Artnet News: How PST Is Writing Long-Overlooked Chicano Artists Back Into Art History

by Catherine Wagley


“The initial launch of LA/LA did not seem to have any mention of the local community,” says artist Ken Gonzales-Day, whose work appears in four PST shows and who organized “Place and Practice” with curators Bill Kelley, Jr. and Pilar Tompkins Rivas. “As you know, this is a horrible time to be of Mexican descent in the US. If these shows could help in any way, that would be potentially great.”

Over a series of dinners with local artists and arts organizers, they discussed what they, as Latinos in LA, wanted from PST. “We talked about how there had historically been a complete lack of interest by institutions,” says Kelley, Jr. “We asked, ‘What should we do? What should we expect?’”

After an October 2014 symposium at the Getty at which art historians and curators predominately from Latin America shared their PST progress, Kelley, Tompkins Rivas, Gonzales-Day, and others decided to write a letter. They worried that, in the context of PST, Latin American scholarship still overshadowed the emphasis on the artists in museums’ own backyards. “We came up with an obnoxious name for ourselves, something like Artists and Curators and Latino Cultural Activists of LA,” Kelley says.

Joan Weinstein, the deputy director of the Getty Foundation, invited them to come to the museum to talk. “We said, ‘Come to us,’” Kelley recalls. So they met at Self-Help Graphics & Art, a 30-year-old alternative space in the East LA neighborhood of Boyle Heights. The “Place and Practice” conference emerged out of that meeting.

“I had actually forgotten about the letter,” Weinstein says now. “The way it works is that we put out a call. We don’t tell museums what to do. The programming comes from the community.”