A Student’s Guide to Santa Barbara’s “Los Angeles/Latin America” Exhibits

Photo by Kendall Murphy | Staff Photographer

Kendall Murphy

The Santa Barbara area holds three art museums out of over 70 in Southern California  that are holding exhibitions that feature a hybrid of Southern California and Latin American music. Titled “PST: Los Angeles/Latin America,” the collection of projects features Latin American art in order to embrace the rich cultural ties between Southern California and Latin America.

Three years in the making, the exhibits were funded by over $16 million in grants through the Getty Foundation’s Pacific Standard Time (PST) Initiative. The “PST: LA/LA” exhibits include art made in different eras, from ancient objects to cutting-edge contemporary pieces. This guide highlights what you can expect to see in the Santa Barbara area.

UCSB’s Art, Design, and Architecture Museum:

Sacred Art in the Age of Contact

That’s right, the University of California, Santa Barbara has it’s own art museum. This unique exhibit features sacred art and objects from the Chumash Native Americans and the Spanish colonizers who occupied the Santa Barbara area. This must-see show features contemporary Chumash and Native American art made within the mission system. Be sure to check out:

  • Basket (2017), woven by Samantha Sandoval

This traditional Chumash basket is visually impressive and includes a dialogue by Samantha Sandoval, who describes her Chumash heritage and the process of basket weaving.

  • Virgin of the Immaculate Conception (19th c.)

This remarkable oil painting features the Virgin Mary along with traditional symbols of her purity. The work is inlaid with abalone, a shell which has deep spiritual importance to the Chumash.

  • The Schoolhouse and the Bus

This exhibit inspires its viewers to partake in social justice with a striking inquiry into the relationship between the Americas and the importance of memory and collection in areas of conflict:

  • Pan American Schoolhouse, Pablo Helguera

This recreation features the Pan-American schoolhouse that Pablo Helguera constructed across the Americas in his search for the definition of Pan Americanism. Go inside to watch a video of his intense journey.

  • Skin of Memory (2017), Suzanne Lacy and Pilar Riano-Alcala

This illuminated collection displays objects from a 1999 collection organized by Suzanne Lacy in Colombia. Each object is treated as equally sacred, and the project has been a source of healing and activism for its participants.

Santa Barbara Museum of Art:

Valeska Soares: Any Moment Now

This cutting-edge exhibit highlights Valeska Soares, a Brazilian conceptual artist whose installations play with memory, space, time, and the senses. This exhibit makes the familiar unfamiliar, with marble statues of pillows placed on the floor and brightly colored headboards diagonally arranged. Any Moment Now also includes audience interaction, with a dramatic light bulb installation that allows the viewer to shape the art. Check out:

  • Any Moment Now… (2014)

This collection of vintage dust jackets creates a unique reference to the passage of time and to what individuals may deem sacred in the everyday. The wall of old book titles also provides a fun colorful backdrop for photos.

  • Unrest (2010)

This intriguing installation piece features 128 footstools and one large glass chair, which demands to be studied by the viewer. The piece is highly conceptual, and raises questions of opulence and inequality, due to the imbalance between the small stools and the singular towering glass chair.

  • Vaga Lume (2007)  

This striking installation features a ceiling full of light bulbs with their pull switches hanging down, which creates a jungle of metal wire for the audience to walk through. The viewer can also pull the strings and turn individual bulbs on or off, which makes random patterns of light appear on the ceiling throughout the day. This artwork is a definite must-see!

Museum of Contemporary Art, Santa Barbara & Westmont Ridley-Tree Museum of Art

Guatemala from 33,000 km

This exhibit highlights contemporary Guatemalan artists as they struggle with issues such as trauma, identity, and territory. The exhibit spans both the MCASB and the Westmont Ridley-Tree Museum. It may seem like a long trip to take, but it is worth seeing both exhibits. Be sure to see:

  • Besieged History (1991), Isabel Ruiz

This dramatic mixed-media piece features charcoal placed on the floor of the museum with chairs and candles that represent the silenced indigenous voices during the Guatemalan civil war. It inspires reflection and remorse.

  • Aldea modelo, pequeña historia (1984), Yasmin Hage

Aldea modelo, pequena historia features cardboard models of Guatemalan indigenous villages that were surrounded by military barracks. One could spend hours walking around the models and inspecting their intricate details.