Museum of Latin American Art (MoLAA) Long Beach, California
Nestled between Los Angeles and Orange County, MoLAA is the only museum in the western U.S. exclusively dedicated to contemporary Latin American Art. What does this mean for you? If youíre looking for a museum visit that doesnít include awful dioramas and questionable "art", and instead want to enjoy and mull over the meanings of carefully picked works, avoid the stuffy Orange County Museum like the plague and make the trek to this place.
The museum itself is not large, but its welcoming rooms are perfectly suited for intriguing works from Central and South America and the Caribbean. If you aren't that familiar with contemporary art from this region, this museum will provide you with a good overview of some excellent works from all over. Most importantly, the collection shows another side of our neighbors to the south, one that is creative and modern and not mired in political polemics.
Currently the museum is showing two rooms of its newly acquired paintings as well as a temporary exhibit entitled "The World of Gonzalo Cienfuegos" featuring several works of this Chilean artist.
New acquisitions mix the established with the emerging, creating a visual space for dialogue. Impressive pieces include Leonora Carrington's surrealist "The Bird Bath", two works from Cuban Wifredo Lam's "Pleniluna Series", as well as younger talents like Guatemalan Dario Escobar works "Internal Temples" and "Alter piece with Soul and Rose." The influences of Surrealism are found throughout the collection."Tiberio" by Rafael Coronel is one of the more haunting pieces, while "Magician in the Park" by Costa Rican Rodolfo Stanley evokes a surreal spring day.
The Gonzalo Cienfuegos exhibit in the main gallery proved to be a treat. Had we waited one day, we could have participated in a guided tour by the artist himself. His paintings are often of atypical people thrown together without much in common. They watch us as we stare at them. Post-modernist thievery abounds here; in several of his paintings, we find borrowed snatches of Delvaux, Chirico, Magritte, Vasquez emerge from the shadows, creating unsettling vignettes of the familiar and the unknown. These colorful strangers are usually in a room that opens to the outside.
His "Tribute to Vincent Van Gogh" is certainly timely, now that the Van Gogh show is well underway at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art through May. Many of his paintings captured my attention, including "Tina in Red" and "Sunset in Marraquesh".
My one criticism is that there were no postcards or posters or umbrellas or bath towels or mugs of the paintings exhibited to purchase. In this day and age when cultured consumerism reigns supreme, MoLAA is behind the times and losing out on a typical museum cash cow. Although the gift shop does sell some wonderful books as well as folk art and photographs on consignment, the shop does not have much in common with the museum collection.
Donít miss this opportunity for an afternoon of intriguing Latin American art that cannot be found anywhere else on the West Coast.