Amid the hubbub and bounty of the Getty Foundation’s Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA initiative is proyectosLA, a two-month long commercial art fair of remarkable quality, taste, and inspiration, which is housed in a converted downtown warehouse. Near the entry, a collection of small rooms radiating off communal office space serve as booths for 19 galleries from throughout Latin American and the U.S. that present select works by Latin American artists. The remainder of the 20,000 sq. ft. space is occupied by the exhibition Here the border is you, which is comprised of fascinating and distinguished work drawn from the 19 galleries. They are installed so as to elicit dialogues among the established and emerging, multigenerational artists represented. proyectos LA was conceived and organized by Patricia Fajer, Teresa Iturralde, and Tracy O’Brien; the communal and other spaces were stunningly configured and designed by Ezequiel Farca of the L.A., Mexico City, and Milan-based studio Ezequiel Farca + Cristina Grappin; and the exhibition was curated, with work from the galleries considered over the course of several months, by Luiza Teixeira de Freitas and Claudia Segura.
That the first of these curators was born in Brazil and lives in Lisbon and that the second was born in Spain and lives in Bogota is in keeping with the theme both of their exhibition and of the Getty initiative in general. While LA/LA, which encompasses over 70 exhibitions in institutions across Southern California, focuses upon Latin American art’s relationship specifically with Los Angeles, like the proyectos show its subject is the permeability of borders and the flow and exchange of people, culture, and ideas. Appearing in a period of heightened anti-immigration rhetoric and of our President’s insistence on a border wall, these exhibitions are timely indeed. In this context, the perforated walls employed in Farca’s interior design serve as the perfect metaphor.
A highlight among the works seen in Here the border is you is a room-scale installation of documentation surrounding Marta Minujin’s interactive performance piece Kidnapping, 1973, which was presented in the Summergarden of the Museum of Modern Art. The first page of the press release, which is illustrated and can be read below, attests to Minujin’s unrecognized status as a precursor of Participation Art (so-called “Relational Aesthetics”) of the 1990s. Minujin, who was born in Buenos Aires in 1941, garnered much attention for the reprise of her work Pantheon of Books, which was installed at Documenta 14 in Kassel, Germany, this past summer. A replica of the Pantheon originally erected in her native city in 1983 shortly after the return of democracy, the piece consisted of 20,000 books that had been banned and confiscated under the military dictatorship of 1976-1983. When it was taken down, the books–by Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, Jorge Luis Borges, Ernest Hemingway, and others–were distributed to the public and to libraries. (Minujin’s full-scale reconstruction of the Pantheon in Kassel in 2017 was erected on a Nazi book-burning site). Minujin, whose work is also seen in the Hammer Museum’s exhibition Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960-1985 as well as in other LA/LA shows, is just one of a near-countless number of Latin American artists whose contributions have been previously overlooked or undervalued.
Twenty years younger than Minujin is the Chilean artist Josefina Guilisasti (born 1963) who works in various media (among them, photography, video and installation), although it is her large-scale grisaille painting, Illegin Church (2015) that is seen here. A piece from her “Plunder Project Series,” which deals with art seized and destroyed during armed conflicts, it depicts the enormous cache of furniture, carpets, and art stolen by the Nazis that Allied forces found in this Baroque Bavarian church.
Twenty years younger still is Patricia Dominguez, born in 1984 in Santiago, Chile, who now lives in Brooklyn. She is represented by an installation comprised of three painted clay pots, cement blocks, starched executive shirts, and other materials, from her series “The Museum of the Shining Ceramics” (2017). The work is quirky and appealing, combining the human form with that of the urn, the stolid with the fragile, and Chilean ceramic traditions with corporate culture.
Among the many works worthy of note is the poetically otherworldly, brushy geometric abstraction by Tomie Ohtake, who was born in Japan in 1913, became a naturalized Brazilian citizen, and died at age 101, leaving behind her the Tomie Ohtake Institute in Sao Paolo, which was established in 2001. Horacio Zabala, an Argentinian artist born in 1943, is represented by a work that consists of a series of square monochromatic paintings in different colors arranged in a sequence akin to a complex mathematical equation (one of symmetrical balance and grace), a kind of Conceptual Art exercise that links painting with systems of logic and reason. Finally, a personal favorite is the untitled two-part construction consisting of a wall-piece and a freestanding element by Guatemalan artist Diana de Solares (b.1952). It features the perfect combination of the textured and smooth, the painted and unpainted, and the abstract and allusive (the forms suggesting a map, a mask, a totem, and more).
The hybrid format of proyectosLA as a small scale commercial art fair tied to an expansive, curated exhibition presents a winning, engaging formula that can well serve as a model for other fairs. It breaks from the monotony of the all-too-familiar art fair and offers a fresh approach, one that highlights notable works and artists, while calling attention to the galleries that show them. At the same time, in its focus on Latin American artists and galleries, proyectosLA, like the whole of the LA/LA initiative, defies walls and borders, expanding the richness of the cultural landscape.
The exhibition continues through October 28, 2017.