Pilar Tompkins Rivas


Pilar Tompkins Rivas is Coordinator of Curatorial Initiatives at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Currently she is co-curating two major exhibitions focused on Contemporary Latino and Latin American Art for the Getty Research Institute’s Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA that will open at LACMA in 2017. Additionally, Tompkins Rivas manages LACMA’s partnership with the PhD Art History Program at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) for practicum-based curriculum centering around the museum’s collections and resources, as well as contributing to LACMA’s undergraduate curatorial fellowship program in collaboration with four comprehensive art museums across the country including the Art Institute of Chicago, the High Museum in Atlanta, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, and the Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City. Since 2002, she has curated and organized dozens of exhibitions, working with established, mid-career, and emerging artists from North America, Central America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

As part of the Getty Research Institute’s Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945-1980, Tompkins Rivas curated Civic Virtue: The Impact of the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery and the Watts Towers Arts Center for the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs tracing the history of the City of Los Angeles’s policies in the arts and the legacy of two of its most vibrant and diverse art centers. In addition, she concurrently co-curated the suite of exhibitions, L.A. Xicano, at LACMA, UCLA’s Fowler Museum, and the Autry National Center that encompassed the breadth of contributions in art by Mexican-Americans in Los Angeles in the post WWII period, including Mapping Another L.A.: The Chicano Art Movement and Oscar Castillo: Icons of the Invisible, both of which focused on the work of individual artists, collectives and organizations active in the 1970s.

Her many projects include Alexandra Grant: Forêt Intérieure/Interior Forest, at 18th Street Arts Center in Santa Monica, California and Mains d’Œuvres in Saint-Ouen, France; Carolina Caycedo: Be Dammed and Adrià Julia: Cat on the Shoulder at 18th Street Arts Center, Bas Jan Ader: Suspended Between Laughter and Tears, at Pitzer College in Claremont, California, and Museo de Arte Zapopan, Mexico; Citizen, Participant at Darb 1718 Art Center in Cairo, Egypt; L’Ottava Tavola: An Etymology of Contemporary Codes at the Museum of the City of Cortona, Italy; Suelto at La Central gallery in Bogotá, Colombia; Post American L.A. at 18th Street Arts; and Multiverse, The Passerby Museum and Vexing: Female Voices from East L.A. Punk at the Claremont Museum of Art, the latter of which represented the City of Los Angeles at the 2009 Guadalajara International Book Fair. In 2006 Tompkins Rivas was co-director of the MexiCali Biennial, a bi-national art and music project eclipsing the constraints of the U.S./Mexico border.

Previously, Tompkins Rivas was Curator and Director of Residency Programs at 18th Street Arts Center, and has held positions as Arts Project Coordinator at the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, Curator of the Claremont Museum of Art, and Director of the Latin American branch of the Artist Pension Trust.

Photo credit: John Lucas
I am connected to Booker T. Washington High School for Performing and Visual Arts on many levels. My older sister graduated from the Dance department in 1987. My mother taught Visual Arts there beginning in 1987, and went on to be Coordinator of that department for close to twenty years until her retirement in 2012. Throughout her 25 years at the school, my family advocated for BTWHSPVA in numerous ways. We spent countless hours supporting programs, and even my father volunteered regularly. I started as a freshman in 1988 in Visual Arts and graduated as salutatorian of my class in 1992.

I thrived at the school, finding my footing as an artist and gaining foundational training in the core principals of art, design and art history. I still pull from that knowledge and experience today as a curator of contemporary art working in one of the country’s leading museums. I feel that my training at Arts Magnet was critical for the professional success I have achieved in the field, giving me a strong understanding of the very basics of art and learning to trust myself creatively. After working for many years as a professional artist, my passion for art evolved into a career path that allows me the opportunity to work with artists across the world and to shape what become historically significant in terms of contemporary art and culture. Arts Magnet played a pivotal role in my development, and I would like to encourage today’s students to make the most of their time there, while looking forward to what the future may hold.
Connect with Pilar

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