The Cheech Marin Center Opens in Riverside Spotlighting Chicano Art – The Hollywood Reporter

Cheech Marin – who achieved lasting fame as one half of the pioneering stoner comedy duo Cheech & Chong from the 70s before making his own way acting in film and television – thought it was kismet . He had just learned that the “magnificent mid-century building” he had been offered to house his main collection of Chicano art (an identifier for people of Mexican descent born in the United States) was 61,420 feet tall. squares. “Eighty, you say?” he recalled five years later. “Thank you Lord! It was as if it had to happen.

The “this” Marin is referring to is the Riverside Art Museum’s new Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture — or The Cheech, for short — which opens June 18 in the old downtown public library building. town of Riverside, California. It will feature paintings, photographs, sculptures and drawings from an A-list of the Chicano art movement, ranging from Frank Romero and Judithe Hernández to Gilbert “Magú” Luján and Patssi Valdez. “This school of American art is incredibly important in its longevity and reach, coast to coast. It’s as important as the Hudson River Valley or Ash Can or anything else. It just hasn’t had its moment of glory yet,” says Marin, who was approached to create the center by Riverside town officials after exhibiting part of his collection at the Riverside Art Museum in 2017. Marin , which has been taken with the fact that Riverside is a predominantly Latino town, has so far donated around 500 items from its 700-plus-piece collection to the institution, whose new home eventually underwent a 13-year renovation, $3 million, funded primarily by the state.(A $15.95 ticket provides access to both the Cheech and the Riverside Art Museum.)

The exterior of the new museum.
COURTESY OF THE CHEECH CHICANO MUSEUM OF ART

Marin, 75, an inveterate collector since childhood (baseball cards, marbles, stamps) – “it’s always been part of my business” – has devoted himself to collecting and promoting Chicano art after having discovered a compelling and under-the-radar group of Texas painters of the late 1980s. “I thought, ‘This is [all] the same DNA,” he explains. “Some are a little more rural, some are a little more urban, but they’re cousins ​​in the same family.”

Marin financed his collection with the help of his long acting career on television Nash Bridges as well as voice acting characters on Disney animated films, from The Lion King and Cars at coconut and beverly hills chihuahua. The collection has been displayed in more than 50 museums, including LACMA, the Smithsonian, and San Francisco’s De Young – although many art institutions frown on the display of private collections, fearing that the prestige of a museum exhibition will be damaged. unfairly raises potential secondary market prices. “But my comeback was always ‘Well, I have this collection and you don’t,'” Marin says, saying the same fine art world had for decades neglected, condescended and marginalized Chicano artists. “There was no answer to that, because I was out there collecting when nobody was taking it seriously.”

Zach Horowitz, the former chairman and CEO of Universal Music Publishing Group who has since founded Latin podcast company Pitaya, is another Chicano art collector who sits on the board of the Museum of Latin American Art. of Long Beach. “I’ve always been impressed by Cheech’s passion for an art form that has had to fight for recognition,” he says. “No one has done more to champion him nationally and internationally. He has worked tirelessly for decades to ensure he is seen and placed in the right context.

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The work of the de la Torre brothers 2020 femininity.
COURTESY OF THE CHEECH CHICANO MUSEUM OF ART

These days, with the imminent opening of The Cheech (the star suggested the eponymous baptism in a joking retort to the blue-chip-stuffed The Broad), Marin finds himself in the role of canonizing institution – with the challenges that resulting. “What I learned in this process is that there is nothing more expensive than a free gift,” he notes jokingly, but not either, indicating that he has suffered sticker shock when he learned he would have to pay for an appraisal on each of his donated pieces. As a celebrity collector, he also found that, much to his chagrin, some artists reveal an exploitative tendency to turn singular pieces he purchased into ex post facto series. “They do that as soon as you buy it,” he observes tenderly. “’Great, thanks guys!’ “

The museum and its accompanying educational component (which is expected to include a film seminar taught by director Robert Rodriguez) intends to leverage Marin’s unparalleled collection to explore fundamental questions, including the divide between those who identify as Chicano and the generation (usually younger) who associate with the term “Latino”. “What we do is weave stories, curatorially, about the collection,” explains artistic director María Esther Fernández. “We look at the works together and individually, how they are in conversation thematically, politically, artistically, conceptually, visually, historically artistic.” At the opening, The Cheech will highlight the works of the late painter Carlos Almaraz – subject of the 2020 Netflix documentary Play with fire – as well as Glugio “Gronk” Nicandro, a multidisciplinary artist who was a member of the Dada-influenced Asco East LA collective.

Marin’s home in Pacific Palisades, which he shares with his third wife, classical pianist Natasha Rubin, has for years been a pilgrimage stop for prominent art collectors like Steve Martin. It’s covered wall to wall with a rotating selection of his acquisitions.

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Marin and Einar and Jamex de la Torre looking at the artists’ two-story artwork at The Cheech based on the Aztec earth goddess Coatlicue.
CARLOS PUMA/PUMA IMAGES

One weekday morning at the end of May, before leaving for an ADR session on Bobby Farrelly’s upcoming comedy Champions that he plays opposite Woody Harrelson, Marin provided The Hollywood Reporter with visit, from the dining room to the upstairs bathroom and the master bedroom. Between ardent meditations on brush technique and museum-worthy hanging systems, he reflects on his long career in show business (“I have always existed outside the main framework of show business”) as well as on his intermittent periods of alienation of works (“It’s called divorce”).

Then there are his multiple marijuana businesses. “You have to invent the wheel in every state,” he sighs, thinking of the regulatory hassles associated with the so-called cannabis green rush. So far this year, he’s launched Muncheechos, a delivery concept involving ghost kitchens, as well as a separate weed line launched in tandem with Tommy Chong. He already had Cheech’s Stash, a curated offering of pre-rolls, proprietary strains, and natural edibles. “We’re not growing,” he explains, “but you can trust old Cheech here that it’ll always be good.”

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The 2017 painting Juarez Quinceañera, by Judithe Hernández, who was part of the Los Angeles-based 1970s Chicano art collective Los Four.
COURTESY OF THE CHEECH CHICANO MUSEUM OF ART

Perhaps his favorite subject, at least for now, is the nuances of displaying artwork. Even with a large building, the museum expects half a decade to pass before going through Marin’s entire collection. “We want people to turn on every corner and there’s a knockout play with its own [dedicated] wall,” he said, his voice rising with passion. “We don’t overcharge anything. Everyone finally gets their due.

This story first appeared in the June 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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