International Political Art Groups Meet in L.A.

A growing number of artists around the world explore social and political ideas with works they never intend to exhibit in galleries. KPCC's Adolfo Guzman-Lopez says a small army of these self-proclaimed "interventionists" has descended on Southern California to compare notes.

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez: The Brazilian art group February 3rd Front began protesting their government's racial policies a few years back after police shot a young black man in Sao Paulo.

In an art gallery north of downtown L.A., artist Daniel Lima explained his group's tactics.

[Sound of Daniel Lima speaking in Portuguese]

Guzman-Lopez: Lima said his art's not meant for museums. One of his group's massive banners queries, "Where are Brazil's blacks?" The February 3rd Front enlisted fans at a soccer stadium to unfurl it as television cameras rolled. The group also stages concerts where political hip-hop artists meld their lyrics with Brazilian percussionists.

Lima's taking part in workshops with like-minded artists from Argentina, Mexico, and Los Angeles. Event co-organizer Bill Kelley calls the event "Publico Transitorio." These artists may speak different languages, he says, but they share...

Bill Kelley: Issues around environmentalism, issues around gender, issues around – sustainable issues, issues around politics and public space are very important. Obviously, like the title sort of insinuates, issues – uh, it's public space issues and how we operate in the city together.

Guzman-Lopez: The art group Ultra Red values moving art beyond museums. Founder Don Rhine describes its activist roots.

Don Rhine: We first started out here in L.A., as a group of folks who were working with needle exchange over in Hollywood.

Guzman-Lopez: These days, Ultra Red uses spoken word and performances to criticize government agencies' approach to fighting HIV-AIDS. The group's scheduled to perform Sunday at the state park next to L.A.'s Chinatown.

That's an important site, group members say, because they began their activism at nearby County-USC Medical Center 17 years ago, and present-day AIDS activists are trying to improve prevention services at Men's County Jail, a few miles away.