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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Flutsch

OaxaCalifornia: The Museum of Latin American Art, California.


Review: OaxaCalifornia: Through the Experience of the Duo Tlacolulokos, Museum of Latin

American Art, Online Exhibition.

The Museum of Latin American Art, or MOLAA, in California, is the only museum in the US dedicated to Latin American and Latino contemporary art. MOLAA has responded to the challenge of COVID by creating beautiful, digital experiences from some of its permanent exhibitions.

One exhibition in particular, has made the transition to digital extremely well; the OaxaCalifornia exhibition, which opened in real life last year, and is now freely accessible to anybody with an internet connection and a device.

Smile now, Cry later/ Sonríe ahora, llora después, 2017. Acrylic on canvas, 177.16 in. x 184.64 in, MOLAA Permanent Collection.

OaxaCalifornia, by art collective Tlacolulokos, made up of Dari Canul and Cosijoesa Cernas, explores the intersection between the lives and experiences of the many immigrants from Oaxaca (phonetic pronunciation – wahaca) who have forged new lives in California. The exhibition is made up of 8, very large murals; mixing images and symbols from both Oaxaca and California to create extremely beautiful, confrontational and meaningful images.

The Size of Your Suffering/ El tamaño de tu sufrimiento, 2017. Acrylic on canvas, 186.22 in. x 183.85 in, MOLAA Permanent Collection.

Oaxaca is a state in the South West of Mexico and is known for the richness of its many indigenous cultures and languages – which are surviving and thriving. As a result of the Spanish invasion, the majority of Oaxacans are nominally Catholic, but in reality there is mixing of indigenous spiritual practices with Catholicism. Oaxacan immigrants to California have brought with them this ability to mix tradition and modernity and have created an incredibly expressive, richly layered new culture, unique to California. OaxaCalifornia explores this new culture, as well as the common cultural threads between Oaxaca and Oaxacan California.

Wherever You May Go/A Donde Quiera Que Vayas, 2017. Acrylic on canvas, 165.74 in. x 183.85 in. (left), 171.65 in. x 183.85 in. (right). MOLAA Permanent Collection.

The digital exhibition is in two parts. The first part is a video tour of the exhibition, as it is displayed in the museum.

I would recommend watching this first as it gives a real sense of the scale of the pieces. This is particularly important because the second part of the exhibition, a narrated walk through, is made up of photographs taken in situ. The murals are so large, that it was not possible to take head on photographs – so some are taken from a slight angle and the sense of scale is lost.

The narration for the second part of the exhibition is short, clear and involves friendly explanations of each piece. This down to earth discussion is a great resource for children and adults alike.

Each mural is rich with symbolism, contemporary images of Oaxacan/Californian young people, and shows the effects of the Spanish invasion on Oaxacan cultures, languages and lives.

Remember that the World is Mine/ Recuerda que el mundo es mío, 2017. Acrylic on canvas, 186.22 in. x 183.85 in, MOLAA Permanent Collection.

The murals are beautiful and challenging, bringing to life an understanding that the Spanish invasion of Mexico is not just a remote historical fact but a brutal event whose effects still loom large in people’s lives more than 500 years later.


Feature image: And That Is How They Hid the Sun/ Y fue así como escondieron el sol, 2017. Acrylic on canvas, 182.67 in. x 183.85 in, MOLAA Permanent Collection.


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