Latin American Art at LACMA (and a Levitated Mass Connection, Too)

[For continuing updates on the transport of the boulder for Michael Heizer’s Levitated Massclick here.]

Sunday’s Los Angeles Times included a terrific article on California museums’ engagement with Latin American art. It’s only natural—Southern California was once part of Mexico, after all; the history of this region is reflected in the art and artifacts of the indigenous cultures of the Americas (as well as Europeans, as the recently closed Contested Visions in the Colonial World demonstrated).

LACMA is incredibly committed to its collection and exhibition of Latin American art, as the Times article noted. To delve deeper, here are some links to a variety of ways LACMA is furthering scholarship and sharing with local and international audiences:

On view now through May 6 is In Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States, featuring works by Frida Kahlo, Leonora Carrington, Remedios Varo, and many more.

Frida Kahlo, Las dos Fridas (The Two Fridas), 1939, © 2011 Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo courtesy Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City

Opening April 1 is Children of the Plumed Serpent: The Legacy of Quetzalcoatl in Ancient Mexico, featuring objects from 1200–1500 AD such as frescoes, codices, featherworks, and more.

Additionally, we recently closed Contested Visions in the Spanish Colonial World, which will travel to the Museo Nacional de Historia del Castillo de Chapultepec this summer.

As the Los Angeles Times article noted, LACMA is also touring an exhibition of objects from its permanent collection of ancient Indian art. The exhibition recently finished at the Museo Nacional de las Culturas in Mexico City and is now heading for the Centro Cultural Palacio de la Moneda in Santiago, Chile. Curator Stephen Markel recently wrote about the exhibition for Unframed.

Our permanent collection of Latin American art is on view in the Art of the Americas Building in a unique installation that takes you from ancient to contemporary. The ancient galleries were designed by artist Jorge Pardo in 2008 and feature vibrant colors and undulating walls. Don’t miss the colonial, modern, and contemporary works on view in the same floor, too, including Roberto Matta’s Burn, Baby, Burn. You can learn more about our collection online, too—see highlights from the ancient collection or colonial through modern. You can also download select free, high-resolution images from our image library, including many works from our Latin American art collection.

Ancient American galleries at LACMA, designed by Jorge Pardo, photo © 2012 Museum Associates/LACMA

LACMA is also active in terms of education, from elementary school all the way up to PhDs. On view now in a gallery at the Charles White Elementary School is A is for Zebra, an eclectic exhibition about language that includes ancient Aztec objects, facsimiles of Goya’s Caprichos, and works by John Baldessari and Mel Bochner. We talked with curator Jose Luis Blondet about the exhibition last month. We also send art to schools via the Ancient World Mobile and Maya Mobile, which teach sixth and seventh-graders about ancient cultures from the Americas, Egypt, Rome, and Asia.

At the other end of the educational spectrum, LACMA is also stewarding the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc. (FAMSI), including the incredibly rich website

Finally, what with all the hullabaloo surrounding the transport of the boulder that will be part of Michael Heizer’s Levitated Mass, it’s worth pointing out an interesting connection Heizer himself has to ancient American cultures. His father, Robert F. Heizer, was a noted anthropologist who specialized in Native American Indian cultures of California and Nevada and the Olmec culture at the La Venta site in Tabasco. Among his many achievements, Robert Heizer actually discovered some Olmec portrait heads in La Venta—much like the heads displayed at LACMA in the 2008 exhibition Olmec: Colossal Masterworks from Ancient Mexico. In fact, the museum commissioned Michael Heizer to design the magnificent pedestals on which those extraordinary heads sat for the exhibition.

Installation view of Olmec: Colossal Masterworks of Ancient Mexico, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2008, including pedastal designed by Michael Heizer, photo © 2012 Museum Associates/LACMA

Scott Tennent

One Response to Latin American Art at LACMA (and a Levitated Mass Connection, Too)

  1. says:

    Sorry to be a downer, but I think the multi-colored draperies hanging around the top of the galleries designed by Jorge Pardo are quite clumsy, unattractive and, well, plain tacky. They make me think of pictures of Elvis or bull fighters painted on black velvet.

    Mr. Pardo not only ignored the concept of “less is more,” but his installation, because of the need to buy and install all that kitschy looking fabric, actually cost more than necessary. That’s even more ironic or puzzling, since I find the lower portion of his galleries to be rather nice.

    However, there’s a lesson to be learned in all this: Budgetary limits aren’t always the reason — or a valid excuse — for something not turning out as good as it should have.

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