SUR:biennial and Getty PST: LA/LA
By Genie Davis
The 2017 SUR:biennial and Getty PST: LA/LA will be coming to a wide range of venues this year, including the Whittier Museum, which will be hosting the SUR:biennial for the first time.
SUR:biennial curator and Whittier Museum board president Lydia Michelle Espinoza has been with the SUR:biennial since its inaugural show in 2011 at Rio Hondo College and Cerritos College. Starting as a student assistant, with every iteration of the SUR:biennial, she’s assisted with marketing, sponsorship, and community awareness.
“For the 3rd SUR:biennial, I facilitated support from the LA County Supervisor’s office and a mayoral commendation for Rio Hondo College in recognizing the continued support of the arts in the Whittier area. This year I am curating my own space at the Whittier Museum,” Espinoza explains. “This year’s inclusion of the Museum was multi-fold, beginning with my being on the board of directors for the Whittier Museum, coupled with my intention to create more engaging and more encompassing exhibits that the community could engage and relate to.”
Espinosa says the Whittier Museum board has made it a goal to begin revamping the current permanent exhibit to include a Latino history including an exhibition called Whittier Before Whittier.
“I have been working on taking little steps to bring and highlight Latinos within the Museum. To me this is to not only have a more encompassing exhibit, but offers something that the Whittier Latino Community can relate to and identity with.”
With that in mind, Espinoza proposed that the SUR:biennial committee include the Whittier Museum as a new venue this year.
“It was not only a great tie back to Whittier, where SUR started at Rio Hondo College, but a great expansion into a unique space. The committee approved, and I was welcomed to curate the space. It is a new venture for the board and museum to take on an exhibit like this,” she says. SUR will be the Museum’s first major Latino Contemporary Fine Art exhibit.
Featuring works by five artists working in a range of different mediums, the museum’s exhibition, Postura, includes works by Sandra P. Hahn, Ricardo Harris-Fuentes, Rosalie Lopez, Narsiso Martinez and Cintia Segovia.
According to Espinoza, the idea behind the exhibition is to “show artwork that is a response to the place and space of the exhibit – the place being Whittier, which is within the scope of Los Angeles, and Los Angeles being in the broader scope of Southern California, which is part of the conversation that SUR participates in. The space refers to the Museum and its unique construction and history.”
She adds that the title of the exhibition also plays a role in the show’s scope.
“As I was researching artists, learning about their practice, and doing studio visits, I was starting to see a story develop, a story of ‘postura,’ which means ‘posture’ in Spanish,” she says.
“I learned it had two meanings in Spanish. It also means ‘position, or stance,’ and is used in the question, ‘Qual es tu postura sobre…?’ which means ‘What is your position regarding…?’ This added to the exhibition’s meaning and became what the artists’ and their work were for. I wanted to spur a discussion of the artwork and between the artwork and the viewer. Through their artwork, the artists answer the question, ‘Qual es tu postura sobre…?’ Each artist and their work respond to various issues and experiences pertinent to the Latino community, such as identity, livelihood, and language to name a few. Postura is significant to the Museum as the show represents a new position, or direction for the Museum in exhibits and with the community.”
This year the SUR:biennial takes places at seven venues: Cerritos College Art Gallery, Eastside International (ESXLA), Long Beach City College Art Gallery, Manhattan Beach Art Center, Rio Hondo College Art Gallery, Torrance Art Museum, and the Whittier Museum.
“Each space is independently curated, so each show will have a different theme in relation to SUR: biennial,” Espinoza attests. “The other venues have curated shows created around several artists, a country, or a single artist.”
At Cerritos College Art Gallery, DisPlaced: Reconstituted Memories & Unsituated Bodies features the work of Michael Alvarez, Julia O. Bianco, Jasmine Delgado, Consuelo G. Flores, Tarrah Krajnak, Sheila Garrett Rodriguez & Gabriel Sosa.
In downtown Los Angles, Eastside International will exhibit Daniela Campins in a solo show, In the Middle of This Frase. The show uncovers the unexpected relations between languages of image and text, using low relief linear marks that evoke cursive writing, positioned on palimpsest/pentmento grounds.
At the Long Beach City College Art Gallery, the group show Drawn from Clay features the work of Armando Cortes, Yolanda Gonzalez, Wayne Perry, and Fay Ray.
The Manhattan Beach Art Center will be exhibiting another solo project, Chicano Trickster: Jose Lozano. The survey show spans three decades of drawings, paintings, and mixed media works representing Lozano’s figurative, humorous, and satiric approach to social reality.
Rio Hondo College Art Gallery will be exhibiting Espacio Entre/Entre Espacio, a group exhibition featuring Luis G. Hernandez, Margaret Griffith, Albert Lopez Jr., Lino Martinez, Ruben Millares, and Maria Rendon. The show includes videos, paintings, installations, and performances, and deals with the physical and constructed spaces that limit Latino artists, the rejection of tangible cultural containment, and the possibilities of imagined spaces and flexible boundaries
According to Espinoza, “One of the highlights of this show is a new object by Albert Lopez Jr. that prompts viewers to engage with the piece via a DJ and taco man. Albert will be the taco man serving the most Mexican of foods, tacos. The DJ will be playing dance music.” She adds “He has described it as a representation of ‘cultural cannibalism,’ in that the viewer will be ingesting culture in the form of tacos and music.”
And, the Torrance Art Museum presents The Cuban Matrix which features work by Cuban artists Ariamna Contino, Alejandro Figueredo Diaz-Perera, Diana Fonseca, Alex Hernandez, Tony Labat, Juan Carlos Alom, Francisco Maso, Jorge Otero Escobar, Esterio Segura, and Reynier Leyva Novo. Also showing: Yoshua Okon’s three channel video installation, Oracle, investigating the U.S./Mexico border crossing of refugee children.
“The SUR:biennial was created to showcase Latino fine artists working and creating with fine art techniques. The founders, Robert Miller and Ronald Lopez, saw a need to create a biennial that focused on the east side of Los Angeles and highlighted Latino fine artists,” Espinoza says. Sharing official words from the SUR:biennial committee, she adds that ‘Each independently-curated exhibition showcases recent and newly-commissioned works by local and international artists who have been influenced by the cultures and artistic traditions of Mexico, Central & South America, and the Caribbean.’”
SUR:biennial is dedicated to exploring the complexities of globalization and exchange occurring in what the committee calls the “ambiguous geographical, cultural, and artistic borderlands between Los Angeles and the broader ‘South.’”
Espinoza states that she’s found two areas to be especially unique and admirable about SUR:biennial.
For one thing, the event can also include non-Latino artists with a significant tie to Latino culture. “For example, in the first SUR at Rio Hondo College, Ichiro Irie was a part of the exhibit. He lived and worked in Mexico City for about 8 years. He is close with the Latino culture, and even speaks fluent Spanish,” she notes.
“Second, the event looks at a broad range of artists, from students and emerging artists to professional career artists, and the mediums featured represent such a broad scope, as do its participants.”
Espinoza’s curated Postura will be displayed at the Whittier Museum September 7-27th, and will host an opening reception on Tuesday, September 12, 2017 from 7-10 pm featuring an artist performance by Ricardo Harris-Fuentes at 8 pm.