MEX/LA: “Mexican” Modernism(s) in Los Angeles, 1930-1985

Nov. 2, 2011 / By

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 beginning October 2011 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 will explore 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.

MEX/LA: “Mexican” Modernism(s) in Los Angeles, 1930-1985 was organized by the Museum of Latin American Art and curated by Rubén Ortiz-Torres in association with Jesse Lerner and coordinated by MOLAA’s chief curator, Cecilia Fajardo-Hill with assistant curator Selene Preciado as project manager. The members of the research and curatorial advisory team are Mariana Botey, Harry Gamboa Jr., Renato González Mello, Anna Indych-López, Ana Elena Mallet, James Oles and Catha Paquette.

Pacific Standard Time is an initiative of the Getty. The presenting sponsor is Bank of America. The exhibition MEX/LA: “Mexican” Modernism(s) in Los Angeles, 1930-1985 is presented by The Getty Foundation, The Walt Disney Company, and Wells House Hospice. Additional support is provided by the Robert Gumbiner Foundation, Arts Council for Long Beach, City of Long Beach, Verizon Wireless, and MOLAA’s Annual Exhibition Fund.

Museum of Latin American Art 628 Alamitos Ave., Long Beach, Calif. 90802 Hours: Sun., Wed., Fri. and Sat., 11:00am — 5:00pm, Thurs., 11:00am – 9:00pm Admission: $9.00 General/ $6.00 Students (w/ID) and seniors (65+) Members and children under 12 FREE Free Admission on the third Sunday of every month sponsored by Target Info: (562) 437-1689 or

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