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MEX/LA: Mexican modernism(s) in Los Angeles at the Museum of Latin American Art
Jesse Valadez Sr. (USA, 1946-2011), Gypsy Rose, c. 1970. Customized 1964 Chevy Impala. Collection of Jesse Valadez Jr. Image courtesy of Estevan Oriol.

LONG BEACH, CA.- MEX/LA: “Mexican” Modernism(s) in Los Angeles, 1930-1985 is part of Pacific Standard Time. This unprecedented collaboration, initiated by the Getty, brings together more than sixty cultural institutions from across Southern California for six months to tell the story of the birth of the LA art scene.

MEX/LA: “Mexican” Modernism(s) in Los Angeles, 1930-1985 focuses on the construction of different notions of “Mexicanidad” within modernist and contemporary art created in Los Angeles. The period from 1945 to 1985 is attributed as the time when Los Angeles consolidated itself as an important cultural center, however, this time frame excludes the controversial and important presence of the Mexican muralists and the production of other artists who were influenced by them and responded to their ideas. It is often perceived that Los Angeles’ Mexican culture is alien and comes from elsewhere when in fact it originated in the city—it was in Los Angeles and Southern California where José Vasconcelos, Ricardo Flores Magón, Octavio Paz and other intellectuals developed the idea of modern Mexico while Anglos and Chicanos were developing their own. This is the place where Siqueiros and Orozco made some of their first murals and Los Angeles is the capital of Chicano art.

These ideas and the iconography that resulted from them created a series of archetypes that often turned into stereotypes in popular culture, which throughout time have been contested, appropriated and reclaimed by the different inhabitants and cultural producers of the city. The purpose of this exhibition is not so much cultural affirmation and/or historical revisionism, but to understand how nationalism and internationalism are modernist constructions that are not necessarily exclusive but often complementary and fundamental in the formation of Mexican, American, Chicano art and the art of the city.

The exhibition’s historiography and non-linear narratives explores different media, points of view and notions of art and culture including murals, easel painting, photography, film, animation, cars, fashion, and performance art. Artists in the exhibition include Carlos Almaraz, Asco, Louis Carlos Bernal, Walt Disney Studio Artists, Charles and Ray Eames, Juan García Esquivel, Roberto Gil de Montes, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Graciela Iturbide, David Levine, Yolanda López, Mónica Mayer, Tina Modotti, José Clemente Orozco, Adolfo Patiño, Martín Ramírez, Alfredo Ramos Martínez, Millard Sheets, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Robert Stacy-Judd, John Valadez, Edward Weston and Max Yavno, among others. MEX/LA will be accompanied by a scholarly catalogue with black and white and color illustrations, published by Hatje Cantz Verlag.

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