four locations opened a special pop-up one, called Doña Dulce Café, adjacent to the Annenberg Space for Photography’s ”Cuba Is” exhibit.
By Dyanne Weiss
Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA
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Photo of Livia Corona Benjamin’s “47,547 Homes (2009),” currently on view at the LACMA Latino art exhibit, “Home—So Different, So Appealing,” chromogenic print, edition of 5 + 2 A.P., 30 x 38 in., courtesy of the artist and Parque Galería, © 2009 Livia Corona Benjamin.
Photo by Bliss Photography of Carlos Almaraz’s “Suburban Nightmare (1983)” currently on view at the LACMA exhibit, “Playing with Fire: Paintings by Carlos Almaraz.” From The Buck Collection through the University of California, Irvine, © Carlos Almaraz Estate.