Olvera Street in downtown Los Angeles bustles with the art, tradition, and spirit of Mexican culture, serving as a marketplace for your quick fix of an authentic Mexican community. It also, in the 1930s, provided an open canvas for Mexican muralists David Alfaro Siqueiros, José Clemente Orozco, Alfredo Ramos Martínez, among others, to display their politically-driven work. Though a celebratory scene of Mexican culture remains on Olvera Street, it is watered down to racially recognizable conceptions. It’s a microcosm for how the city oftentimes sees Mexican culture, and thankfully, art sometimes helps to shatter those notions.
Published by Hatje Cantz books, Mex/L.A. “Mexican” Modernism(s) In Los Angeles, 1930-1985 serves as a text-based affirmation of cultural dynamics present among Mexican artists and the city of Los Angeles, however limited in scope, represented in Getty’s MEX/LA exhibition (as part of their Pacific Standard Time initiative). Mex/L.A. constructs a fragmented history of challenges placed upon Mexican culture in Southern California, including racial stereotypes and the harsh realities of determination for an equal cultural presence outside the boundary of nations, all necessary to piece together a true Los Angeles art history. Though cohesion may appear lacking from one artist to the next, the fabric of the artists combines to achieve a varied point of view. The goal is the assertion of a geographical, political, ethnic, and cultural tie between Los Angeles and Mexico that cannot be separated.
This scholarly catalogue includes essays by Rubén Ortiz-Torres, Olivier Debroise, Renato González Mello, Anna Indych-López, Catha Paquette, Jesse Lerner, Josh Kun, Mariana Botey, Denise Sandoval, Harry Gamboa Jr., Jennifer Flores Sternad, Ana Elena Mallet, Cuauhtémoc Medina, and Rubén Funkahuatl Gueyanra.
Written by Andrew Shang