A surrealistic look at human anatomy by one of Cuba's most respected contemporary artists and an exploration of Mexican identity through figurative paintings are coming to Long Beach's Museum of Latin American Art this summer.
“Fabelo's Anatomy,” the first solo exhibition in the U.S. by Cuban illustrator, painter and sculptor Roberto Fabelo, and “Neomexicanism,” a collection of paintings from the 1980s by Mexican artists such as Monica Castillo, Julio Galan and Nahum B. Zenil, will run concurrently Saturday through Sept. 28, sharing the space that formerly housed the Frida Kahlo exhibit.
“We're very excited to have the opportunity to show the work of one of the most compelling artists of our time,” said Stuart Ashman, museum president and CEO, referring to Fabelo.
The Fabelo exhibition features more than 50 pieces that include oil and ink paintings on Chinese silk, bronze sculptures and ink on paper — all of which focus on human and humanlike anatomy. The highlight of the exhibition is likely the series of hand-colored ink drawings Fabelo created on the pages of an antique anatomy textbook.
The artist drew on the anatomy figures and on the text in the book, which dates back to the late 1880s. He created strange animallike human creatures; for example, one drawing depicts the nude profile of a winged female body wearing only high heels, with a bird head and beak over her head like a helmet. The drawing was created on the book's illustration of internal organs.
Facing the female bird creature is a smaller bearded figure that appears to be a man. He is also wearing a large bird head, but his legs are that of a satyr — a mythological Greek figure that is part man, part goat.
“The first part that strikes you is the draftsmanship,” Ashman said. “You can see these are made by a master draftsman. He can draw anything, he can paint anything, and then you get into the world of the work — you are entering a world that is completely coming out of his imagination.”
The book pages will be displayed individually in glass frames.
Many of the paintings in the exhibition represent the metamorphosis of these anatomical drawings into more lifelike, credible creatures.
“The creatures in the paintings are the real-life manifestations of the illustrations,” Ashman said.
The “Neomexicanism” exhibition will be made up of artwork from the museum's permanent collection as well as works on loan from a private collector.
The pieces put together for this show aren't part of a major art movement, but more a style and tendency that emerged in Mexican art during the 1980s that expresses a sort of disenchantment with the image of Mexican identity at the time.
“Neomexicanism is a relatively new term,” said Eddie Hayes, assistant curator of the exhibition. “It's figurative; it's about identity, so you have artists kind of like Frida Kahlo who was looking at herself. A lot of it is about self-representation.”
One such piece, which also deals with gender roles, machismo and gay rights, is Zenil's serigraph titled “Retrato de Boda” (Wedding Portrait), which shows a wedding picture. Every face in the picture, including the bride, the groom and the two little girls holding her white dress, is the bearded face of the artist.
A more straightforward political message comes from Castillo's “Plato de Zapata” (Zapata's Dish).
Emiliano Zapata, a leading figure in the Mexican Revolution and one of Mexico's most revered heroes, is given a different kind of honor by Castillo, as the main dinner course. Zapata's head, along with his large sombrero, is served on a plate surrounded by gold-colored forks and knives.
The exhibition also will include a July 26 lecture by Dr. Teresa Eckmann, author of “Neomexicanism: Mexican Figurative Painting and Patronage in the 1980s.”
“What this show is going to help do is bring this (Neomexicanism) out of the dark, and for people who have been to MOLAA, they're going to see some work that has been out before but they're going to see it in a new context,” he said.
Fabelo's Anatomy and Neomexicanism
When: Saturday through Sept. 28. Gallery hours are 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday.
Where: Museum of Latin American Art, 628 Alamitos Ave., Long Beach.
Admission: $9, $6 for students and seniors. Free for MOLAA members and children under 12. Free for everyone every Sunday.
Information: 562-437-1689, www.molaa.org.