Last year, the Getty Museum kicked off a bold initiative intended to highlight the work of Latin American artists in Southern California. Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA is an ambitious project “exploring Latin American and Latino art in dialogue with Los Angeles,” as the website states. The collaborative effort involves dozens of galleries and museums across the Southland, but didn’t stop at the Los Angeles County border. The culmination of this work is the mass of exhibitions opening up on Sept. 15 — the traditional start of Hispanic Heritage Month — from San Diego to Santa Barbara, examining any and all aspects of this far-reaching subject, from pre-Hispanic times to today.
Ventura County, of course, has a rich and diverse Latin American culture of its own, and several local institutions are presenting exhibits in conjunction with this exciting endeavor. We highlight some of the shows that celebrate the creative dialogue taking place between artists and their roots south of the border.
LA/LAndscapes, Real and Imagined
Blackboard Gallery at Studio Channel Islands, through Nov. 18
2222 E. Ventura Blvd., Camarillo, 383-1368
As the premier art institution in Camarillo, Studio Channel Islands was eager to participate in Pacific Standard Time (PST). But organizers knew they had to do something to stand out from the crowd. “Much of the LA/LA project was looking at political work or protest work,” says Executive Director Peter Tyas. “We were thinking that that’s been done, so we wanted to do something different. What connected [California and Latin America] together? The land is a shared space.”
With that in mind, SCI pursued a theme of landscape painting. “It was difficult to find Mexican landscape painters,” Tyas admits. But with some guidance from the Getty, he was able to identify prominent landscape artists south of the border, and opened LA/LAndscapes, Real and Imagined on Sept. 15 with José Castelao, Porfirio Gutiérrez and Manuela Generali. Local artists Linda Vallejo and Fernanda Uski are included as well. “There’s a theme here that comes from the land; it’s about movement and connectivity,” Tyas explains.
Locals might remember Gutiérrez from his summer residency at CAM Studio Gallery at the Carnegie Art Museum, where he offered workshops in traditional Zapotec weaving. Fabric art may not at first glance seem suitable for a landscape painting exhibit, but Tyas sees where the strands come together. “Porfirio’s dyes are harvested and processed in Mexico and shipped here,” he notes. “The artwork is literally from the land itself.”
In conjunction with LA/LAndscapes, SCI will hold several events exploring Latin American art and influences. Professor Begoña Zorrilla will offer workshops on Frida Kahlo, Remedios Varo and the Virgin of Guadalupe. Bill Kelley Jr. will speak about contemporary Latin American art, the migratory experience of arts and crafts, and the vehicle SEFT (Sonda de Exploración Ferroviaria Tripulada), which is used to explore Mexico’s abandoned railroads.
Tyas is also excited about the upcoming high school education project to be done in conjunction with the California Arts Council, and a partnership with an art institution in Tijuana. He notes that this is still “an emerging relationship,” but imagines good things to come from it.
While SCI isn’t officially on the Getty Museum’s list of participating institutions, it is considered an affiliate, and the Los Angeles institution has been instrumental in helping SCI establish contacts with important artists and museums. “This is where our growth will come from — getting behind big organizations doing something and then enhancing it,” Tyas says. “We can achieve way more if we work together.”
The Latino Museum of History, Art and Culture (1995-2000) Revisited
California State University, Channel Islands, through Nov. 17
One University Drive, Camarillo, 437-2772 or art.csuci.edu
While some galleries and museums in Ventura County have benefited from the guidance provided by the Getty Museum, CSUCI is one of the few local organizations to be officially associated (i.e., appearing on the website as a “participating institution”) with the PST initiative. Professor Denise Lugo, an art history lecturer at CSUCI, might have something to do with that. She was the founding director of the Latino Museum of History, Art and Culture in downtown Los Angeles until 2000, which at the time was the first museum of its kind in the U.S. (The museum eventually closed due to funding issues, leaving most of its holdings to the Center for Latino Arts at UCLA.)
The artists featured in the exhibit — Oscar Castillo, Leo Limón and Vibiana Aparicio-Chamberlin — helped define an entire movement, and all worked in conjuction with the Latino Museum. “They really are the epitome of the classical Chicana/o artist who will be remembered for their aesthetic and activism,” Lugo stated in a press release, “and for securing their place in American art history.”
Castillo’s photography documented the Chicano civil rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s. “He’s the father of Chicano photography,” Lugo says. “There’s no one that’s more respected.” Limón’s work melds ancient Mesoamerican and contemporary aesthetics. The work of Aparicio-Chamberlin, the daughter of a Yaqui storyteller and a Mexican Indian, is driven by the spiritual and poetic. She tends to feature women, family and Mexican iconography, with poetry often integrated into her visual art. Lugo values that she “brings a different, feminine perspective” to the exhibit, which will be on display at the Napa Gallery.
The John Spoor Broome Library Gallery will showcase Havana-born artist Paul Sierra, whose tropical palette and Caribbean-inspired visuals create what the Smithsonian Museum refers to as a “cultural corridor” between his Cuban heritage and the United States, where he has lived since he was 16. Sierra is from Chicago, not L.A., but he was the first major artist shown at the Latino Museum, which is why Lugo chose to feature him in the retrospective. Also on display will be archival materials from John Spoor Broome Library Unique Collections. Like SCI, CSUCI will offer lectures, events and special programming throughout the exhibit’s run. (Be sure to check out the website for a full schedule.)
There is a strong community component associated with The Latino Museum of History. Reiter Affiliated Companies, one of the largest berry growers in the area, helped fund the show, and encouraged Driscoll’s to donate as well. The company also brought in several employees (including farmworkers) to attend the opening reception. “It was so unique,” Lugo says. “We all talk about doing that . . . but to actually bring them in? That was amazing.”
“It was this idea of bringing the community together,” Lugo continues. “It was looking at our constituency and towards the future, and having hope.”
Latino Visions in Oxnard 2017
DNTN Gallery, through Oct. 30
519 S. C St., Oxnard
Former Social Security Building, through Oct. 30.
424 S. B St., Oxnard
Note: This story has been edited to correct an error regarding the La Colonia Neighborhood Youth Mural Project. See end of article for details.
Two spaces in downtown Oxnard — the DNTN Gallery on C Street and the former Social Security building on B Street — have been commandeered to house over 200 works of art from the collection of Armando Vazquez and Debbie DeVries, founders of Café on A/Acuña Gallery and Cultural Center. Works by recognized masters of Chicano art — Frank Martinez, David Flury, Frank Romero and Carlos Almaraz — are displayed along with emerging artists, many hailing from Oxnard and other locations in Ventura County.
Exceptional works by artists that may not be household names in the larger art world include paintings by Felix Perez, who portrayed “gang life, but without its illusions,” Vazquez notes. Sculptor Francisco Magdaleno was a farmworker who didn’t take up ceramics until his 50s. Ruben Renteria features children in unsettling environments, juxtaposing their innocence with the unknown. One breathtaking piece comes from Angel Matadamas, whose large oil painting seems to embody many of the qualities Vazquez ascribes to Latin American art. “The Latino art movement is about self-determination and liberation with a bit of magical realism,” Vazquez explains. “If you can’t dream, you’re pretty stifled.”
A new generation of artists is celebrated in Latino Visions as well, including photographer Antonio Arredondo Juarez (a guest artist at Carnegie Art Museum last year) and abstract artist John Del Rosario. Just 26 years old, Del Rosario is quickly building a reputation as an organizer and advocate for the arts. “I’ve been helping to organize art shows,” he says, “trying to get the younger artists to come out and inspire them to interact.”
Community activism such as this is, in Vazquez’s opinion, a necessary component of art. “We believe that art serves a higher order in our community,” Vazquez says. “Art has to be part of that process that sustains healing.”
By placing Latino Visions in these pop-up gallery spaces downtown, Vazquez and DeVries hope to make the art more accessible to the residents of Oxnard. The opening reception was combined with a festival in Plaza Park, to generate excitement and encourage people who might never have set foot in a gallery to come see what they’re missing. “It’s a way for us to reach those not normally participating in art,” DeVries explains. “They’ll be exposed to the wealth of our cultural heritage.”
This story has been edited to correct an error that stated that Oxnard artist John Del Rosario was involved in the La Colonia Neighborhood Youth Mural Project. Del Rosario was a co-founder of the arts collective Save the Art Culture (S.T.A.C.), whose branch, S.T.A.C. Kids, was involved in the mentoring of youth who participated in the mural, but was not himself involved in the La Colonia project. The La Colonia Neighborhood Youth Mural Project is an initiative by the Oxnard Housing Authority Youth Art Program and Mural Project 2017, and City of Oxnard Housing Resident Services Coordinator Rose Banuelos.
Ayer y Todavía
Museum of Ventura County, through Nov. 26
100 E. Main St., Ventura, 653-0323 or venturamuseum.org
“I met with our Latino Advisory Committee and we decided that we needed to do something about local collectors and the art they collect from local and regional artists,” recalls Anna Ríos Bermúdez, curator of collections and exhibits at the Museum of Ventura County. “We needed to create an exhibit in conjunction with Pacific Standard Time because of the large number of Latinos/Chicanos that live in Ventura County and the fact that we had never done an exhibit on Chicano/a art in this museum. This is definitely an historical moment in this museum.”
The caliber of art on display is stunning. There are works from giants such as Frank Romero and Leo Limón, Asco art collective founders Harry Gamboa and Patssi Valdez and renowned Colombian journalist Ignacio Gómez — just to name a few. Contributors include Jaime and Mary Helen Casillas (Jaime is a retired dean of Oxnard College) and Ventura College history professor Tomás Sanchez. “Their collections are both extensive and include artists from the early days of the Chicano Movement and also more contemporary artists,” notes Bermúdez.
She says that the focus on collectors sets the museum’s exhibit apart from other local PST-related shows. “This group of exhibits is very different,” she explains. “Instead of grouping the art by collector or artist, I chose to group the art by theme.” Those include social and political activism, iconography, music and art of the lowrider, and barrio and community life. But the overarching theme, as Bermúdez explains, is “Ventura County collects Chicano art — and we asked the collectors why they collect. You’ll see their answers in the exhibit!”
Lectures related to the exhibit and the annual Día de los Muertos celebration — one of the most festive events of the year — are coming up, so be sure to explore the museum’s full schedule online.
ALSO CHECK OUT…
. . . these other shows in Ventura County that celebrate Latinx art, both classic and contemporary.
Carnegie Art Museum
Through Nov. 19
The Avalanche and The Silence, Linda Arreola’s exploration of duality and opposing positions; Collecting/California Latino Art, selected work from the Carnegie’s collection; and Hand Drawn: Art of Dave Velasquez (CAM Studio Gallery through Oc. 29).
424 S. C St., Oxnard, 385-8158 or www.carnegieam.org.
McNish Gallery at Oxnard College
Through Oct. 6.
TANKAH: De Las Tinieblas Hacia el Sol/From the Underworld to the Sun.
4000 S. Rose Ave., Oxnard, 678-5046.
NAMBA Arts Space
Through Nov. 5
AHORA, mixed media, hanging textiles and video by Chilean native Dominga Opazo.
47 S. Oak St., Ventura, 626-8876 or www.dabart.me.
Tool Room Gallery
Through Oct. 29
An installation by Maribel Hernandez, ArtWalk Ventura 2017’s Artist of Distinction
432 N. Ventura Ave, Ventura, bellartsfactory.org.
Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA
The official website for the Getty initiative, listing participating exhibits and venues across Southern California