Perhaps my favorite piece in the gigantic art project “Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA” (and there are a lot to choose from) is “Glu Glu Glu”, a sculpture made by the Italian-born Brazilian artist Anna Maria Maiolino in 1967. Using a fabric bust, the artist painted the mouth as if it were wide open to eat or scream. The bust is positioned above a model of the digestive system, with the principal components, a yellow stomach, green pancreas, blue intestines, painted to match the colors of the Brazilian flag. It’s a throwback to Oswald de Andrade’s “Anthropophagy Manifesto” of 1928, the most enduring text in modern Brazilian art history. Andrade’s piece advocated for cultural cannibalism—a process that consumes and digests foreign influences in order to further the production of something entirely new.
That’s the spirit of the PST: LA/LA, the biggest exploration of art from Latin America ever put on in the United States. It’s no surprise that this exhibit is centered in California (once part of Mexico), where Los Angeles is the epicenter of the Latino population in the country. Yet Latin American art has had shamefully little exposure in local museums. PST: LA/LA comes to change the canon, write the right history and make art, that for too long has been excluded, now present in over 70 cultural institutions throughout southern California.
More than 1,100 artists are taking part in shows that cover photography, film, dance, music, performance, architecture, sculpture and visual arts from 45 countries. The shows even include art from the Japanese and Chinese diasporas of Peru, the Caribbean and the black communities of Bahia in Brazil, as seen in “Axé Bahia: The Power of Art in an Afro-Brazilian Metropolis“, at the Fowler Museum.
It is hard not to see PST: LA/LA as a response to the divisiveness of the current American political debate about immigration. With Trump’s DACA reversal, many of these works have inserted a political urgency into the mainstream art world. “Works of art don’t acknowledge political borders,” said Jim Cuno, president and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust in the event opening remarks. The Getty Foundation provided $16 million for the project, which started in 2013, under the Obama administration.
At the Craft & Folk Art Museum, “The US-Mexico Border: Place, Imagination and Possibility” speaks to the story of the border from both sides. Artists, architects and designers who have made the frontier a concern in their work tell that story in their unique and engaging voices. There is also the sharply contemporary “Home — So Different, So Appealing: Art from the Americas since 1957” at LACMA through October 15. That show captures the quandary of migrants, who often have to choose between an imagined radiant future and the dull reality of the familiar.
Women who fought patriarchy and authoritarian regimes is the theme presented in the poignant “Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960–1985”, which is showing at the Hammer Museum through December 31. The show brings together 116 female artists hailing from various locations across South and Central America and the Caribbean, including chicanas in the United States. Some are quite well-known artists, such as Brazilian Lygia Clark, but most are not. This only stands to further demand reflection on the marginalization among the marginalized.
While there are so many amazing depictions of life from so many artists and their subjects throughout this massive project, the above are just a few of the exhibits that stood out as truly representing the intrinsic links between Latin America and LA. As Andrade’s cultural cannibal manifesto once said, and Maiolino’s sculpture “Glu Glu Glu” beautifully recall: “Only anthropophagy unites us.”
These salient exhibits run through January 2018. Click to check out the Brazilian artists at the “Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA”.