And if the timing is right, that’s semi-accidental. The event, called “Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA,” is the latest of three successive multi-venue extravaganzas in and around this city, spaced several years apart, and bankrolled by the Getty Foundation. The first was an overview of art in Southern California from 1945 to 1980; the second was devoted to architecture and design. The current edition is more tightly focused: on the long, mutually formative cultural exchange between Latin America and the Los Angeles region, considered through exhibitions at some 70 institutions, large and small.
The theme is inherently loaded. Latin American art has had shamefully little museum attention in a county that is, statistically, nearly 40 percent Spanish-speaking. So “LA/LA” is definitely a catch-up gesture. And when research began on the project several years ago, few participants could have anticipated the anti-immigrant, and specifically anti-Mexican sentiment of the next administration, summed up by the recent suspension of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program by President Trump and in the persistently circulated “Build the Wall” meme of the election campaign.
One “LA/LA” exhibition, “The U.S.-Mexico Border: Place, Imagination, and Possibility,” at the Craft and Folk Art Museum, directly addresses the subject of a fraught boundary. Some of the work in the show is too soft and cute, but a few pieces obviously mean business. In a 1978 print by Rupert Garcia (reprinted in 2011), three thick strands of barbed wire silhouetted against a red ground frame the words “Cesen Deportación.” A 1988 poster by David Avalos, Louis Hock and Elizabeth Sisco combines a triptych of images of brown-skinned hands cleaning a dinner plate, and others handcuffed, with the words: “Welcome to America’s Finest Tourist Plantation.”