The Cheech Marin Center For Chicano Art and Culture of the Riverside Art Museum is celebrating their one year anniversary with their “Cheech Collects: Anniversary Edition” exhibit on display until May 12, 2024. The exhibit features nearly 90 artworks by over 35 artists that reflect Chicanx experiences.
The Center is made up of two floors, the first floor currently houses the anniversary exhibit and the second floor houses various exhibits like “Life Logistics” that is focused on economic security, environmental justice, and worker exploitation in the area.
As visitors walk into the Center, the first piece of art that catches their attention is “Gaiatlicue,” a vibrant colored two story stained glass piece inspired by Coatlicue. She is the Aztec earth goddess by artists Einar and Jamex de la Torre, who are known for their glasswork and mixed media work.
The image of the goddess changes as viewers move throughout the space into an image of a “transformer” made of lowriders.
“It’s a way of grounding The Cheech very firmly in this area, which was really important for us to do,” María Esther Fernández, artistic director of The Cheech, said.
Fernández added that the RAM commissioned the artists early on in the project, which took five years.
The first floor has various sections filled with similar pieces of art by different artists. Most sections have ottomans in the middle where visitors are able to sit and contemplate the art that is featured.
The pieces in the exhibit focus on Chicano experiences from social gatherings, culture, surroundings, portraits, religion and other themes.
Jessica Flores, a Whittier resident, said she enjoyed being in a space that did not make her feel like an outsider, but instead highlighted and celebrated different Chicano experiences.
Materials used for the pieces vary from acrylic, to spices, mixed media, oil, spray paint, glitter and many more.
“It feels like it really reaches a lot of people of all different backgrounds and cultures,” Rebecca Torres, a Riverside resident, said. “It has a voice that’s different from most art museums.”
One of the sections features Frank Romero, whose pieces focus on cars, cities in the day and night and freeway overpasses.
“Some of these pieces, their colors are so vibrant in the story,” Rosario Cienfuegos, a retired educator, said. “The locations in the pieces like Echo Park and Boyle Heights are areas I’m familiar with.”
She added that George Yepes’s piece “Axis Bold as Love” reminded her of the Virgin Mary and it resonated with her because of the colors and the passion in it.
Artist Paul Valdez, was also featured in the exhibition with his three pieces, “Fresonda,” “Raptilia,” and “Magonada,” made out out of acrylic with menudo spices on paper. These pieces are a representation of the snacks many Chicano’s ate growing up.
“Almost every piece that you’ve seen, you can relate to it,” Flores said. “Like it’s your quinceañera, weddings and the snacks that we eat.”
The Center opened in June 2022 in a partnership between the City of Riverside, RAM and comedian and actor Cheech Marin. The collaboration comes after Marin’s touring exhibit “Papel Chicano Dos: Works on Paper from the Collection of Cheech Marin” was showcased at the RAM in 2017.
Fernández said Riverside city officials approached the RAM about partnering to house Marin’s collection permanently in the Inland Empire.
“Cheech has always been a wonderful advocate and collector for over 40 years of Chicana/o/x art and asked to have a space dedicated for his collection,” Fernández said. “It was too great to pass on.”
More than 500 art pieces were gifted to RAM by Marin from his personal collection. Exhibits showcased in the Center are pieces from the “gift” and loans from Marin’s personal collection.
Fernández said one of the goals of the exhibition is for people to understand the importance of Cheech’s gifts to RAM.
“Cheech purchased and collected what he loved, but I think he realized that he was collecting work that reflected and resonated his life experience,” Fernández said. “He began to understand that there was a bigger project, which was to bring attention to these artists.”
On Sunday The Cheech is having a “ULV Art Day” from noon to 5 p.m. Tickets will be discounted for students, alumni and family.
For more information on The Cheech, visit riversideartmuseum.com.
Samira Felix can be reached at email@example.com.