By Madeleine Powell
The El Segundo Museum of Art’s newest exhibit, “Experience 31: HOPE” provided an audio-visual portrayal of Cuban culture that displayed the country’s turbulent past and its dreams for the future.
The exhibit’s audio and visual components captured the essence of hope as they delved deep into Cuban culture and its influences, with videos that ranged from amusing to chilling, though the exhibit hall’s setup was at times confusing.
“Experience 31: HOPE” features a total of 41 works, each by artists originating in Cuba. The exhibit was curated by Frency Fernandez, a Cuban art connoisseur, and is meant to reflect Cuban creators’ hopes of having their pieces recognized around the world.
“Experience 31: HOPE” is part of an initiative called Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, started by the Getty Museum in an attempt to explore Latin American art and its impact in Los Angeles. “Experience 31: HOPE” especially explores the relationship between Cuban art and Hollywood.
The variety of topics shown in the various videos were arguably the exhibit’s greatest strength. Pieces varied from cheerful animations to stark portrayals of loneliness. This heavy contrast was able to both keep viewers interested and eliminated any potential for tedious repetition.
The exhibit was minimal in its setup, with dim lights to preserve the video quality, which allowed attendees to become completely immersed in each individual work. Each individual piece that included audio recordings had a pair of headphones provided so the audio could be heard, ensuring that they did not become distracted by external lights or sounds.
Various surfaces were used to show the videos, which helped add even more to the exhibit’s allure. Old televisions paired with videos about Cuba’s past lent to the authenticity of the exhibit, while ultramodern kaleidoscope-like pieces were projected directly onto the gallery walls, adding a touch of futuristic wonder.
The ability of “Experience 31: HOPE” to highlight the true meaning of hope itself was astonishing. Each piece told its own story, but they collectively formed an exhibit that conveyed a desire for a better future, both within Cuba and around the world.
“Experience 31: HOPE” also demonstrated the ties between Cuba and Los Angeles, and their respective art scenes. Benjamín del Castillo’s “Weakening the Signal’ took place in Hollywood, and portrayed a man who struggled to share his ideas because he could not speak English, only in unintelligible noises. The familiar backdrop paired with the foreign concept was enthralling.
The exhibit’s only downfall was in its technological approach. Each piece was only labeled with a number, and viewers had to locate one of the few iPads located around the room to look up the number and find a piece’s title or the artist who created it. This was confusing and did not add to the enjoyment of the experience in any way.
“Experience 31: HOPE” provides fascinating content with a thoughtful layout, and provides essential representation of often overlooked Cuban artists, making it a highly successful project.
“Experience 31: HOPE” is available for viewing until Jan. 28 at the El Segundo Museum of Art located at 208 Main St, El Segundo.