More than 300 Latino artists will be featured in the Sept. 1-16 Los Angeles Festival in programs that include retrospectives of Mexican filmmakers Arturo Ripstein and Jaime Hermosillo, performances by the noted Chilean theater group El Gran Circo Teatro and a major exhibition of 130 Chicano art works.
Although even L.A. Festival organizers admit that the Pacific-themed festival could not adequately represent all the Latino artistic activity going on in Los Angeles as well as all the Latin American countries bordering the Pacific, Los Angeles’ cultural affairs chief praised the festival’s Latino representation.
“My general opinion is that they’ve done a pretty good job of trying to seriously address Latino artists from here in the city as well as from Latin America and other (Spanish-speaking) countries,” said Adolfo Nodal, general manager of the city’s Cultural Affairs Department.
The festival’s general manager, Michael Vargas, said: “The festival programs certainly serve a broad spectrum of the Latino public as well as the non-Latino public that is interested in Latino programming. . . . (But) we can only incorporate a small part of what’s happening in L.A., because we’re bringing everything together into a two-week period. But we’ve developed as much Latino programming and incorporated as many of the (Latino) institutions as we possibly could have.”
As with much of its non-Latino programming, the festival is simply incorporating several already-planned Latino arts events under its banner. Examples include “Chicano Art: Resistance and Affirmation, 1965-1985,” a mammoth exhibition of 130 works by 90 artists from across the United States at UCLA’s Wight Art Gallery and performances at various locations by several local musical groups.
But, Vargas stressed, much of the programming will be new to Los Angeles’ Latino audiences.
“I don’t think it’s just the usual suspects at all,” Vargas said. “Some of them might be, like the bandas and mariachi groups that perform here all the time, but we’ve got people like Daniel Martinez and Diane Gamboa and Harry Gamboa that are all pretty well known in Los Angeles but are doing something new that they haven’t been able to do before--a collaborative theater piece.”
The piece Vargas was referring to is Martinez’s “Ignore the Dents,” an “urban opera of social gridlock” being written by Harry Gamboa, with costumes by his sister Diane and lighting by designer Aubrey Wilson.
The collaborative piece will be performed Sept. 7-8 at Broadway’s Million Dollar Theatre.
Also commissioned specifically for the festival is San Diego/Tijuana border artist Guillermo Gomez-Pena’s multilingual performance solo “1990.” The piece, part of his trilogy in progress, “1992,” deals with the journey north into California of a Mexican performance artist who is a cross between a mariachi and a rock musician. It will be performed Sept. 12-16 at the Museum of Contemporary Art.
One of the festival’s theatrical centerpieces, Chile’s El Gran Circo Teatro, will perform two works in Spanish at the Santa Monica Pier. “La Negra Ester,” to be performed Sept. 12-14, is a comic musical spectacle recounting the turbulent passion of a poet for a prostitute at the brothel where he sings for a living. And “Gran Circo Teatro de Chile Presenta al Gran Circo Teatro de Chile,” scheduled for Sept. 15-16, tackles the last 20 troubling years of Chilean history.
Also included in the festival’s Latino programming, Vargas noted, is the Sept. 8-11 “La Terra Nova 1990: Pacific Poetry Festival” to be held in Eagle Rock at Occidental College’s Keck Auditorium. A number of prominent Latin American poets will participate in the bilingual program with California poets reading the translations.
“The poetry program is special; these poets have not been here before,” Vargas said. “These kinds of things usually aren’t included in a festival format, so that’s been something new for us to tackle.
“Also,” Vargas continued, “the Hispanic films--the Hermosillo films and the Ripstein films--these are major filmmakers, and although they have been shown in this country before, they have not had major exposure in the United States. So this is a chance to expose Spanish-speaking people in L.A. to these filmmakers that they probably have heard of before, but have not seen.”
A controversial mural, one that has been shown only in sections since its creation in 1981, is scheduled to be unveiled Sept. 2 in its entirety at Union Station. The 16-foot by 80-foot mural by local artist Barbara Carrasco is titled “L.A. History--A Mexican Perspective.”
Other visual arts programs include the Municipal Art Gallery’s ‘Aqui y Alla,” which will feature contemporary works by artists from Los Angeles and Mexico City; Mixografia gallery’s “Contemporary Mexican Masters,” and Loyola Marymount’s Laband Art Gallery’s “Image and Identity: Recent Chicana Art from La Reina del Pueblo de Los Angeles de la Porciuncula,” with works by Carrasco, Laura Aguilar, Diane Gamboa, Margaret Garcia and Dolores Guerrero-Cruz.