Art & Design

September 13, 2017

The Exhibitions Exploring California’s Latino Culture

A Celebration Beyond Borders is taking over 65 galleries in the Golden State

  • Written by Iona Goulder

Five years ago, when curators from LA’s biggest galleries and museums came together to ask how California’s Latin roots could be brought to life in one state-wide project, it was a very different political landscape and issues like Trump’s DACA repeal were far from the reality they are today.

But in this era of uncertainty, the upcoming Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA (“A Celebration Beyond Borders”) feels more important than ever. Opening across Southern California this week, it’s bringing a program of exhibitions and events to 65 galleries from Santa Barbara to Santa Monica and San Diego to Palm Springs.

Tijuana - San Diego County III, Frontera Mexico - USA, 2014

Pablo Lopez Luz, Tijuana – San Diego County III, Frontera Mexico – USA, 2014.Courtesy Pablo Lopez Luz.

California is home to the biggest Latin American diaspora in the US, with more than half the population of LA tracing their roots there. “You could call Los Angeles a Latin American city of long standing,” says Getty Foundation curator, Joan Weinstein. “We saw an opportunity to rewrite art history, and to create a legacy of scholarship through the publications that would accompany the exhibitions,” she tells Amuse. “LA has a long relationship with Latin America, having been founded in 1781 as part of New Spain.”

With exhibitions that tackle topics from luxury in the ancient world (at the Getty) to the complex relationship between Disney and Latin America (at the MAK Center and Luckman Fine Arts Complex at Cal State LA), Pacific Standard Time is an all-encompassing exploration of Latino culture past and present.

ONE_Friedkin_Mundo and Jim

Anthony Friedkin, Jim and Mundo, Montebello, East Los Angeles, 1972. Gelatin silver print. 11 x 14 in. Morris Kight Collection, ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at the USC Libraries. Courtesy of Anthony Friedkin.

Highlights include an exploration of the impact and influence of Latin American women in the female emancipation movement from 1970s to present day at the Hammer Museum. Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960-1985 gives airtime to many female Latino voices who have been forgotten in the canon of Western contemporary art and shows how these artists addressed discrimination, politicised sexuality and explored topics prohibited by conservative morality.

Making art became an act of protest for many of these artists, as co-curator Andrea Giunta explains: “Many of the artists included in the exhibition were in prison or in exile, and the dictatorships they were living under developed specific methodologies for the torture of the female body.”


Eugenio Espinoza, Untitled (Circumstantial [12 coconuts]), 1971. Acrylic on canvas, coconuts, and rope. 59 x 59 x 10 inches. Courtesy of the artist. © Eugenio Espinoza. Photo: Sid Hoeltzell – Miami 2015.

Sixteen U.S. Latino and Latin American artists came together for LACMA’s A Universal History of Infamy exhibition. Through new collaborative works in video, installation and sculpture, these artists address the “mutual enrichment and dialogue between Latin America and Los Angeles,” according to LACMA’s CEO, Michael Govan. The exhibition title is taken from the iconic book by Jorge Luis Borges and looks to the Argentinian author’s encyclopaedic volume of short stories (published in 1935) to explore the different perspectives and approaches to contemporary notions surrounding borders and identity.

ASP_Giovan_Tria_Beauty Salon in Vedado Havana_ Cuba_1993

Tria Giovan Beauty salon in Vedado neighborhood, Havana, 1993

Not-to-be-missed is the Cuba Is exhibition at Annenberg Space for Photography, which offers a candid look into contemporary Cuban life. More than 120 works bring the country’s versatile and resilient subcultures to life, from the defiant youth known as “Los Frikis” and the hard-partying children of Cuba’s 1%, to the underground system of sharing digital content from the U.S. (called “El Paquete”) and Miami’s Chonga girls.

Pacific Standard Time couldn’t come at a better time, “since so many of the exhibitions highlight the truth about borders — that they are political creations that don’t match cultural populations,” says Weinstein. “Pacific Standard Time helps show the long and deep cultural connections throughout the Americas.”

Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA opens on 14 September across California.


Main image: Michael Christopher Brown, Helen and friends wait for their $1.00 cheese pizzas in Playa neighborhood, Havana (From the series Paradiso), 2015. 37.5 x 25 in. © Michael Christopher Brown.


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