Rewriting history: two surveys of Latin American art

“The Arts in Latin America: 1492-1820,” curated by Ilona Katzew. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA. Through Oct. 28

“La Presencia: Latin American Art in the United States,” Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach, CA. through Aug. 25.

Lots of saints, lots of blood, lots of gold is Holly Myers’ admittedly naive assessment in LA Weekly of “The Arts in Latin America: 1492-1820.” As for the paintings, she reports: “Among the many peculiar treasures in the Latin American show is a series of works known as casta paintings: domestic scenes depicting multiracial families in various, systematized equations (Spaniard + Indian, mestizo + black, black + Indian, Spaniard + mulatto, etc.). Developed in the late 18th century in the region known as New Spain (Mexico and Central America), the genre reflects an aspect of colonialism generally overshadowed by its spectacular violence: the profound social and cultural complexity precipitated by the entanglement of individual lives, and the challenge this complexity posed to prevailing notions of order, virtue and power. The paintings speak to a sort of confusion � a desire to get a handle on just what this new society is going to look like � but with none of the panic and paranoia that tend to characterize later Anglo-American depictions of cultural difference. In fact, they�re kind of sweet, filled with flirting glances and tender parental caresses.” Read more.

Christopher Knight reports in the Los Angeles Times: ” ‘The Arts in Latin America: 1492-1820,’ which opens at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on Sunday, is an exhibition destined to change a lot of minds. That’s another way of saying it’s a landmark. There’s been nothing quite like it before. A mesmerizing survey focused exclusively on the painting, sculpture and decorative arts of the viceroyalties of New Spain and Peru, as well as Portugal’s colony in Brazil, it’s easily the most important exhibition in Los Angeles this year.”Read more.

Christopher Knight reported in July in the Los Angeles Times: “When an art museum opens a new or expanded building, as the Museum of Latin American Art recently did in Long Beach, a dilemma arises for the curatorial staff: Should the opening feature a special exhibition?…Museum of Latin Amercian Art has a large selection of the permanent collection on view, but the museum also opted to go with an exhibition — ‘La Presencia: Latin American Art in the United States’ — showing admirable spunk. As the title implies, the work of contemporary Latin American artists is already “present” in U.S. collections, public and private, as well as in galleries. Seventy-five works by 48 artists have been assembled for the exhibition, which is a resourceful way of saying that the newly expanded MOLAA is joining hands with larger cultural developments elsewhere.” Read more.

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