Contemporary Art

Three Curators Choose LA's Must-See Exhibitions

By Anny Shaw

Three of Los Angeles’ leading curators tell us about the exhibitions they have created for Pacific Standard Time LA/LA – and which of the 70 or so shows they are most looking forward to

MOCA Chief Curator Helen Molesworth. Image courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Photo: Myles Pettengill.

Chief Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and curator of Anna Maria Maiolino (on view until 31 December)

At 76 years old, the Italian-born Brazilian artist Anna Maria Maiolino is only now receiving her first major museum retrospective in the US, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. This comprehensive survey encompasses five decades of her work, from early woodcuts and performances to her later monumental installations in unfired clay. Co-curated by Helen Molesworth and Bryan Barcena, the exhibition reflects Maiolino’s continued search for identity throughout her life – as a migrant who left southern Italy as a girl, moving with her family to Venezuela in 1954 before settling in a then politically unstable Brazil in 1960, age 18.

Helen Molesworth, the chief curator of MOCA LA, says the time is ripe for a show on Maiolino, who has been the subject of numerous retrospectives in Brazil and Europe. “We have been raised with that horrible American exceptionalism; history has been written as a history of American centrality,” she says. “That narrative started to give way around 20 years ago; museums are now retelling that story.”

Installation view of Anna Maria Maiolino at MOCA Grand Avenue. Photo: Brian Forrest.

Among Maiolino’s best-known works is Glu Glu Glu (1966), a woodcut of an open-mouthed, red-lipped dismembered female figure, which is on show at MOCA. “Like many artists her concerns were clear at the beginning. She was interested in the mouth as this very interesting place in the body: it produces words, it eats and it’s a space of intimacy,” Molesworth says. “She’s a migrant, part of a mass of people who, after the Second World War, went in search of a better life. As a child in Italy she has strong memories of being hungry. Then she moves to Venezuela. This idea of the mother tongue, food and culture all rests in the mouth. That’s a continuum that plays out throughout her career.”

María Evelia Marmolejo, Anónimo I (Homenaje a los desaparecidos y torturados dentro de los hechos violentos) (Anonymous 1 [homage to those disappeared and tortured in violent incidents]) (1981). Courtesy of María E. Marmolejo and Promoteo Gallery di Ida Pisani, Milan. © María Evelia Marmolejo

Helen Molesworth’s pick of PST: Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960–1985, Hammer Museum

“Everybody is looking forward to Radical Women. All of us remain very interested in the history of these women artists who did not get their due. We are feverishly trying to address these absences.”

Photo © Museum Associates/LACMA

Curator of Contemporary Art at LACMA and curator of A Universal History of Infamy (on view until 19 February 2018)

A Universal History of Infamy, which takes its title from a collection of short stories by Jorge Luis Borges, features mostly new works by 16 Latino and Latin American artists. Many of the projects began during two-month residencies at 18th Street Arts Center in Santa Monica, one of the best artist residencies in Los Angeles. Curated by Rita Gonzalez and José Luis Blondet from LACMA and Pilar Tompkins Rivas, the director of Vincent Price Art Museum, the sprawling exhibition is installed across three venues: LACMA, 18th Street Arts Center and Charles White Elementary School. The aim is to challenge rigid notions of what constitutes Latin American art.

“We decided to focus on the practice-based aspect of our artists as during the planning stages of PST we heard there wasn’t going to be a platform for new work,” says Rita Gonzalez, the curator and acting head of contemporary art at LACMA. “We wanted to change that almost imperialist model of curating whereby you go around the world, picking the works you want to show. That would be too convenient.”

Gonzalez says Latino and Latin American art has been out of the spotlight in the West for a number of reasons. “There are very few experts in the US in modern and contemporary Latin American art, the market is still emerging and museums have been very slow to collect and contextualise this work,” she says. “One of the first places to engage with Latin American art in the US was Houston and Austin in Texas. New York and Miami followed. Given the demographic, it’s shocking that LA has been so slow. PST will be a massive wake-up and educational moment.”

Thomaz Farkas, Populares sobre cobertura do palácio do Congresso Nacional no dia da inauguração de Brasília (1960). Courtesy of Instituto Moreira Salles. © Thomaz Farkas/ Instituto Moreira Salles Collections.

Rita Gonzalez’s pick of PST: Memories of Underdevelopment: Art and the Decolonial Turn in Latin America, 1960–1985, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (17 September–21 January 2018)

“This show brings together aspects of Latin American history that haven’t been brought together before: film, activism and conceptual art. People in Latin America are going to think ‘Why didn't this happen here first?’”

Julio Le Parc, Cloison à lames réfléchissantes (1966/2005). Collection: Familie Le Parc, courtesy Galeria Nara Roesler. Photo by Zicarelli. © 2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Curator at The Broad and curator of Carlos Cruz-Diez's Couleur Additive

With the help of high school students from the nearby Ramon C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts, Carlos Cruz-Diez’s Couleur Additivehas been installed on four crosswalks outside The Broad. The colourful public art work has been commissioned by the museum in collaboration with the Cruz-Diez Art Foundation and is due to stay in situ for the next six months. Cruz-Diez, a pioneer of kinetic and optical art, was born in Venezuela and has lived and worked in Paris since the 1960s.

Rendering of Couleur Additive (2017). Courtesy of the Cruz-Diez Art Foundation.

“Arguably the two most famous Venezuelan artists in the US are Carlos Cruz-Diez and the local conductor Gustavo Dudamel, who came and painted with us on Saturday night,” says Ed Schad, the associate curator and publications manager at The Broad who oversaw the project. “It was important for us and the artist to get the community involved.”

Schad says the project has been in the pipeline ever since The Broad opened in 2015. “For the past 20 or 30 years Eli Broad has been an intense advocate of Grand Avenue, and so we wanted to do something that was literally outside of the box of the museum,” he says. “It’s been fun to watch people go out of their way to walk across all four sections.”

Ed Schad’s pick of PST: Kinesthesia: Latin American Kinetic Art, 1954–1969, Palm Springs Art Museum (until 15 January 2018)

“This show includes works by Carlos Cruz-Diez, as well as some of the greats such as Julio Le Parc and Jesús Rafael Soto. It is the expanded context for our piece.”

Chromosaturation, installation view from the exhibition Suprasensorial: Experiments in Light, Color, and Space, Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. Collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and Hirshhorn Museum of Sulpture Garden, Washington D.C. © Carlos Cruz-Diez, 2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.

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