Thanks to things like flowers made out of bread dough and a bearded bride, it’s getting a little silly at the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, maybe even a little funny, and definitely a bit absurd.
“Whims and Absurdities” is a new exhibit featuring some of the most playful yet still artistic pieces from the museum’s permanent collection. It opened Thursday and runs through May 4.
“We have a lot of serious exhibits so we thought we would balance things with something whimsical and playful, comical, a little lighthearted, and maybe a little silly,” said Gabriela Martinez, the main curator of the exhibit.
The exhibit includes about 50 pieces from established and emerging artists. Featured are paintings, collages and sculptures that are visually stimulating and also address serious topics like questions of identity, myths and nature, but in unconventional and sometimes even grotesque ways.
“These are very important pieces,” said Stuart Ashman, president and CEO of the museum.
The artists didn’t necessarily set out to make whimsical or absurd pieces; the works just happened to fit into the theme museum officials devised for the new exhibit. As a result, the works will be presented in a new context, Ashman said.
The exhibit is divided into four sections: Ancestral Connections; Humor and Identity; Myths and Mysticism; and Transcendent Landscapes.
Ancestral Connections looks at artists who explore pre-Columbian themes.
This section includes Francisco Toledo’s “Man and Horse,” an aquatint etching on paper that depicts a man on a horse diving into a deep water well. The Mexican graphic artist also has two pieces from his frog series in the exhibit: “Tennis Playing Frogs” and “The Greedy-guts Frog,” which is a painting of one hungry frog happily consuming what appears to be a human figure. Work by renowned Mexican painter Rufino Tamayo is also included in this category.
The Humor and Identity portion will likely be a popular segment of the exhibit thanks to paintings like Alejandro Colunga’s “The Cow with a Thousand Eyes, They Cry.” The oil on canvas shows a sad cow whose face is covered with crying eyes.
“That’s a little more on the whimsical side,” Ashman said.
Also in the this section is Nahum Zenil’s lithograph “A Wedding Portrait.” The image shows seven people posing for a wedding picture, but all of them have the same manly bearded face.
“It’s comical,” Ashman said. “It looks like a classic picture, but when you look at the characters, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. The bride has a beard and that may be a message that’s more contemporary.”
Pieces in the Myths and Mysticism portion explore the artists’ fascination with rituals and spirituality. It includes work from surrealist Leonora Carrington, whose 1974 color serigraph “Bird Bath” could be one of the highlights for art aficionados.
One of the oddest pieces in the exhibit falls in the Transcendent Landscapes section, where artists explore nature. It may take awhile for some people to figure out what the white sculpture with the mushroom-like shape could be. It’s called “Volcano,” and it was made by pop artist Fernanda Brunet out of fiberglass, wood, metal, flowers and bread dough.
“There’s a variety of work in the exhibit. I hope people recognize that there’s always a population of artists doing things in their own unique way, even though there may have been a trend going on at the time they created these pieces,” Martinez said.
Idurre Alonso, who co-curated the exhibit, said she hopes those who attend the show are inspired to look at things a little differently.
“I hope they will look at the world in the way some of these artists do and use fantasy and imagination,” she said.
Whims and Absurdities
When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday through May 4.
Where: Museum of Latin American Art, 628 Alamitos Ave., Long Beach.
Tickets: $9, $6 for seniors and students, children under 12 are free.
Information: 562-437-1689, www.molaa.com