After officially opening in September, Xela Institute of Art, a gallery on Pacific Avenue that displays contemporary art, is preparing for its second exhibition, which opens Jan. 28.
The gallery held a successful inaugural exhibition featuring 14 emerging, mid-career, and well-established artists, and now Xela’s second exhibit will highlight the work of a mentor and mentee, Katherine Sherwood and Cynthia Ona Innis.
When Sherwood was 40 or 41, she had a cerebral hemorrhage, leading to partial paralysis of the right side of her body, including her dominant right hand, said Xela’s director, Alex Alexander.
“She had to relearn how to use her hand that she had never used,” Alexander said. “The work is so beautiful.”
As a “kunsthalle” style space, which is a German word for “art hall,” the Xela Institute of Art does not have a permanent collection, nor does it sell art or represent artists, Alexander explained.
Instead, with its focus on four-month shows, Xela is intended to celebrate and provide a platform for emerging and established artists, while also displaying a diverse range of artists, Alexander said.
Its name and logo—designed by French artist Christopher Leroux, who does urban industrial work—“refers to a lot of things that are amazing in our world,” Alexander said.
It is left up to the imagination to determine exactly what the “X” in the logo represents, although connotations like “x marks the spot” or a signature come to mind, Alexander said.
Situated in the Wrigley neighborhood, Xela Institute of Art is in a pocket of Long Beach that feels particularly authentic, said Alexander.
“It’s a very cool, lovely neighborhood, and Long Beach is beautiful,” Alexander said. “It’s a great location. I’m really enjoying it. I’m getting to know it little by little.”
Surrounded by neighboring businesses such as Wrigley Coffee and Wrigley Tavern, Alexander is excited to become a part of the local community, while joining an established art presence in Long Beach that includes the Long Beach Museum of Art and the Museum of Latin American Art.
While Alexander noted that contemporary art simply means that the artist is alive, the art in Xela’s exhibitions has a specific style.
“The idea for me is that you have to be very original,” he said. “You have to really know what you’re doing, and you really have to love art.”
While Alexander will be curating some of Xela’s exhibitions, future exhibitions may utilize an invited curator.
Although its second exhibition will center artists from within California (as well its third exhibition, which will feature Los Angeles-based artist Carla Jay Harris), Alexander hopes to widen the artists’ scope as time goes on.
“It’s just a little bit of a work in progress, but this first exhibition is a really incredible endeavor, because it’s just one of the best exhibitions right now,” Alexander said.
Its inaugural exhibition garnered support from around the world, with over 450 people from across the country and globe in attendance for the opening event, and about 180 people at the closing, Alexander said.
The Xela Institute of Art has received its California nonprofit status and expects to receive its federal status in the coming months. As the gallery continues to develop, Alexander hopes to not only widen its breadth of artists, but also begin various art education programming and partnerships with programs such as Cal State Long Beach’s master of fine arts program and the Arts Council of Long Beach.
The institute will also offer art classes, along with art appreciation classes discussing contemporary art, which Alexander hopes will help participants learn to train their artistic eyes and understand the process of being a part of the arts, Alexander said.
“Part of the goal is making sure that people in Long Beach, whether it’s schools, with their art professors,” Alexander said, “I want to make sure Long Beach is included, and very involved.”
Xela Institute of Art is located at 2176 Pacific Ave. and is open to the public Thursdays through Sundays, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. by reservation only. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to book a reservation.