The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center have joined forces to launch a Latino arts initiative. The collaborative effort capitalizes on the strengths of both institutions to create a greater understanding of Chicano and Latino arts and cultures for the wider public
The initiative starts with a five-year agreement between LACMA and the research center that includes development of exhibitions, publications, educational activities, research projects, art collections and community relations.
“We are taking a comprehensive and collaborative approach,” said LACMA president and director Andrea L. Rich.
As the premiere encyclopedic visual arts museum in the Western United States, LACMA is dedicated to presenting outstanding artwork from all time periods and cultures.
“LACMA is an institution that takes very seriously its role in a diverse community,” Rich said.
The initiative has been set in motion with the appointment of Chon Noriega, director of the center, as adjunct curator of Chicano and Latino Art in the Center for the Art of the Americas at LACMA.
Noriega has played a pivotal role nationally in scholarly research focused on Chicano-Latino visual and performing arts and artists. He has published numerous books and essays on the subject and has been active locally in establishing art partnerships with the Chicano-Latino community. Noriega serves on the Los Angeles Mayor’s Council for the Arts as well as an ad-hoc advisor for Latino arts organizations in Los Angeles.
“We look forward to the impact Dr. Noriega’s wealth of knowledge of both the community and the field of Chicano art will have at LACMA,” Rich said.
“What is most exciting about this initiative,” Noriega said, “is that it places Chicano-Latino art in an encyclopedic context of world art. LACMA’s Center for Art of the Americas provides a natural starting point to explore Chicano-Latino art within a hemispheric context that includes U.S. and Latin American art.”
Founded in 1969, UCLA’s Chicano Studies Research Center has become one of the leading research centers for Chicano and Latino art and culture. The center plays a critical role in the development of scholarly research and community partnerships with respect to the Chicano-Latino population now the largest minority in the United States and a group with disproportionately low levels of access to higher education. The center currently produces monograph series on important artists, as well as sponsoring summits, fellowships and residencies in the visual and performing arts. With the LACMA alliance, the center has established a broader platform to increase access to its innovative program.
Other arts-related projects at the center include:
The center, together with the UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History, curated the world’s first comprehensive museum exhibition on Mexican narrative songs known as “corridos” in June 1998. The center then joined the Smithsonian Institution and turned the “Corridos: Sin Fronteras” into a traveling exhibition beginning in 2002.
In 2000 the center received a $500,000 donation from Los Tigres Del Norte Foundation to establish at the center the largest public collection of Spanish-language folk music. Grammy award winners, Los Tigres Del Norte, and their record label, Fonovisa, established the foundation to foster a better understanding of Latino music, culture and history.
In collaboration with curators and scholars from across the nation, the center has launched “A Ver: Revisioning Art History,” a new book series on Chicano/Latino artists. Ten monographs have been commissioned for publication by 2007, each focusing on a different artist.
The center recently received a $124,000 grant from the J. Paul Getty Grant Program enabling it to conduct an in-depth survey of Latino arts and related materials in Los Angeles.
LACMA is building on its established Latin American Initiative by extending its programs and acquisitions to address the Chicano/Latino communities in Los Angeles.
“This alliance with the UCLA CSRC is part of a five-year plan to ensure that Chicano and Latino art play a consistent role in our encyclopedic program. It looks ahead to the next five years and beyond,” Rich said.
Seven years ago, LACMA announced the acquisition of the Bernard and Edith Lewin Collection of Mexican American Art. Since then, LACMA has worked strategically to develop a program that brings Latin American art to Los Angeles. Earlier steps in presenting a consolidated program include installations from LACMA’s permanent collection of pre-Columbian art and Latin-American Modernism, along with special exhibitions “Diego Rivera,” “Road to Aztlán: Art from a Mythic Homeland,” “Inventing Race: Casta Painting and 18th-Century Mexico” and the upcoming “Lords of Creation: The Origins of Sacred Maya Kingship.”
A staff comprising Virginia Fields, curator of pre-Columbian art; Ilona Katzew, associate curator of Latin American art; and Rita González, assistant curator, manages the collection and program under the umbrella of the Center for the Art of the Americas.
On the horizon
The Latin American and Latino arts initiatives include several efforts already underway:
In September 2005, LACMA will present “Lords of Creation: The Origins of Sacred Maya Kingship” organized by LACMA curator Fields. The exhibition explores the development of divine kings and their roles in the emergence of complex urban society 2,000 years ago in the Maya region.
LACMA continues to foster long-term planning relationships with the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, Mexico’s Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores and the Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes. Guided by these state agencies, LACMA has approached several public and private institutions in Mexico to form collaborative programs. In the near future, LACMA will host a group of Mexican museum officials at a Los Angeles seminar on exhibition development as well as send LACMA education and marketing staff to Mexico for consultation.
In 2008 LACMA will present “Remix: Today’s Chicano Art” organized by LACMA curators Noriega, González and Howard Fox. The exhibition and its catalogue will be co-produced by LACMA and UCLA’s Chicano Studies Research Center. “Remix” will comprise work by Chicano artists in all of today’s media, including painting, sculpture, installation, conceptual, video and performance art, as well as intermedia works that incorporate film, digital and sound art.
Working with LACMA curators, actor and collector Cheech Marin will lend highlights from his personal collection of Chicano art to a unique exhibition that will be part of a series of exhibitions of Chicano art at LACMA.
LACMA will continue its efforts with other local institutions that promote Latino and Latin American art. For example, LACMA has committed its resources and expertise to support La Plaza de Cultura y Arte, a Mexican American cultural center in downtown Los Angeles. Under the directorship of Jonathan Yorba, the cultural center is expected to open in 2007 and will include performance, gallery and entertainment space.