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Culture Festival to Complement Art Exhibition


When the mammoth art exhibition "Mexico: Splendors of Thirty Centuries" hits town next fall, it will be accompanied by a host of film, visual and performing arts events called the Artes de Mexico festival.

The Mexico exhibition, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art from Oct. 6 to Dec. 29, 1991, features 400 works from 1000 BC to 1950 and is being billed as the most comprehensive survey of Mexican art to be mounted in 50 years. It will be divided into four periods: pre-Columbian, colonial, 19th Century, and the first half of the 20th Century.

"What we're looking to do with this exhibition is to create an appreciation and awareness for all the art of Mexico and its cultural diversity," said Miguel Angel Corzo, president of the Los Angeles-based Friends of the Arts of Mexico, which is sponsoring the exhibition.

"Some people's perception about Mexico is based only on the things you hear about, like the drugs and the corruption . . . but that's not what Mexico has to offer to the world. It's got much more, and that's its arts and culture," Corzo said.

"For Mexican-Americans, it will bring a pride in their past, and a better perception of their own roots. And for others, it will expose them to these traditions, maybe for the first time. The exhibition presents a facet of Mexico, linked through 3,000 years, that shows imagination, creativity, a will to do things, and high aesthetic quality."

Artes de Mexico, scheduled to run from mid-September through December, will feature about 16 locally produced exhibitions and events and about 20 additional programs with groups and individuals brought in from Mexico itself, according to Armando Duron, president of the festival committee.

In addition, other local groups and artists will be invited to produce accompanying programs in a manner similar to the Los Angeles Festival's Open Festival, said committee member Samuel Mark.

Although the festival is still a year away, a number of events are already confirmed, Duron said. Among them:

* A new theatrical adaptation of Mariano Azuela's classic Mexican novel "Los de Abajo," o be staged at the Bilingual Foundation for the Arts Sept. 24-Nov. 17.

* Three November weekends of screenings--at historic Broadway movie theaters downtown, in East Los Angeles and at USC--of mostly contemporary film and video works by Mexican and Mexican-American filmmakers, plus a one-day conference at USC for filmmakers from both sides of the border.

* A display of little-known Revolution-era photographs on "Mexican Life and Culture During the Porfiriato: The Photography of C. B. Waite, 1898-1913," at Southwest Museum, Sept. 12-Nov. 17.

* The prestigious "Folk Treasures of Mexico: Highlights From the Nelson A. Rockefeller Collection of the San Antonio Museum of Art" at the Craft and Folk Art Museum, Sept. 8-Dec. 19.

* Four performances of traditional regional Mexican dance by the Tonantzin Dance Group.

* Three public mural-painting sessions by the Latino muralist group East Los Streetscapers.

* A daylong fiesta of family-oriented activities, workshops, and performances in Hancock Park in October.

* Lectures and concerts at various locations on "African Influences in the Music of Mexico" and a newly mounted exhibition tracing the influences of Mexican artists on African-American artists at the California Afro-American Museum.

"We are also searching for contemporary theater and dance from Mexico to bring in," Duron said, noting that more than half of the programming is still to be confirmed.

Although the organizers are already billing it as a festival highlight, "Women in Mexico," a visual art exhibit featuring about 120 modern and contemporary works by 22 female artists, is one of the events not yet confirmed, according to Selma Holo, director of USC's Fisher Gallery, which hopes to present the exhibition.

Holo said final plans for the show were put off when the Rockefeller Foundation decided to delay its decision on her application for a $20,000 start-up grant for "Women in Mexico." The Rockefeller Foundation has already donated about $175,000 toward the Artes de Mexico Festival, which is budgeted for $450,000, Mark said.

"We frankly can't do it unless we get the grant; we're just not in a position to do it ourselves," said Holo, noting that the foundation's staff had told her they were waiting to ascertain how the exhibition is being received in New York, where it is currently at Manhattan's National Academy of Design.

"I've left a spot open for it, and now I'm in limbo; I'm frankly a little annoyed," Holo said. "It's as good a show as you can get of that material, and it includes a good selection by Frida Kahlo. She is not only the best woman artist in Mexico, but she may even be the best artist, and that's why I really want to do the show."

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