Monday, June 19, 2017

LACMA’s Innovative and Powerful “HOME” Exhibit Breaks Boundaries and Hearts

“The House America Built”
By Daniel Joseph Martinez

I recently had the opportunity as a member of the press (on behalf of La Bloga) to attend a preview of a truly innovative and powerful new art exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) titled, “HOME — So Different, So Appealing.”

This exhibition was organized by the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, LACMA, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. It is part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, which is certainly, to use the words of LACMA, “a far reaching and ambitious exploration of Latin America and Latino art in dialogue with Los Angeles.”

From left to right:
Mari Carmen Ramírez (Latin American Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston);
Chon A. Noriega (UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center);
Pilar Tompkins Rivas (Vincent Price Art Museum, East Los Angeles College)

This is LACMA’s official description of this new installation:

“Organized in collaboration with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, HOME — So Different, So Appealing features U.S. Latino and Latin American artists from the late 1950s to the present who have used the deceptively simple idea of 'home' as a powerful lens through which to view the profound socioeconomic and political transformations in the hemisphere. Spanning seven decades and covering art styles from Pop Art and Conceptualism to ‘anarchitecture’ and ‘autoconstrucción,’ the artists featured in this show explore one of the most basic social concepts by which individuals, families, nations, and regions understand themselves in relation to others. In the process, their work also offers an alternative narrative of postwar and contemporary art.”

The exhibit includes over 100 works by well-established artists such as Salomón Huerta, Doris Salcedo, and Guillermo Kuitca. It also includes younger emerging artists such as Carmen Argote and Camilo Ontiveros.

I am not an art critic and I certainly do not have the appropriate vocabulary and experience to adequately review this exhibit in the manner that Carolina A. Miranda of the Los Angeles Times did in this recent review. All I can offer are a few thoughts as someone who grew up in a household that appreciated and honored Latinx art.

As I walked from room to room and spent time with the various works, I found myself feeling quite moved. One of the aspects I found so compelling was the artists’ use of everyday images and structures to express an ambivalent connection to what we call “home.” This ambivalence arises from the often heartbreaking and perhaps irreconcilable circumstances created by the crucibles of poverty, bigotry and/or the Latinx diaspora. Here are some of the works that I saw:

“Untitled” (North)
By Felix Gonzalez-Torres

“Temporary Storage: The Belongings of Juan Manuel Montes”
By Camilo Ontiveros

“Untitled House”
By Salomón Huerta

Photograph of one of the exhibit rooms.

Buenos Aires Polyptych
By Juliana Laffitte and Manuel Mendanha

Juanito Goes to the City
By Anonio Berni

I had the opportunity to speak with one of the artists, Carmen Argote (pictured immediately below), whose work is titled “720 Sq. Ft. Household Mutations” and consists of the actual carpet torn from her childhood home. It contains every mark and stain that is part of her family’s story and history. Of course, her family’s collective lives amount to more than this bit of carpet, but it was the stage for her family’s struggles as well as joyous occasions. She marveled at how small it looked as displayed in the gallery space.

In any event, I strongly commend this innovative and powerful exhibit to you. The few photographs I share here cannot fully capture the depth, intelligence, and heart that you will experience in person. The exhibit started its run on June 11 and will continue to October 15, 2017.

For further information on this and other LACMA exhibits, please visit LACMA's website. LACMA is located at 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036.

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