Eliminating Borders

This coming September, Southern California welcomes an unprecedented exploration of Latin American art, giving due attention to complex cultures that have had, and will continue to have, an enormous influence on the region’s development and daily life. The title of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, which is supported by over $16 million in grants from the Getty foundation, reflects its collaborative nature; which acronym refers to Los Angeles – where the majority of activities take place – and which to Latin America, is unclear, and suggests a bilateral engagement that will leave communities richer on both sides of the border.

The project follows on from an earlier Pacific Standard Time event mounted by the Getty in 2011, Art in L.A 1945-1980. This time, the scope is considerably wider and, in spite of the project having been in development since 2013 and so not a consequence of current political events in US politics, also more pertinent. In a time of walls and closing borders, LA/LA breaks down barriers.

More than 70 cultural institutions in Southern California are involved from September until January, ranging from small community-based organisations to university art galleries, and some of the region’s – and the world’s – biggest museums, including the Getty.

One of the most important contributions that the collaboration offers to the art world is in recognising and highlighting the diversity of Latin American and Latino culture, which is often underrepresented and treated as a monolith in comparison to European and North American art in spite of its enormous diversity. Events and exhibitions cover art, architecture and design of all kinds, but also music, performance, and politics. Partnerships with the LA Philharmonic, in addition to a whole host of musicians, artists, and dance companies, sees a plethora of offerings exploring many aspects of Latin culture. In January, events are then rounded off with an 11-day performance art festival entitled Live Art: Latin America/Los Angeles, here unequivocally stating the cultural origin of its rich programme.

With such an extensive array of exhibitions, selecting highlights is a challenge. The majority of shows address contemporary art and culture through the varied lenses of identity, gender, politics, globalism, diaspora, and of course aesthetics; however, attention is also given to both modern and pre-modern art history, for instance in Golden Kingdoms: Luxury and Legacy in the Ancient Americas at the Getty Museum, which explores differences in values and culture through the concept of luxury as seen by pre-Columbian Americans, for whom the gold that so enticed European arrivals was of a different importance.

The enduring legacy of this wide-ranging and timely investigation will be in the scholarship it produces. Dozens of new catalogues draw on significant original research and provide important reference materials for future artists, academics, critics, and enthusiasts where few existed before.

Although it is important, now more than ever, to recognise the contributions of Latin American and Latino art and culture in North America, they must also be explored and celebrated on their own terms. Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA promises four months of exploration, celebration, and education – a set of practices whose value is borderless.

Ned Carter Miles

For more information: www.pacificstandardtime.org

1. Javier Calderon, Alejandro Paz, Migraciones (2009). Courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Santa Barbara.