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Latino artists have had an indisputable influence on the city of Los Angeles, so it’s only fitting that they inhabit a special place at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. This year, LACMA continues its commitment to showcasing Latino art with its participation in Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA. This far-reaching, Getty-funded, multi-museum initiative shines the spotlight on the cultural connection between Latin America and Los Angeles: Latinidad not as a fixed place but a state of reference.

At LACMA alone, PST: LA/LA spans several exhibitions, events and experiences. These along with the ongoing presentation of Carne y Arena, a virtual reality installation created by Oscar-winning Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu, constitutes a variety of works by Latino and Latin American artists across mediums and themes.

The PST exhibition that immediately sparked our interest is Playing with Fire: Paintings by Carlos Almaraz, which pays tribute to the Mexican-born painter who defined the Chicano arts movement before his untimely death due to AIDS complications in 1989.

It took LACMA three years to track down the 60+ works that make up Playing with Fire, the first major Almaraz retrospective at an American museum. It was curated by Howard N. Fox, LACMA emeritus curator of contemporary art. Along with his most famous paintings of car crashes on the highway, the show features never-before-exhibited erotic drawings created by Almaraz as a way of exploring his sexuality.

Almaraz’s artistic profile began in East L.A., as a politically charged muralist who co-founded the Chicano art collective, Los Four, and created works for Cesar Chavez. Later in his career, Almaraz began to drift away from art-ivism and towards more introspective studio paintings.

Two naked demons, masked self-portraits, cars colliding. In the decade before his death, his subjects seemed to reflect the duality of his personal life and artistic profession. Not only his sexuality, but also being torn between personal passion projects and an obligation to depicting a shared Latino identity.

“Nearly three decades following Carlos Almaraz’s untimely death at age 48, now is a propitious time to reexamine his too-brief but always compelling artistic achievements,” Fox said in a press statement. “His life was contradictory and often conflicted, and he reveled in and avidly celebrated the complexities and contradictions of his identity and experiences.”

Playing with Fire will be on display until December 3.

Other important dates to keep in mind as you plan your visit to LACMA.

Sunday, September 17 – Sunday, April 1, 2018

Found in Translation: Design in California and Mexico, 1915–1985, a PST exhibition at LACMA about the design dialogue between Mexico and California.

“Modern Mexican design treasures include posters from the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, a Hand Chair by Pedro Friedeberg, ceramics by Felix Tissot, and enamels by Miguel Pineda, which are all highlights of the exhibition,” wrote co-curators Wendy Kaplan and Staci Steinberger in a press statement.

Thursday, October 12

Join A Universal History of Infamy co-curator José Luis Blondet for a gallery tour of the exhibition. Blondet is curator of special initiatives at LACMA.

Wednesday, October 18

Chicano Batman will perform an intimate concert of music inspired by Fire. NPR described the LA-based band’s sound as “funky and flavorful, with shades of psychedelic pop and soulful Latin swagger.”

Photos: LACMA and Estate of Carlos Almaraz for Visual AIDS

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of LACMA. The opinions and text are all mine.