Category: Latino arts

Theater review: Culture Clash's 'American Night' at Kirk Douglas

March 12, 2012 | 11:57 am

American Night Photo 7
Speak softly and carry a big schtick: That’s the guiding principle of “American Night: The Ballad of Juan José,” Richard Montoya’s fast-paced fantasia on U.S. history, now running rampant at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. Developed in collaboration with Culture Clash, the gleeful “Night” uses sketch comedy, song and a dizzying number of wigs to survey the glories and pratfalls of the American Dream. 

Dream, as in emphasis on slumber. The night before taking his citizenship exam, an exhausted Juan José (René Millán, nicely understated) tries to wrap his head around constitutional amendments and the logic of the Spanish-American War. Dozing off, he takes a picaresque spin through two centuries of “democracy,” bumbling into the famous (Jackie Robinson), the infamous (the Ku Klux Klan) and the obscure (see below). Consider “Night” as revisionist vaudevillian history of the United States from a (Howard) Zinn-master. Bemused, sly and sometimes moving, the evening affirms that we the people are indeed free to pursue happiness, despite metered parking in Culver City until 11 p.m. 

Fluidly directed by Jo Bonney, who shares a development credit with Culture Clash, “Night” is nimblest when it exposes the strange bedfellows of the American project. Shawn Sagady’s projections slide along upstage corrugated panels, leaving the stage a free-for-all where, for instance, Sacagawea (Stephanie Beatriz) is imagined as a brainy Ugly Betty, wearing a retainer and in need of a quick trip to REI to procure appropriate footwear.  (Her response to her face on the dollar coin? “I look fat.”) 

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San Francisco's Mexican Museum joins Smithsonian network

January 31, 2012 |  6:30 pm

Viva Paredes' "My Pocha Tongues," part of the Mexican Museum’s current exhibition

The Mexican Museum in San Francisco might have to update its relationship status. The museum of Latino art and culture has joined the Smithsonian Institution’s Affiliations program, the nation’s largest museum network.

The partnership announced Tuesday allows the Mexican Museum access to the Smithsonian’s collection of more than 136 million artworks and artifacts. The Mexican Museum is the first San Francisco museum to become a Smithsonian affiliate.

“This collaborative partnership will allow San Franciscans to benefit from the Smithsonian’s unparalleled collections, ensures our museums reflect the rich tapestry that is American diversity, and recognizes the enormous contributions Mexican Americans have made to our nation,” Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) said in a statement.

Founded by San Francisco artist Peter Rodriguez in 1975 in the Mission District and now at Fort Mason Center, the Mexican Museum’s collection includes some 14,000 objects spanning more than 4,000 years of art history.

And more updates are in the works: The museum is planning to break ground next year on a new 40,000-square-foot facility near downtown San Francisco.

Though the Smithsonian designation for the Mexican Museum is San Francisco's first, a raft of Los Angeles-area institutions -- including the California Science Center, the Japanese American Museum and the beleaguered La Plaza de Cultura y Artes -- already have the relationship with the Smithsonian. Other Southern California Smithsonian affiliates include the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach.

Jonathan Yorba, the Mexican Museum’s chief executive, is chairman of Friends of the National Museum of the American Latino, a private, nonprofit group that's pushing for creation of a new museum on the National Mall that would be part of the Smithsonian. A bill before Congress would designate the Smithsonian’s now-vacant Arts and Industries Building as the Latino museum’s site and authorize planning to go forward.

Renovating and adding underground galleries to the historic structure would cost an estimated $402-million, to be split between private donations and federal outlays. A preliminary report on the project estimates annual operating costs of $47 million, with 40% to be federally funded.


Frank Gehry sketches out 'Don Giovanni' for L.A. Phil

Indianapolis art galleries reach out to Super Bowl fans

Violinist Lukas Kmit stylishly answers ringing cellphone problem

--Jamie Wetherbe

Photo: Viva Paredes' "My Pocha Tongues," part of the Mexican Museum’s current exhibition. Credit: Smeeta Mahanti

L.A. City Council terminates lease for Latino Theater Company

January 20, 2012 |  2:53 pm


The Los Angeles City Council voted this week to terminate the lease for the Latino Theater Company and the Latino Museum of History, Art and Culture at the downtown L.A. Theatre Center. The city owns the LATC, which is located on Spring Street, and has been leasing the premises to the two companies since 2006.

Both companies were given 45 days before they face eviction, according to council documents.

The council was able to terminate the agreement early on the grounds that the “quality or quantity of services” that the tenants offer fails to meet the expectations of the city, according to documents.

Councilmember Tony Cardenas presented the motion for termination at a council meeting. A representative in Cardenas' office said Friday that the theater company and museum failed to meet a number of fiscal, programmatic and maintenance goals set out in the their agreement with the city.

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PST, A to Z: ‘Art Along the Hyphen’ at the Autry

December 16, 2011 |  9:07 am

Pacific Standard Time will explore the origins of the Los Angeles art world through museum exhibitions throughout Southern California over the next six months. Times art reviewer Sharon Mizota has set the goal of seeing all of them. This is her latest report.

Domingo Ulloa, "Racism/Incident at Little Rock"
Chicano art has been defined as a mix of murals, posters, and graffiti that accompanied the rise of the corresponding political movements of the 1970s. At least that’s the stereotype lambasted by conceptual art collective Asco in their cheeky performances. But while Asco forecasted the future of Chicano art, the Pacific Standard Time exhibition at the Autry, “Art Along the Hyphen: The Mexican-American Generation,” looks at the work of six artists who were “Chicano” not only before it was cool, but before it existed.

Eduardo Carillo, Roberto Chavez, Dora de Larios, Domingo Ulloa, Alberto Valdés and Hernando G. Villa were part of a generation of Mexican American artists educated or working in Los Angeles during the post-WWII era. It is one of the failures (or perhaps just the slowness) of multiculturalism that most people haven’t heard of them. Perhaps because they worked in more traditional modes — painting, drawing, and sculpture — they were not taken up by the Chicano movement, even though they often dealt with similar themes of racism and cultural hybridity.

Still, even in their own time, they knew they were “uncool.” A poster for a 1964 exhibition at Ceeje Gallery, a space dedicated to then-unfashionable figurative art (and one of the few spots on La Cienega’s gallery row committed to the work of ethnic minorities and women), reads: “6 Painters of the Rear Guard.” And indeed, many of the works in the show seem to invoke the early 20th century more than the turbulent decades of the post-war era. The paintings of Villa in particular, who died in 1952 at age 71, hark back to the pastoral traditions of the late 19th century, depicting a mix of “Spanish” street scenes, dancing girls and stoic Native Americans. This is the stuff of kitsch and cliché nowadays, but Villa’s work does shed some light on the limited options available to an ambitious painter whom the press described as of “Spanish heritage.”

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PST, A to Z: 'Mapping Another L.A.,’ at Fowler Museum, ‘Mural Remix’ at LACMA

December 15, 2011 | 12:00 pm

Pacific Standard Time will explore the origins of the Los Angeles art world through museum exhibitions throughout Southern California over the next six months. Times art reviewer Sharon Mizota has set the goal of seeing all of them. This is her latest report.

At the entrance to “Mapping Another L.A.: The Chicano Art Movement” at the Fowler Museum, a sculpture of a Quetzalcoatl head meets a suit of Spanish armor…and Chicano culture is born. Of course it’s not that simple, but this meeting of the New World and the Old, the indigenous and the colonizer—and the variety of ways in which they collided, intermingled, and fused—is the origin of what we have come to think of as “Chicano” culture.

As if to drive this point home, behind this pair is the mural, “The Birth of Our Art,” from 1971 by Don Juan, a.k.a. Johnny D. Gonzalez. It depicts the conquistador Hernán Cortés and his native lover and interpreter Malinche with their arms outstretched, Michelangelo-style, toward a blaze of light. The piece once adorned the façade of the Goez Art Studios and Gallery, a community art center founded by Don Juan, José Luis Gonzalez, and David Botello in East Los Angeles in 1969. The neighborhood was a hot bed of the Chicano artistic movement in the 1970s, and “Mapping” features art works and ephemera associated with nine art centers or collaborative groups from that decade.

The other art spaces are Mechicano Art Center, Plaza de la Raza, Self Help Graphics & Art, Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC), and Centro de Arte Público/Public Art Center. These organizations combined exhibition opportunities with educational workshops and community engagement. The exhibition also focuses on three artist groups who created work collaboratively: Asco, Los Four, and Los Dos Streetscapers.

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LACMA curator Ilona Katzew helps museum bridge ancient, modern cultures

December 10, 2011 |  5:34 pm

Ilona Katzew

Ilona Katzew, the Mexico City-born overseer of LACMA's department of Latin American art, has illustrated through several exhibitions that ancient and contemporary art often are a lot closer in sensibility than the centuries separating them would suggest.

Her latest exhibition, "Contested Visions in the Spanish Colonial World," running through Jan. 29 at LACMA, is a case in point. Several of the show's 200 objects, representing the art of the Aztec and Inca empires as well as that produced under the Spanish viceroyalties, illustrates the cultural give-and-take that occurred between indigenous artisans and their colonial masters.

But as Times art critic Christopher Knight noted in his review of what he described as the "large and engrossing new show," a number of the exhibition's works reveal strange affinities between the strategies and concerns of ancient and modern art. 

That seems appropriate, given the desire of Michael Govan, LACMA's director, for the museum to treat pre-Columbian and colonial-era Latin American art as part of a broad continuum that extends to L.A.'s Chicano art movement and the work produced by contemporary Latino artists.

Read the full Sunday Calendar story here.


Its art is in the right place

The new Chicano movement

Art review: 'Contested Visions in the Spanish Colonial World,' LACMA

-- Reed Johnson 

Photo: LACMA curator Ilona Katzew, photographed with "Folding Screen With the Genealogy of the Incas" 1837, by Marcos Chillitupa Chavez, Cuzco, Peru, oil on canvas, in the exhibition "Contested Visions." Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times


Latino Theater Company's 'Virgen' may not play at L.A. cathedral [Updated]

November 21, 2011 | 10:00 am

La Virgen

Since 2002, the Latino Theater Company has offered a free holiday gift to the community: its annual production of the pageant "La Virgen de Guadalupe, Dios Inantzin" at Our Lady of the Angels cathedral in downtown Los Angeles. More than 7,000 people attended last year's production of the show, which celebrates the Mexican Roman Catholic story of how the Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego, an indigenous peasant, in 1531, in what was then colonial Spanish territory.

But this year a financial shortfall may require the company to break its tradition and cancel the production at the cathedral, José Luis Valenzuela, the company's artistic director and a UCLA theater professor, told Culture Monster this week. Despite vigorous fundraising efforts, Valenzuela said, the current economic downturn has made it difficult for the company to raise the necessary $50,000 to produce the free show Dec. 8 and 9 at the cathedral.

"I've been on the phone calling my friends saying, 'This is the time to help,' " Valenzuela said. "But I don't have 1,000 friends to give $50 each."

About 130 actors, dancers and musicians take part in the musical pageant. A handful are professionals, including Suzanna Guzman, an East L.A. native and internationally renowned mezzo-soprano, who performs the role of the Virgin, and Sal Lopez, a film and TV actor ("ER"), who plays Juan Diego. But the vast majority of performers are community volunteers, many of them Latinos, including some recent immigrants to the United States.

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L.A. Phil gears up for El Sistema-inspired symposium

November 9, 2011 |  5:00 pm

Gustavo Dudamel

While other U.S. symphony orchestras are struggling to stay solvent, the Los Angeles Philharmonic keeps adding activities to its already bulging datebook.

Last month, the Phil announced that it's partnering with Bard College in upstate New York and the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, Mass., to launch a joint musical education initiative that will aim to further youth music education across the country, particularly in America's most underserved communities.

One of the initiative's key components will be a yearly symposium, "Take a Stand," that will bring arts professionals, musicians and educators together to hear speakers, take part in workshops and interact with students. The inaugural conference will be held Jan. 30-Feb. 1 in Los Angeles, coinciding with the L.A. Phil's Mahler Project, at which Dudamel, the Phil and the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela will perform together in concert.

This week, the Phil announced that single-day passes for each day of the symposium will cost $100 and full three-day passes will go for $250. The Phil says the symposium "will focus on driving forward the collective thinking of the El Sistema movement."

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Monster Mash: LACMA, new movie museum; La Plaza de Cultura in trouble

October 5, 2011 |  7:49 am


Art of cinema: The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is teaming up with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on a new movie museum in the LACMA West building. (Los Angeles Times)

Money trouble: La Plaza de Cultura y Artes in downtown L.A. faces serious financial and organizational obstacles. (Los Angeles Times)

Stalled, again: More details have emerged about the latest setback for the planned Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem. (Ha'aretz)

Generous: Actor Denzel Washington has donated $2 million to his alma mater, Fordham University in New York, to endow its first professorship in theater. (New York Times)

Kaput: An expensive new arts center in Aviles, Spain, designed by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, has abruptly closed its doors. (The Guardian)

Outreach: The L.A. Philharmonic is launching a music education initiative with Bard College and the Longy School of Music. (Los Angeles Times)

Out: Brooke Shields won't be transferring to Broadway with the musical "Leap of Faith." (Playbill)

Scenic: The nearly three-mile section of Santa Monica Boulevard running through West Hollywood has been named a "Great Street" for 2011 by the American Planning Assn. (Los Angeles Times)

Free: The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore has opened access to 10,000 images from its collections so that the public can download them at no charge and without copyright restrictions. (Baltimore Sun)

Skeptic: Famed artist Gerhard Richter has called the art market "daft" and likened it to the current banking crisis. (Reuters)

Bleeding money: Vancouver Opera finds itself $1.4 million in the red for the most recent fiscal year. (Vancouver Sun)

Also in the L.A. Times: Theater critic Charles McNulty analyzes the work of British theater director Nicholas Hytner.

-- David Ng

Photo: The LACMA West building. Credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times


PST, A to Z: 'Icons of the Invisible: Oscar Castillo,' Fowler Museum

September 29, 2011 |  1:15 pm

Pacific Standard Time will explore the origins of the Los Angeles art world through museum exhibitions throughout Southern California over the next six months. Times art reviewer Sharon Mizota has set the goal of seeing all of them. This is her latest report.

Oscar Castillo's Pacific Standard Time retrospective at the Fowler Museum
In terms of subject matter, the 38 photographs in Oscar Castillo's Pacific Standard Time retrospective at the Fowler Museum fall roughly into three categories: walls, people and cars.

Culled from an archive of over 3,000 of the photographer's images housed at UCLA's Chicano Studies Research Center, the exhibition opens with one example of each: a wall of graffiti in East L.A., a portrait of two tough young brothers in Crystal City, Texas, and a 1972 image of a lemon yellow '47 Chevy, a low-rider, parked in front of a store in Wilmington, Calif. In color, the car echoes the façade's cheery yellow English-language signs; as an example of Chicano folk art, it also complements the other offerings detailed on the store's exterior: tamales, menudo, carnitas, tortillas.

Castillo, who began taking photographs of the Chicano community in the late 1960s, has an eye for such visual rhymes, but never lets it get in the way of documenting everyday moments with plainspoken immediacy. Very much in the tradition of street photography (and to some degree, the family snapshot), Castillo's work has a fresh, unpretentious quality that makes you feel as though you just arrived on the scene yourself. More than 30 years after they were taken -- the show spans 1969 to 1980 -- the photos bring to life a tumultuous moment, when Chicanos began to assert themselves culturally and politically.

Oscar Castillo's Pacific Standard Time retrospective at the Fowler Museum There are several images from important protests -- the antiwar Chicano Moratorium march in 1970 and the United Farm Workers’ boycotts of grapes and Safeway supermarkets -- but the most interesting photos are less expected: portraits Castillo took of Chicano journalists and other media workers.

Castillo, who worked for a time as a producer at KCET-TV on the public affairs program, "Acción Chicano," snapped photos of the figures responsible for Chicano-oriented programming in the 1970s. There's actress Carmen Zapata on the set of the bilingual children's show "Villa Alegre," director Sylvia Morales peering into the lens of a camera at KCET, and a remarkable image of musician Daniel Valdez sitting in front of a set painted by artist Malaquias Montoya. Featuring a large Aztec eagle and silhouettes of figures with raised fists, it captured for television a bold, idealistic cultural pride.

The last image in the show's sequence reminds us of the power of this movement. Taken during the Chicano Moratorium march, which turned out to be one of the biggest police melees in U.S. history, it depicts a huge stream of people walking down one side of an archetypal L.A. boulevard. Wide, lined with gas station signs and other advertisements, it looks like a street that another PST artist, Ed Ruscha, might have photographed just a few years before -- except he would've portrayed it as empty.

-- Sharon Mizota

Fowler Museum at UCLA, North Campus of UCLA (Sunset Boulevard and Westwood Plaza), (310) 825-4361, through Feb. 26. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

Upper photo: "Roosevelt High School Walkouts," 1970. Credit: Oscar Castillo

Lower photo: "Crowd at September 16th Parade in East Los Angeles," 1970. Credit: Oscar Castillo


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