A catch-up of media responses to Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA begins with Cheech Marin contemplating the power of Latino/a/x art. AdAge posts about "Lost in Art" that has Marin "act out, in surreal and often hilarious ways, a different aspect of what you'll find in the art exhibit: like harmony, affirmation, reflection, eternal love, awareness and dialogue."
A mid-run preview of PST: LA/LA came in from NBCNews and recants a common theme: the current political climate has made this far-flung series of exhibitions more relevant than when it was initiated.
“It’s been so gratifying to see that art history has expanded to be more inclusive of Latin America and other cultures that were previously considered to be marginal or irrelevant,” said Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, a Venezuelan-born art collector and philanthropist who focuses on Latin American modernist and contemporary art from South America. Her collection of Brazilian and Argentinian Concrete and Neo-Concrete artists is one of the exhibits.
“We’re in very troubling times which only gives us more energy to explore the many ways in which our American histories, North and South of the border, are united and in continuous dialogue,” Cisneros told NBC News.
Carolina A. Miranda looked at Donald Duck, star of “How to Read El Pato Pascual: Disney’s Latin America and Latin America’s Disney:
One scholar has even theorized that Donald Duck may have been inspired by indigenous Latin American culture to begin with. Disney did not have an official comment on the matter, but as the story goes, an artist who worked for Diego Rivera gave a lecture on Mexican art to a group of employees at Disney Studios in the early 1930s. Among the visuals, there may have been an image of a pre-Columbian duck vessel from Colima. Made hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, it resembles a wide-eyed duck wearing what appears to be a small beanie.
“Disney appropriates and the people appropriate Disney,” says [co-curator Rubén] Ortiz-Torres. “It’s a constant dispute.”
Sharon Mizota's review of “Video Art in Latin America” at LAXART in LAT says there is a stink in the air:
That sickly sweet aroma, edged with the tang of decay, comes from “Musa paradisiaca,” a large installation by Colombian artist José Alejandro Restrepo. (The title is the Latin name for a type of edible banana.) Quietly dominating the central gallery is a hanging garden of banana tree stems, each one studded with many, many bunches of bananas. The fruits are in various stages of decay, but most are little more than shriveled black nubs. In the large, darkened gallery, the stems are a haunting presence, like chunks of meat hung up to cure, or more disturbing, hanging bodies.
Steve Appleford for LAT: 'In life and on canvas, the 'tragic explosions' and L.A. dreamscapes of artist Carlos Almaraz'
The paintings typically use striking splashes of color to create scenes of dream imagery both tranquil and hard-boiled, from seductive landscapes of the bridge at Echo Park Lake to a modern-day shootout by the beach between cops and vatos locos gangsters. In 1983's "Suburban Nightmare," Almaraz shows a home burning on a perfect field of green, as small human figures quietly watch helplessly from the street.
The show collects many of his famous car crash paintings, which imagine explosive disasters on the highway — one driving catastrophe after another in abstract eruptions of fire and motion. Hanging nearby are erotic drawings never before exhibited, documenting the artist exploring his bisexuality, as naked lovers and demons intermingle.
Early Previews: In “A Head-Spinning, Hope-Inspiring Showcase of Art," NYT's Holland Cutter wrote:
I guess there’s a God. During one of the meanest passages in American national politics within living memory, we’re getting a huge, historically corrective, morale-raising cultural event, one that lasts four months and hits on many of the major social topics of the day: racism, sexism, aggressive nationalism. True, the hugeness of the thing is a problem, and the contents are uneven. But it’s a gift, worth a trip to puzzle over and savor.
Also during opening week, Matt Stromberg wrote in the LAT:
Argentine-born Liliana Porter, whose work is featured in no fewer than three PST: LA/LA shows, embodies this sense of complicated identity. Her grandparents were from Russia and Romania, and though she was born in Buenos Aires, she moved to New York in 1964 (“I arrived with the Beatles,” she joked to The Times afterward), where she has lived ever since.
“We are really a mixture of cultures and experiences,” she said. “It would be wonderful to be able to be all that at the same time, without having to have a category that negates the rest that we are.”
But the most important long-term outcome may turn out to be a shift in perspective. A small show at the Craft & Folk Art Museum shows the Mexican-American border not as a wall but as a place of imagination and possibility, and the artists who inhabit it as makers of “cross-border art”: artists like Raquel Bessudo, who makes polyester jewellery based on the route followed by the deadly immigrant train, La Bestia, or Ana Serrano with her village “Cartonlandia” and Ronald Rael, who playfully reimagines the border wall as a cycling track, a xylophone or a place to hang a seesaw. No longer the home only of snapping mastiffs and armed guards, Donald Trump’s wall could become an inspiration to creativity, proof of a common humanity.
KCET, who are media partners for PST: LA/LA, have several observations, including G. James Daichendt on Ken Gonzales-Day's “Surface Tension” at the Skirball; Self Help Graphics and the Birth of Modern Day Día de los Muertos by Jordan Riefe; and '¡Murales Rebeldes! Bares the Plight of L.A.'s Murals' by Cynthia Rebolledo. For LA Weekly Carribean Fragoza went long form. On behalf of Inland California, I have a preview at LAObserved.
LAT's architect critic Christopher Hawthrone for Architect Magazine:
While the idea that Los Angeles has no history is a crude caricature—one not infrequently sketched out by people who wish their own cities had a little more going on in the present day—it would certainly be fair to say that L.A. hasn’t always tended especially well to its past. We have ignored the work of certain artists and architects and destroyed the work of others. We have whitewashed important figures and communities in a figurative sense and important murals in a literal one. We have fostered a culture, relentlessly fixated on churning progress and expansion, that produces what the writer Norman Klein has called “collective forgetting.” Paraphrasing Italo Calvino, Klein describes Los Angeles as “a city incapable of holding a memory, or a shape, rather like a bad battery unable to hold a charge.”
Jori Finkel used PST: LA/LA as a chance to investigate why the X in Latinx.
“We’re seeing the terms become a lot more common, especially with young people,” Joan Weinstein, deputy director of the Getty Foundation, acknowledged. “But we really wanted to reach a wide audience with a wide range of ages, so we thought we needed language recognized by everyone.”
Among those adopting the new language is Bill Kelley Jr., the lead curator of a P.S.T. exhibition at the Otis College of Art and Design featuring artist-activists. He said the word Latinx has a “political charge.”
“The word is a proposal to change the machismo in the culture and the language,” he said.
For her part, Macarena Gómez-Barris used Chicanx repeatedly in her catalog essay on the photographer Laura Aguilar, a key artist in a West Hollywood exhibition about the area’s pre-AIDS “queer” art scene. “Her gender does not fall within ‘Chicano’ and the people she studies with her camera are butches and femmes and gender-nonconforming,” said Ms. Gómez-Barris, the head of social sciences and cultural studies at Pratt Institute in New York.
She calls the “x” of Latinx and Chicanx (pronounced Latinex and Chicanex) a “queering” of the gendering of nouns and adjectives natural to the Spanish language, which also turns Latinas into Latinos the moment one man enters the group. “The x marks a kind of political resistance and provocation,” she said.
Thinking about the art begin with "Home—So Different, So Appealing" at LACMA, which had an early run in the series:
If “Home” is a harbinger of what to expect for the rest of the series, it has set the bar high.Few museum exhibitions synthesize currents in contemporary Latin American art. And the ones that do often center on questions of identity — be it ethnic or regional — or around a particular artistic movement, such as abstraction. “Home” explodes that idea.
As for the heavy focus on domesticity and its intersections into feminism, psychology and politics, says Noriega, “Work in 1950 marked a shift in art – there was new acceptance for collage, found art, photography.” Using the materials of home, many artists began a critique of dominant domestic consumption, which, [co-curator Chon] Noriega adds, goes hand in hand with economic development patterns and urbanism.
“Home” is a type of contemporary show that dates to 1993 and the game-changing Whitney Biennial of that year, in New York: an aggressive celebration of multiculturalism and identity politics in work that was long on installational spectacle and short on traditional mediums. At the time, I deprecated the event for politicizing aesthetics. Now I see that it had to happen, for urgent social reasons, and that it energized a then pepless art world. The Los Angeles artist Daniel Joseph Martinez was a chief provocateur in the Biennial, producing buttons, which were handed out to visitors, that read “I can’t imagine ever wanting to be white.” (Incendiary then, the jape seems fairly mild in today’s crossfire of sulfurous political incitements.)