The first time I went to Long Beach thirty years ago, the only thing I knew about the city was that it was the home of the Queen Mary. But since then, I discovered two museums there and they became the main reason for my trips to Long Beach.
(L) Portrait of Dr. Robert Gumbiner (1923-2009)
(R) Osvaldo Salas, "Con Hemingway / With Hemingway," 1960
The Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) celebrates its twentieth anniversary with the largest and most comprehensive exhibition of its permanent collection. When the museum opened in 1996, it was the brainchild of Dr. Robert Gumbiner (1923-2009) – a physician as well as an art collector and philanthropist, who acquired what once was a roller skating ring and transformed it into the museum galleries.
(T) Rodolfo Morales, "Ángel en bicicleta / Angel on Bicycle"
Collage on paper
(Bot L) Fernando Botero, "Woman with Mirror / Mujer con espejo," 1998
Charcoal on canvas
(Bot R) Fernando Botero, "La familia / The Family," 1992
Charcoal on canvas
Through his numerous visits to Mexico, Central and South America, Dr. Gumbiner became enamored with modern and contemporary Latin American art. But initially, he was drawn to figurative works. The large drawing of a voluptuous female nude with a mirror by Fernando Botero is a perfect example of Dr. Gumbiner's early collecting.
Julio César Peña Peralta, "Wrongful Appropriations, Babalu-ayé," 2006
Linoleum cut on paper, hand-colored
But since then, the museum collection not only grew in size, but became much more diverse in terms of style and medium. Seeing the black-and-white photograph (Osvaldo Salas, 1960) of Ernest Hemingway chatting with Fidel Castro, one becomes aware of how much the scope of the museum's collection has widened.
Francisco Morales, No. 2 from the series "Andenes," 2009
Graphite on wood
The sculptural drawing by Francisco Morales, executed using graphite on a shifting wood panel, is a perfect example of the sense of adventure that now defines the Museum of Latin American Art. MOLAA's recent accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums comes as a well-deserved affirmation in celebration of its twentieth anniversary.
Aaron De La Cruz, "Abrazos y Besos," 2016
Acrylic on museum walls, steel-base wood sculptures, and acrylic paint on wood floor shapes
The Long Beach Museum of Art, which has been around since the fifties, has a new and particularly diverse exhibition, “Vitality and Verve: In the Third Dimension” showcasing works by up-and-coming street artists, muralists, and other contemporary artists “placing an emphasis on their unique sculptural and installation practices”. Upon entering the room-sized mixed media installation by Aaron de la Cruz, one finds themselves happily lost in the colorful vortex of sculptures and wall paintings.
Craig ‘Skibs' Barker, "Channel 3 only," 2016
In another gallery, a large-scale installation by Craig Barker (Channel 3 only, 2016) brings together wood panel paintings, light boxes, chairs, televisions… you name it. The exuberant spirit of this work reminded me of the burst of energy I usually get from a shot of vodka.
Aaron Li-Hill, "Divide and Conquer," 2016
And speaking of getting drunk and being particularly happy ––that was my impression of the darkened gallery with Aaron Li-Hill's photographic images on the walls reflected in pools of water on the floor. Take a look at the image of this installation and decide for yourself if it's the end of the world as we know it–– or the possibility of a new beginning.
All photos by Edward Goldman.