Last semester I went to the MOLAA for a University Honors Program Event. I’m usually not a fan of exploring art museums, but for some strange reason, I was able to appreciate this “exotic” exhibit of various pieces of beautiful Latin American Art. According to a brochure that I found in my pile of school stuff going home for spring break (which actually gave my inspiration to choose this as my blog post, since I couldn’t think of anything else), this Long Beach museum was founded in 1996 by a doctor named Robert Gumbiner. This relatively recently-founded museum most likely explains it’s unique dedication to more modern and contemporary Latin American art, being the only one in the U.S. It bragged about this fact quite a lot (website, brochure, tour guides, etc.). It currently has a garden of sculptures, a “project space” for contemporary art, and four main galleries, each of which we visited. However, it used to be a silent film studio for the Balboa Amusement Producing Company, which was famous before Hollywood. Another part of the museum (the exhibition galleries and offices), used to be a roller skater rink known as the Hippodrome. It was even a health center for seniors before the tall ceilings and nice wooden floors “gave way” to the museum as we know it today. The only difference is that in 2007, it doubled its size, with the most notable expansion being the 15,000 square foot garden. This garden had a lot of the Spanish fantasy architecture that we explored in class, most notably it’s use of strong colors, as well as it’s fountains. Although we got to see everything, because of limited time, this meant we had to sacrifice really being able to appreciate everything. However, from what I do remember seeing among the 1,500 works of art, it was all so beautiful. My personal favorite was the exhibit of Frida Kahlo self-portraits, but this was mostly because she was the only familiar name I noticed (I learned about her surrealism, feminism, and Mexican culture in Spanish class in high school). For it’s 20th anniversary (2016), the museum decided to broaden the definition of Latin American art to include Chicano (Mexican-Americans) and those of Latin American descent but not necessarily native-born.
Overall, I appreciate this because a lot of LA history consists of Chicanos being maltreated almost like slave workers, as well as replaced with a Spanish fantasy to “pretend” to keep that culture, even though it didn’t do anything but maintain white-supremacy; although this museum doesn’t fix what happened in the past, it hopefully gives people who visit it a greater appreciation for Latin American culture straight from the source of Latin Americans (showing that this culture of people is so much more thank just the “subculture” history has often made them seem). I’ll be honest, I personally have underestimated this culture growing up in this modern society and seeing my friends of this culture struggle in school and such, but as I matured, I learned to understand the struggles they’ve had to go through and be impressed many times by what they have to offer, such as how this museum amazed me. As divided as we are by race, along with other things like gender, religion, politics, and the like, we all have to remember that we are all human beings.