Purchased with funds provided by the Contemporary Art Acquisitions Fund and the Bernard and Edith Lewin Collection of Mexican Art Deaccession Fund Raúl Lozza, Untitled, 1953, relief and paint on wood
*5 Artsy Things to Do in L.A. This Week
Born in Mexico City, Ilona Katzew came to L.A. 13 years ago to assume a role at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art as an associate curator of Latin American art. At the time, Latin American art was a component of a larger museum department that also included Modern and Contemporary Art.
While training at New York University's Fine Arts Institute, she bolstered her academic pursuits with curatorial work that focused on a broad swath of art history, and Latin American art history in particular. According to her, Pre-colombian societies and their highly developed art forms did not end with the Spanish conquest. The general notion that Aztec and Inca civilizations were dead or over didn't really reflect the truth, she says. An exhibition entitled "New World Orders: Casta Painting and Colonial Latin America," which she curated at the Americas Art Society Gallery in 1996 got her noticed by the New York Times. Her book on the subject of "casta" or "race heirarchy" paintings was later published by the University of Texas.
In her rather well-informed opinion--as a native of one of this hemisphere's preeminent pre-Colombian capitols and as a widely published art historian -- the onset of a Spanish preeminence precipitated a process of negotiation, accommodation and subtle, subversive resistance. The older cultures blended with the new both physically and in the art that was produced, while adopting and adapting the techniques and forms imposed by European standards.
L.A.'s formidable status as a nexus for Chicano art is simply one manifestation, she says, of that still on-going blurring of identity and a process that is part of a living, breathing culture that surrounds us. Religious art and religious iconography are further examples of this artistic marriage. It is no secret that many Catholic icons have origins in Pre-Colombian symbols, beginning with the Virgen of Guadalupe.
A significant part of her work, now as curator and co-department head of LACMA's Latin American Art department, a department established formally in 2006, has been to "tease out" those underlying connections across the ages with exhibitions and acquisitions. This month, LACMA celebrates the soft opening, or "re-installation" of its Latin American art galleries as a way to quietly introduce Angelinos to a vision that has, at its root, a dynamic understanding of the city's demographic shift.More »