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Latin American and Latinx Art is celebrated across Southern California with the Getty-funded initiative Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA. Catch a glimpse of as much of the art, artists, experiences, and tacos as we could pack into three days. Thanks to LA Promise Fund for supporting this episode of the Art Assignment.

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[music] Thank you to LA Promise Fund for supporting this episode of "The Art Assignment." We've been to Los Angeles before interviewing artists, hanging out in geodesic dome, seeing are at our favorite museums, eating ramen, sitting in traffic. But this time, we're back with a specific focus in mind, not to see the LA we already know, but to see the LA we should know, the one that's been hiding in plain sight.

The one that hasn't been hiding at all, in fact, but that recent efforts have made much harder to overlook. We came straight from the airport to the Craft and Folk Art Museum, whose facade is the site of a project by LA-base artist Shrine. Inside, they're hosting an exhibition about the US-Mexico border, and right away we see Armando Muñoz Garcia's plaster model of the five-story cement sculpture that he built and also lived in in his Tijuana neighborhood.

He constructed the figure to commemorate the city's 1989 centennial, her raised pinky finger pointing out where you can find it on a map of Mexico. The show includes the work of artists from many disciplines, like industrial designer Jorge Diego Etienne's gun barrel pencil holders titled "Choose Your Bullets," GT Pellizzi and Ray Smith's collaborative painting made from earth and vegetation from the border region, Viviana Paredes' sculpture made from recycled Petron tequila bottles, and Haydee Alonso's jewelry series, "Interacting," which requires two people to activate and relates to the border as a similar point of connection between two cities. Upstairs are two more floors of works that explore the border as a physical reality, a subject, and also a site for production and possibility.

There's Ana Serrano's "Cartonlandia," mimicking in miniature the rambling hilltop houses you can find in many cities, including Tijuana and LA. There's Adrian Esparza's deconstructed serape, whose threads have been carefully unraveled and pinned to the wall in a geometric design.

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There's also Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello's project, "Border Wall as Architecture, Proposals for Alternative and Playful Approaches to Border Wall Design," presented through a series of prints and models. A teeter totter, a xylophone wall.

They've also made a border wall board game. This exhibition is just one site of a sprawling initiative led by the Getty Foundation called Pacific Standard Time LA LA that is exploring Latin American and Latinx art in dialogue with Los Angeles and much of Southern California. In this show, fluidity between geographies and cultures and economies is very clearly on display, especially in the work of "Cognate Collective," led by Amy Sanchez and Misael Diaz, who we were lucky to have with us to tell us about their work, the first of which is titled "Transborder Trajectories," or in Spanish- trayectorias transfronterizas.

And its a work that we began in around 2010 when we were working inside at a craft market that is located right at the crossing between San Diego and Tijuana in the San Ysidro Port of Entry in a market called "Del Mercado de Artesanias de la Linea." They have all these very attractive, interesting objects that are sold there, but you're told as a child to never look at them because if you do, then the vendor is going to come over and try to aggressively sell you this thing. And since you're moving so slowly, it's going to just be a very long awkward exchange. In "Transborder Trajectories," we try to map these flows and these movements of these objects and how those flows and movements speak to the kind of particularities of economic and social and cultural exchanges that are happening and taking place across the border.

And with la tele, with the reform project, we took it upon ourselves to try to establish a dialogue with the people that actually made these to begin to try to imagine what it would mean to actually craft a souvenir of Tijuana as a city.

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And that took the form of a television because Tijuana wasn't till recently, if not still is, the world capital of television production.

So there's more televisions manufactured in the city than anywhere else in the world, and a lot of this production is taking place in fabricatoras, which are large factories. And a lot of these factories then start to shape how it is that the city develops.

It starts to shape labor conditions also within the city, and a lot of economics of just communities throughout the city. So we decided to think about the subject of a television as an object that would speak to those kinds of economic conditions, but also to the fact that it is through television precisely that a lot of these images and the filtering that begin to shape what piggy banks are made and sold to tourists. We said goodbye to Amy and Misael and headed to Guisados, where Jesus made us think the tacos might be free.

They were in fact about $3 a piece, but super delicious and worth every penny. Right around the corner is West Hollywood Park, where we came across Jose Davilla's work, "Sense of Place," commissioned by Los Angeles Nomadic Division. The Guadalajara-based artist's six ton concrete sculpture is comprised of 40 unique forms, which over the course of nine months will be disassembled with pieces migrating to different sites around the city and eventually reassembled in May 2018.

Right across the street is Mocha Pacific Design Center, where you can see one location of the exhibition "Access Mundo, Queer Networks in Chicano, LA," organized by One National Gay and Lesbian Archives at the USC libraries. It begins by introducing us to Mundo Meza, an artist who made large paintings and window displays, collaborated with many, and insanely doesn't even have a Wikipedia page. The curators have assembled and shared with us a trove of artwork and ephemera that maps a network of queer Chicano artists from the late 1960s to the early '90s, including better known artists like the group Asco, a selection of whose "No Movie Mail Art Postcards" are on display, full film stills from non-existent movies, noting the absence of Chicana representation in popular culture.

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Many of the artists were affected by the AIDS crisis, and a number of them passed away from related causes, including Ray Navarro, who had his friend Zoe Leonard fabricate this work for him during the last months of his life. Blind and deaf from AIDS-related meningitis, Navarro paired photos of the devices he used to get around with sexually suggestive signs in the style of those used in hospitals.

Here we see a collision of movements. Chicano civil rights, gay liberation, feminism, AIDS activism, and how they unfolded through art, fashion, print media, and punk all between friends and collaborators here in LA. Then we journeyed up a hilltop in Santa Monica to enter another dimension, or what is popularly known as the Getty Center, the majestic travertine-clad Richard Meier design complex that is hosting not one, but four exhibitions for Pacific Standard Time LA LA.

Each is impressive, but we can't show you all of them, so why don't we just objectively focus on my personal favorite? "Making Art Concrete" is a window into the strategies and materials of artists associated with the concrete art movement that evolved in Argentina and Brazil from the mid-1940s to the early '60s. Artists whose work you see here consciously rejected the ubiquitous rectangular frame, thinking it a division between art and everything around it, and creating irregularly cut panels and single planes that sit just off the wall. They also experimented with commercial and industrial paints, and materials, and techniques, trying to minimize the presence of their own hands and create something so geometric and so precise that it forms its own concrete reality.

And we couldn't go up to the Getty and not take a stroll around the Robert Irwin designed Central Garden, whose path switched us back and forth past fantastical bougainvillea arbors to a pool with a floating maze of azaleas.

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You also can't leave without appreciating the view looking out over the west side of LA, and getting your head around what would be a painful commute to our hotel downtown.

We started our next day at the Central Library Downtown, a splendid 1927 art deco building whose rotunda we had to ourselves for a few minutes before opening. There is much to take in, the original bronze zodiac chandelier, the decorative motifs painted on the concrete walls, and a mural cycle on the upper walls by Dean Cornwell depicting scenes from California history.

But the 1930s murals showing a largely one-sided whitewashed tale of colonialism pale literally and figuratively next to a new installation by Artists Collective Tlacolulokos. It's part of an exhibition and programs celebrating the Zapotec language, the most widely spoken indigenous language in Mexico's southern state of Oaxaca, where the artists are from. There's a large Oaxacan population in LA, and much cultural exchange between the two places, which is presented to us through the characters that populate this vivid installation.

It's a contemporary history that shows the complexity of cultural identity, told by artists attuned to its nuances and contingencies. It's scheduled to come down early next year, but it really should stay. From there, it was a short drive to Los Angeles Plaza Park, where the city was founded, and which served as the center of the city under Spanish, Mexican, and then US rule.

Community altars were being set up for a Dia de Los Muertos or Day of the Dead festival, held by the Olvera Street merchants and El Pueblo Historical Monument. Nearby is LA Plaza de Cultura y Artists, a center that celebrates the enduring and evolving influence of Mexican and Mexican-American culture in the region. They do this year round through programming and exhibits, one of which is their current show associated with Pacific Standard Time, "Murales Rebedes, LA Chicana and Chicano Murals Under Siege," made in collaboration with the California Historical Society.

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Rigorously researched, the exhibition shares the sketches and source photos and stories behind Chicana and Chicano murals produced in the LA area between the '70s and the '90s that all have been contested, challenged, censored, or destroyed.

Here you can see the Polaroid of Barbara Carrasco's sister, upon which she based the central character of her 1981 mural and learn about how it was commissioned and approved by the city's community redevelopment agency, but was canceled before it could be exhibited because along with positive images, it included depictions of negative incidents experienced by communities of color. You can, and I did, spend a long time poring over each case study and gain a renewed appreciation for the deep research and commitment behind each of these murals, and also a renewed disgust for the way many of them were disrespected and destroyed.

On a bright note, Carrasco's mural was recently installed for a stint in LA's Union Station, and hopefully will find a more permanent public home in short order. We refueled at Sonora Town, a tiny spot serving Northern Mexican style tacos made with fresh flour tortillas. I could have eaten twelve, but that would have compromised our ability to continue onto our next stop, the brand new Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

Here we took in their fantastic Martin Ramirez exhibition, the first solo presentation of his work in Southern California, despite his self-taught artist acclaim and his having lived in the state from the 1920s till his death in 1962. Mexican-born Ramirez was diagnosed with schizophrenia and spent most of his life in state hospitals, where he produced a huge body of work, drawings and collages made with found paper, and pencil, crayon, and matchsticks, grouped to demonstrate the kinds of mark making and pattern and iconography that he visited again and again through his work. In the ICA LA shop, Christina Kim and Dosa Mercantile have created an utterly beautiful and immersive retail space where the environment and clothing and products are inspired by the color palette and textures of Ramirez's work.

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Next, we entered a completely different kind of immersive experience at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA.

For your reference, this warehouse space has looked like this and like this for previous shows. But for Argentine artist Adrian Villar Rojas' installation, "The Theater of Disappearance," it has been darkened and transformed, and it takes your eyes and your camera a while to adjust.

In this landscape he's created, I'm not sure if I'm in the past, the future, or some kind of alternate present, but I navigate around boulders and columns made up of layers of concrete and synthetic amber, and encounter brightly lit refrigerated cases. Within these, you see carefully composed still lifes of things organic and inorganic, slowly decomposing meat and vases in one, internal organs, and fish, and branches, and shells, and another. These displays are at once revolting and spellbinding, blurring the distinction between living and non-living, man-made, and natural.

What's the difference between an old tennis shoe, and a giant crab shell, or a human skull? We're all just a bunch of slowly decomposing matter, and all roads lead but to the grave. So as we mentioned, our trip coincided with Day of the Dead celebrations and events around the city.

Self Help Graphics and Art has been organizing their East LA Dia de Los Muertos public ritual since 1972. And their current exhibition features three newly commissioned ofrendas, representing past, present, and future and chronicles the evolution of Self Help's commemoration over the decades through prints, objects, and ephemera. Each year, Self Help produces a commemorative limited edition print, which you see on display here, including this one from 2014 by Luis Genaro Garcia.

Luis is a talented artist and generous educator, whom we decided to track down and met up with him at South Park in South Central Los Angeles, vey close to where he grew up.

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He's an art teacher at his alma mater, Thomas Jefferson High School.

And today, he's setting up an ofrenda at the Day of the Dead festival sponsored by Council District Nine, to which his students will later be contributing show box altars they've made. We asked him if he might give us a kind of map for how we might think about the celebration, and the traditions and histories he's engaging with.

I think there's a misconception that Dia de Los Muertos is related to death worshipping, and it's not. Right? It's really again a historical tradition that has developed from two cultures, and it's honoring the dead because it's through the knowledge of our ancestors that we maintain our own history, right, and we develop who we are and who we are now.

By knowing our past, although people are no longer with us, that does not mean we can't celebrate and appreciate their lives. Right? You know, we live with that understanding that on Dia de Los Muertos, which is November 2nd, the spirits come back for one day to be amongst us in the living world.

And so we need to take advantage of that one day and set up their altars. They need to see themselves with the favorite thing that they like doing. And really, it's a time for family to rejoice that life, and it's a time to celebrate.

It's not really a time to mourn. We mourn when people pass on, but we need to heal ourselves by celebrating their lives. The next morning, before the museums opened, we took a walk around Echo Park and contemplated all of the Pacific Standard Time in LA LA shows and events that we were not going to have time to see.

There are offerings in Pasadena, and Pomona, and Palm Springs, and Torrance, and San Diego, not to mention all of the associated public programs, and workshops, and educator resources.

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This is a city where, because of traffic, it's hard to get to more than a couple places a day.

But then I realized that's exactly why this initiative has to be so widespread. You don't have to get yourself to everything, but with this scattershot method, there's a greater chance one of these shows will get to you.

I'm gonna densely compact our final day because there's no way I can do justice to the breadth of scholarship, and expertise, and craftsmanship, and accomplishment that we witnessed. We traversed the New Public Artwork by Veenezuelan artist Carlos Cruz-Diez vibrantly painted cross-walk designs at the intersection of Grand Avenue and West Second Street. At Mocha Grand Avenue just down the street, we reveled in the cleverness and tactile pleasure of Brazilian artist Ana Maria Maolino's diverse artworks in her first major US museum retrospective.

At Little Damage, we stopped for soft serve, one of which was gray, but tasted like pumpkin pie, and another that had eyes. We ventured back to the West Side and spent hours within the Hammer Museum's landmark exhibition "Radical Women, Latin American Art from 1960 to 1985." It floored me with the volume and depth of what it had to share about artists whose work has long been under acknowledged and insufficiently praised. We scooted back downtown and dropped by Self Help again to peek at their afternoon community art workshops.

Preparations were well underway for Noche de Ofrenda, which kicks off the downtown Dia de Los Muertos observance. Local artists and community members and volunteers gather here to fold paper flowers, paint masks, and build and paint paper mache constructions for that evening's event and the ongoing festival that follows. Self Help Graphics and Art co-presents this downtown observance with Grand Park, where we ended our day.

It's here that we see the remarkable output of that afternoon's workshop, synthesized into this stunning ofrenda, along with many others made by individuals and community groups, honoring and evoking memories of those who have passed.

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The event also featured a ceremonial invocation, led by local indigenous community, along with traditional dance and prayer, and later performances by LA based poets and musicians.

It seems appropriate that we end our trip with an event that is not all associated with Pacific Standard Time. What we're experiencing here happens annually.

The locations and artists and participants might change, but what we're witnessing is a tradition that has been and will continue to be an integral part of the culture of Los Angeles. I guess the one difference is that we're here. Pacific Standard Time didn't produce this event, but it led me here and encouraged me to follow a trail to experiences I'd likely have missed.

Because Pacific Standard Time LA LA doesn't really change anything. It's highlighting artists and movements and histories and traditions that were already there, many of which are already acknowledged and respected, at least in other places or at other times. But Latin American and Latinx art had been largely overlooked here by much of the population and by many of the establishments currently hosting exhibitions and events.

Over 40% of the population of LA county is Latinx, and it's undeniable that the economy and culture here is very much informed by the exchange between the US and Latin America. It would be absurd if the cultural institutions didn't reflect this and reflect upon it. There are no guarantees this attention will persist.

And it's impossible, really, to gauge the impact of an initiative like this one. Perhaps some of these places will offer wall text in Spanish for every exhibition going forward, a rational decision since over 40% of the population speaks Spanish. Perhaps, having seen your culture represented in such a prominent way, you'll be more likely to tell your own stories and present and promote your own work.

Perhaps you'll be more likely to seek out Latin American and Latinx art when it is on offer, or maybe you'll write a paper about someone you saw represented here, or create a Wikipedia page for Mundo Meza. Maybe you'll think about the voices and histories not represented in your town, and maybe you'll do something about it.

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Thank you to LA Promise Fund for supporting this episode of "The Art Assignment." LA Promise Fund helps students across LA County through its portfolio of educational programs, including their Arts Matter Program.

With lead support from the Getty Foundation and additional support from Sony Pictures Entertainment, the LA Promise Fund worked with LA Unified School District to present the Pacific Standard Time LA LA Education program, offering arts integration workshops for teachers, sponsoring field trips, classroom art making grants, and a county wise student arts contest. [music]