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“Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA”

Anna Maria Maiolino, Por um fio (By a Thread), 1976, ink-jet print, 22 3/8 × 31 1/8". From “Anna Maria Maiolino,” Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

IN 2002, the Getty Foundation set out to invigorate the study of local artistic practices. The result: Pacific Standard Time, a multi-institutional initiative focused on the diversity of Los Angeles–based artmaking. Opening this fall, its third iteration, “Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA,” continues earlier efforts to “forge a critical regionalism sensitive to specific, local conditions,” as Julia Bryan-Wilson wrote in these pages in 2011. Yet it does so by embracing an explicitly international perspective. Key here is that “LA/LA” crosses borders to feature modern and contemporary art from Latin America, recruiting specialists who offer crucial historical knowledge, while at times pairing the region’s museums—and their indispensable collections—with California institutions. Against resurgent nationalisms across the globe and the refrain to “build that wall,” the initiative’s affirmation of intercultural dialogue and competing cultural histories is cast in sharp relief.

More than 130 exhibitions at museums, galleries, and cultural institutions will consider not only contemporary visual art but premodern histories, as well as fields such as music and performance. A multimedia, multivenue show organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, “A Universal History of Infamy,” borrows the title of Jorge Luis Borges’s seminal tome of experimental short stories, echoed in the exhibition’s elaboration of practices that draw from fields including anthropology and linguistics.The Hammer Museum’s “Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960–1985” straddles Latino and Latin American cultures, with works by more than one hundred women artists from fifteen countries. Other exhibitions focus on a region, as in “Relational Undercurrents: Contemporary Art of the Caribbean Archipelago” at the Museum of Latin American Art; on a medium, as with “Video Art in Latin America” at LAXART; or on an individual, as does the much-awaited survey of Brazilian artist Anna Maria Maiolino at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. “Kinesthesia: Latin American Kinetic Art, 1954–1969” at the Palm Springs Art Museum foregrounds the Argentinean and Venezuelan contexts in which the art of movement, both virtual and real, developed a robust visual language, rivaling that of contemporaries in Paris, while “Memories of Underdevelopment,” at San Diego’s Museum of Contemporary Art, traces the turn of some countries’ avant-gardes from geometric abstraction toward new, more politically engaged forms of art in the face of military dictatorship.

In its breadth and scope, “LA/LA” will introduce the rich differences in cultural production between Los Angeles and Latin America, as well as between numerous countries south of the US border. Perhaps most important, it stands to provincialize Euro-American narratives of modern and contemporary art. By focusing on specific histories—of subjects, mediums, and interdisciplinarity—it resists subsuming artistic practices from Latin America under any unified story of global art.

Kaira M. Cabañas