Sunday, February 19, 2012

Where to Be Merry: The Museum of African-American Art @ Macy’s, Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza


The Merriment: A museum featuring art from emerging and prominent African-American artists and other artists from the African Diaspora

The Vibes: Introspective, historical, artistic, inspiring


Good for: Whenever you’re in the mood to see didactic art, in the form of paintings, mixed media, sketches, film posters and other creative expressions


When-to-Go: Thursday-Sunday, 12pm-5pm (closed Monday-Wednesday)


With-Whom-to-Go: By yourself or whomever happens to be with you at the time


The $ Factor: FREE!


The 4-1-1: See an art piece that you like? Ask a staff member about it, as some art is for sale.


I’ll Be Back…: To hear Dr. Edna Briggs share with us how to research our family histories when she speaks at the “21st Century Griot: Discovering Our Ancestry” program on Sunday, February 26th


Did you know Macy's had a museum? 

I didn't.

You gotta walk past the shoes. And past the purses. 

Make your way up two flights of escalators to the third floor of Macy’s, then pass the home décor and kitchenware sections, and head towards the mattresses.

That’s where you’ll find the entrance to the Museum of African-American Art (MAAA).

MAAA is a real hidden gem – no – a hidden diamond in the rough. Aside from being situated in a rather obscure part of Macy’s, it's a little frayed around the edges: dim lighting, worn carpet, a somewhat confusing layout that makes you feel like you’re wandering through a maze…

Yet in spite – or perhaps because – of these trivial cosmetic blemishes, the real treasure to be seen at MAAA is the art; the scores of paintings and posters proudly displayed on the walls of two large rooms. Some of the art pieces are rich in bright, vivid colors, showcasing brown-skinned people engaged in everyday activities. Other pieces are more solemn, created in shades of grays, evoking more somber emotions. But regardless of styles, the art boldly and beautifully expresses the diverse tales from the African Diaspora.

In addition to these paintings, the “Travel Through Blackness: The Ron Finley Collection of International Movie Posters, 1920s to 1970s” is an awesome exhibit worth checking out, especially if you’re a film buff or into movie posters. Posters of blockbuster hits, such as Coffy and Carmen Jones (pictured to the right), are intermingled with international films, such as the Argentine La Sangre Negra. They feature the African-American trailblazers and iconic figures who made unforgettable marks in Hollywood: Paul Robeson, Mantan Moreland and Stepin Fetchit, to name a few.

And as gorgeous as the posters are, I’d say their depictions give them a run for their money as well! Some of the short blurbs I read, such as that of Regeneration [“A nere-do-well man, a beautiful girl, and her one-legged body-guard/family servant are the sole survivors – they think – of a ship wreck and make it to a [sic] uninhabited south-seas island.”] made want to immediately watch the movie. Other depictions offered interesting tidbits of information about the filmmakers, the main actors and/or the film itself. Reading them was like getting an impromptu history lesson about the social and cultural settings in which the films were made. Definitely make sure you see this exhibit if you go to the MAAA, but don’t wait too late; the exhibit closes in late April.

The MAAA is a museum worth visiting at least once while you’re in Los Angeles and should certainly remain on your radar. Now would I recommend driving all the way from Carson or Pasadena on any given afternoon to come here? Probably not. But if you’re already planning to be in the area, getting your shop on in Macy’s or in the mall, on your way to the Rave Theaters or to one of the many restaurants around, like Post and Beam or Buffalo Wild Wings, then I say definitely stop by for a quick glance. You can easily spend a few minutes or so in there to soak up the great art and then be on your merry way.

See you there soon!

For more information: http://www.maaala.org, @maaalosangeles