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PST: Los Angeles and Latin America

The Getty’s new project underscores L.A. as the city for fresh perspectives on Latin American art

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This week the Getty in Los Angeles announced the theme of the next iteration of their Pacific Standard Time (PST) initiative: Los Angeles and Latin America (L.A./L.A.). According to the press release the project “will offer an in-depth exploration of the artistic connections between Los Angeles and Latin America, the relationships between Latin America and the rest of the world, the history of exchange among Latin American countries, and the Latin American diaspora.”

The Getty’s first PST initiative in 2011 — Art in L. A., 1945–1980 — was a massive event, with game-changing exhibitions all around Southern California. Even without having a Latin American theme two of the most interesting exhibitions in recent years on artists from the region came out of the first PST: “ASCO: Elite of the Obscure, 1972-1987” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on the Chicano performance and conceptual art collective and “MEX/LA: Mexican Modernism(s) in Los Angeles, 1930-1985” at the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach. Although the next PST does not happen until 2017, research for the exhibitions is already underway, the Getty announced.

This unprecedented effort on the West Coast stands in contrast with the tumultuous situation at New York City’s El Museo del Barrio. Recently, the former director of the institution Margarita Aguilar filed a legal complaint against the Museum citing gender discrimination and a hostile workplace, according to the “New York Times.” As that legal battle ensues, star curator Chus Martínez arrives from Documenta 13 to El Museo as the new chief curator. Some negative press has surrounded Martínez recently as she was quoted in a Spanish-language blog referring to the visitors of the Harlem institution as “esa gente” (those people). The institution has been around since the 1960s and was largely an effort of the city’s Puerto Rican community. Arlene Davila, a professor of anthropology at New York University, told the “Times” that the current administration is interested in upscaling the institution. El Museo is the place in New York City that claims to be the hub for Caribbean, Latino, and Latin American art — a sizable responsibility. It’s aided by the Bronx Museum of Art and MoMa’s considerable archive of Latin American art.

But only time will reveal the direction the administration is seeking to steer the NYC institution in. Martínez, who has worked at major institutions around the world, might just provide a refreshing perspective as curator. But in the meantime, let’s cherish the news of  L.A./L.A. and hope that the rigorous research over the coming years furthers (and complicates) the discourse on Latin American art.

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