What a year for art in L.A.

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Looking back on the hyperactive 2017, there is a single overriding theme: Getty’s initiative Pacific Standard Time: Los Angeles/Latin America. Though it continues into 2018, the series of exhibitions that began last summer has been enlightening, exciting and energizing. Beginning with At Home— So Different, So Appealing: Art From the Americas since 1957, an exhibition examining ideas of nationhood, of family, of cultural origins with contemporary work by Latin American and Latino artists. It was just one of many PST exhibitions at LACMA including the newly opened Pinxit Mexici, of 18th century Mexican Paintings.

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(L) "Salomon Huerta's Untitled House (0306)," 2003 © Salomon Huerta
(R) Carmen Argote's "720 Sq. Ft.: Household Mutations," 2010 © Carmen Argote
Photo © Museum Associates/LACMA

The Getty itself triumphed with a number of shows but especially Golden Kingdoms, its appreciation of luxury objects made by indigenous cultures thousands of years ago in Central or South America. Some 70 PST:LA/LA exhibitions ranged from such ancient art to the excellent survey of work by Conceptual Argentian David Lamelas at Cal State University Long Beach. The variety of shows in venues large and small proved the importance of the Getty’s PST funding especially for the many well-researched catalogues so crucial to future scholarship.

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Octopus Frontlet, 300–600
Gold, chrysocolla, shells; H: 27.9 x W: 43.2 x D: 4.4 cm (11 x 17 x 1 3/4 in.)
Museo de la Nación, Lima, Peru, Ministerio de Cultura del Perú

It was also a nod to the role of diversity that has shown up increasingly in the city’s art institutions from African American artist Kerry James Marshall’s extraordinary painting survey at Moca or Black Radical Women, 1965 -1985 and Gary Simmons at California African American Museum, which continues for a few more weeks.

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Kerry James Marshall, “Watts 1963,” 1995
Acrylic and collage on unstretched canvas, 115 3/8 x 135 7/8 inches

In fact, CAAM itself has gained ample recognition since the hiring of Naima Keith as deputy director. Meanwhile, the Santa Monica Museum of Art was reborn this fall as the Institute of Contemporary Art in downtown L.A. with a thrilling show of drawings the late Martín Ramírez and the hiring of respected Jamillah James as a curator.

Another contemporary art institution was born in the Hancock Park area. The Marciano Foundation not only preserved the architectural landmark of Millard Sheets’ Scottish Rite Temple, it kept and exhibited the original owners, the Freemasons, collections of wigs, hats, costumes, scripts, banners and archives. The debut exhibition of art by Jim Shaw, himself an avid collector of Masonic paraphenalia, organized by guest curator Philipp Kaiser, was rambunctious, brilliant and long overdue.

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Jim Shaw, Jim Shaw: The Wig Museum, Installation view, 2017
Photograph by Robert Wedemeyer
Courtesy of Marciano Art Foundation

Institutional ambition was could be seen throughout 2017: The elevating retrospective of Minimalist Carl Andre at Moca, the seductive Marisa Merz survey at the Hammer and the towering red glass maze by Larry Bell at Pepperdine. It was the year that Coachella Valley became a significant destination for art from a new wide-ranging biennial, Desert X, featuring Doug Aitken’s extraordinary mirrored house, Mirage, to Kinesthesia, which remains on view at the Palm Springs Art Museum.

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Carlos Cruz-Diez, Chromosaturation, 1965/2017
"Kinesthesia: Latin American Kinetic Art, 1954-1969" 
Palm Springs Art Museum
Photograph by Lance Gerber

In fact, 2017 was so good, can 2018 possibly compare? Stay tuned to this station.