New museum honors Chicano art, culture

An influential and rare permanent space dedicated to prolific Chicano art and culture –possibly the nation’s first and largest permanent collection of Mexican American Art, museum officials say – opened Saturday in Riverside, California.

The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture, or ‘The Cheech’ as ​​it’s called, houses nearly 500 paintings, drawings, and sculptures donated from comedian, actor and art collector Cheech Marin, one half of the legendary comedy duo Cheech and Chong.

The inaugural exhibition, Cheech Collects, weaves a story of Marin’s journey as an art collector and features around 100 works.

“My heart is swelling at this point, man. This is a dream that I never dared dream, having a museum dedicated to Chicano art. It’s the very first one in the world,” Marin told NPR.

Executive Director Drew Oberjuerge speaks during the Civic Dedication of The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture of the Riverside Art Museum, June 16, 2022. Artworking a goddess depicting rising from the earth by brothers Einar and Jamex de la Torre stretches 26 feet from the ground floor to the second-level balcony.
Einar and Jamex de la Torre, Critical Mass.  Critical Mass is an allegory depicting the devil releasing Jesus from the cross with an Aztec sacrifice, the twin towers of the cathedral going down, and a cheeky monkey narrating the tale.

Artistic Director María Esther Fernández told USA TODAY she can’t recall another institution that has a permanent collection of Chicano art on view, although it’s difficult to be certain that The Cheech is the only permanent space or largest collection.

Fernández attributes this to the fact that Chicano art has been mostly ignored by the art world, in history departments and mainstream museums. A mission of the center is to help fill in some of the informational gaps, Fernández said.

Einar and Jamex de la Torre's 2020

“Chicano art to me … it speaks to a people, their American experience, and has really grown to adopt visual markers from other movements,” Fernández said.

“But it’s developed its own kind of visual language. And what’s needed because of the marginalization in the art world is more art history and more scholarly research so that we can unpack this.”

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