LOS ANGELES—Organized by the MAK Center for Art and Architecture in cooperation with the Luckman Fine Arts Complex at Cal State LA, How to Read El Pato Pascual: Disney’s Latin America and Latin America’s Disney is a Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA exhibition of over 150 works by 48 Latin American artists who investigate and challenge nearly one hundred years of cultural influence between Latin America and Disney. Spanning painting, photography, graphic work, drawing, sculpture, video, documents, and the critical responses generated, the joint exhibition explores the idea that there are no clean boundaries between art, culture, and geography, and deconstructs how such notions are formed and disputed.
The exhibition’s curators, filmmaker/writer Jesse Lerner and artist Rubén Ortiz-Torres, thoroughly examined Disney’s long engagement with Latin American culture, from Donald Duck’s first featured role in the 1937 Mexican-themed short Don Donald to the company’s 2013 attempt to trademark the Day of the Dead. Lerner and Oritz-Torres’s research further drew from a pivotal trip Walt Disney took with his team to South America in 1941. Along with a group of fifteen animators, musicians, and screenwriters, Disney flew to over five South American countries as part of a U.S. government-directed effort to promote the “Good Neighbor” policy during the Second World War. In addition to the celebrated film The Three Caballeros, this trip produced the feature Saludos Amigos; a “making of” documentary titled South of the Border with Disney; and propaganda films such as The Grain that Built a Hemisphere.
The infamous 1971 Chilean book by scholars Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart, Para leer al Pato Donald (How to Read Donald Duck), was brought to Ortiz-Torres’s attention while studying with artist Michael Asher at the Disney-funded CalArts in the 1990s. The book (formerly banned in Chile and threatened by legal action in the U.S.) provides a structural analysis denouncing the ways in which Disney comic books were used as vehicles to justify and promote U.S. policies and cultural imperialism.
As curators, Lerner and Ortiz-Torres intend to show that Disney cannot be seen as something simply exported to the rest of the Americas, and passively received. Like any other cultural force or mythology in Latin America, Disney imagery has always been quickly reinterpreted, assimilated, adapted, cannibalized, syncretized, and subverted by artists: sculptor Nadín Ospina creates pre-Columbian-like objects portraying Disney characters using carved stone and gold; artist Enrique Chagoya juxtaposes imagery from codices, indigenous iconography, and popular graphics that include Disney characters in a postcolonial critique; Liliana Porter has produced conceptual graphics and photography where Disney toys are juxtaposed with recognizable figures such as Che Guevara. Photographs like Antonio Turok’s show how Disney iconography has been intertwined with daily life in Latin America. Arturo Herrera’s work plays with our almost innate ability to immediately recognize Disney characters, no matter how abstracted: the artist will present a new mural near the Schindler House, on the side of the West Elm building at 8366 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles 90048, on view through the length of the exhibition.
Due to its size and scope, the exhibition will be presented in two locations: the Schindler House in West Hollywood and the Luckman Gallery at Cal State LA. One is an intimate 1922 modernist historical landmark loved by architecture and design enthusiasts; the other is a large gallery space situated across town and catering to a diverse and young campus audience.
A catalogue published by Black Dog Publishing and designed by Jorge Verdin accompanies the exhibition. Included is an introduction by the curators; essays by Fabián Cereijido, Nate Harrison, Jesse Lerner, Rubén Ortiz-Torres, Darlene J. Sadlier, and Carla Zaccagnini; a reprinting of the English version of Para leer al Pato Donald (How to Read Donald Duck) from 1973; Ariel Dorfman’s reflections on the book; and a checklist of works with full-color images. The publication will be in both English and Spanish.
Jesse Lerner and Rubén Oritz-Torres each bring considerable knowledge to the exhibition project and publication. Both are artists and academics—teaching at Pitzer College and UC San Diego, respectively—whose work explores the boundaries of culture and art; their fields of expertise and methodologies, though distinct, complement each other and often overlap. They previously collaborated in the production of the film Frontierland and in curating MEX/LA, ‘Mexican’ Modernism(s) in Los Angeles 1930-1985 for the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach in 2011. Scholar Fabián Cereijido is the assistant curator of the exhibition.
Exhibition artists: Lalo Alcaraz, Florencia Aliberti, Sergio Allevato, Pedro Álvarez, Carlos Amorales, Rafael Bqueer, Mel Casas, Alida Cervantes, Enrique Chagoya, Abraham Cruzvillegas, Minerva Cuevas, Einar and Jamex De la Torre, Rodrigo Dorfman, Dr. Lakra, El Ferrus, Demián Flores, Pedro Friedeberg, Scherezade Garcia, Alicia Mihai Gazcue, Arturo Herrera, Alberto Ibañez, Claudio Larrea, Nelson Leirner, Fernando Lindote, José Rodolfo Loaiza Ontiveros, Marcos López, José Luis and José Carlos Martinat, Carlos Mendoza, Pedro Meyer, Florencio Molina Campos, Mondongo, Jaime Muñoz, Rivane Neuenschwander, Rafael Montañez Ortiz, Nadín Ospina, Leopoldo Peña, Liliana Porter, Artemio Rodríguez, Agustín Sabella, Daniel Santoro, Mariángeles Soto-Díaz, Magdalena Suarez Frimkess, Antonio Turok, Meyer Vaisman, Ramón Valdiosera Berman, Angela Wilmot, Robert Yager, Carla Zaccagnini.
The MAK Center at the Schindler House is open Wednesday–Sunday, 11AM–6PM.
The Gallery at the Luckman Fine Arts Complex at Cal State LA is open Monday–Thursday,
and Saturday, 12PM–5PM.
Major support of this exhibition and publication is provided through grants from the Getty Foundation.
Generous support provided by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts,and the City of West Hollywood.
This project is also supported, in part by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission