Tribute to Latino Art: Museums show their stuff in 'Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA' in San Diego and Southern California

In the fall of 2011, the Getty Trust in Los Angeles launched the first "Pacific Standard Time" initiative, inviting art institutions from San Diego to Santa Barbara to celebrate the mid-20th-century birth of the LA art scene with related exhibitions.

In 2013, the second PST iteration centered on modern architecture in Southern California. This year, recognizing that nearly half of LA's population has roots in Latin America, the third pays tribute to Latin American and Latino art with "PST: LA/LA." Now through January, more than 70 museums are presenting exhibitions, and once again, some of San Diego's finest are among them.

The Mingei International Museum in Balboa Park kicked things off Sept. 16 with "Art of the Americas," a display of pre-Columbian ceremonial and domestic objects from the permanent collection. There are about 150 pieces from Mexico and Peru on view, mostly small ones, but they call out for close attention, since some are quite wonderful. As executive director Rob Sidner told the opening night visitors, the Mingei has one of the most important collections of pre-Columbian art in the United States.

"It's a thrilling opportunity to be part of such a major project for Southern California," said chief curator Christine Hietbrink, who has been working on the exhibit for more than three years. "There's so much energy around this, and everyone's doing their own slice of the picture."

The Mingei is also offering a day-trip to LA's Getty Center on Oct. 7. "Their 'Ancient Americas' show is spectacular," Hietbrink said. "If people enjoy our show, they'll get their minds blown at the Getty. It's the Vermeer of pre-Columbian art!"

The next day, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) in collaboration with museums in Mexico City and Lima, Peru, opened "Memories of Underdevelopment," showcasing politically-themed artworks of Latin America from the 1960s through the 1980s. "With more than 400 works by 50 artists from eight different countries — there is so much to see in this show!" said Leah Straub, MCASD's communications manager.

In contrast to the small-is-beautiful Mingei exhibit, this one is big, bold and super-ambitious, featuring eye-catching multimedia, a tropical installation to stroll through, and even a few live species, all part of a movement combating the sweeping trend of mid-century Latin American modernism with some harsh looks at the real world of poverty, dictatorship and colonialist exploitation.

Here's a quote from one of the Latin American Liberation Philosophy Movement's founders, Argentine-Mexican author Enrique Dussel, from his "Philosophy of Liberation," written in 1977: "Our path is another one, because we have been and are the 'other face' of modernity."

Besides social commentary, there's plenty of color, humor and beauty in the MCASD show, which involved four curators and four years of preparation.

It's the kind of thing you may well want to see more than once.

You may also want to join the "Tropicalia" Exit Party on Oct. 26 for live music, DJs, tropical drinks and special performances. And keep an eye out for details on MCASD's Dec. 1 day-trip to Los Angeles to see more of LA/LA at LACMA and the Hammer Museum.

Other local participants in "PST: LA/LA" include the Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego Museum of Art and Oceanside Museum of Art.

All "PST: LA/LA" exhibits will be on view through January, at least. Check individual museum sites to learn more, or view the whole range of exhibitions listed on pacificstandardtime.org

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