On Sunday, Nov. 27, while other Angelenos were still in a post-Thanksgiving stupor, ten Art Division students and three staff members headed to Riverside to visit the Cheech Marin Museum of Chicano Art. The museum, a collaboration between the Riverside Art Museum, the City of Riverside, and comedian Cheech Marin. Is known as “The Cheech,” and opened to the public in June 2022. It is the largest and most wide-ranging display of Chicano art in the world, and is intended to stake out a place in art history for the work of Latinx artists and activists from the 1960’s on.
“When I heard about the trip, I thought it would be a great opportunity to see art with our community, to get to talk about it and hang out,” Special Projects Director Luis Motta said. He was familiar already with some of the artists in the collection, but looked forward to learning more and experiencing the work with the students.
The current exhibition features work from Marin’s personal collection, including works by Patssi Valdez, Sandy Rodriguez, Carlos Almaraz, Frank Romero, Judithe Hernández, and Gilbert “Magú” Luján. The museum itself has a large atrium and is meant to have the feel of a zocolo, creating the feeling of a community space.
Art Division students were struck by the immediacy of the work. Each student found themself drawn to different individual pieces. For Scar Maradiaga, currently studying Photography at Art Division, the standout piece was Vincent Valdez’s “Kill the Pachuco Bastard,” a giant cinematic painting that imagines a bloody barroom brawl during the Los Angeles Zoot Suit Riots. “I liked the story in there, I liked how clear it was,” Scar said. “I liked the vibrancy.”
In addition to works from Cheech Marin’s collection, the museum is currently showing “Collidoscope,” an exhibit of sculpture and other large installations by Einar and Jamex de la Torre, two brothers from Guadalajara who have spent their lives navigating the U.S./Mexico border. Working in blown glass and other materials, the de la Torres brothers incorporate traditional crafts and high-tech media for an exhibit whose imagery spans from pre-Columbian times to the future. “I was blown away by the Torres brothers,” Motta said.
Afterwards, the Art Division group walked to the legendary Tio’s Tacos, where they enjoyed food and aguas frescas in its famous garden of found art objects and murals. There, students discussed their favorite pieces from the museum as well as ideas about tradition, time and frame of reference in Chicano art. “I loved the museum, but hanging out afterwards was my favorite part,” Art Division Program Coordinator Nicole Berlanga said. “Beyond getting to know the students, I got to know what they like about art. I love that we were able to enjoy the work at our own pace and then come together to debrief.”
Scar agreed that the best part of the trip was the chance to talk with other students about the art. “I really liked that we got to compare our ideas about the art, really break it down together,” Scar said. “I’d talk to another student and realize they saw something I hadn’t even noticed.” Like Nicole, she appreciated getting a chance to get to know more Art Division students. “It was really nice to meet new people,” Scar said.