Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Cheech Marin, Chicanitas, and UW

The Latino/Hispanic tradition celebrated in Laramie

Cheech Marin
    The University of Wyoming Art Museum displayed Chicanitas:  Small Paintings from the Cheech Marin Collection (size doesn’t matter) this past fall.  Marin, famously half of Cheech and Chong, has pursued his passion for art after touring Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum and viewing Rembrandt’s monumental The Night Watch, then seeing Vermeer’s work
and being blown away by its intensity on such a small canvas.  He decided to collect works by Chicano artists that were no more than 16 inches in either dimension.  

     There were sixty-eight works by twenty-seven artists completed from 1984 – 2010 (Marin started his collection in 1988) and they covered a wide range of styles including neo-post-impressionism, cartoon-like surrealism, neo-expressionism, realism, and photorealism.  The major genre concentration was figurative with some urban and rural landscapes.  

Dexter Examines "El Amazing Donkey Show" by Jari Alvarez
     One of the artists that Marin first collected was Carlos Almaraz (1941 – 1989), who was also one of his five favorite painters.  His impressionistic landscapes are both bold and evocative.  However, I really preferred some of the other artists.  Jari “Werc” Alvarez densely combines realistic images with cartoon icons of Americana.  It seems like collage, but there aren’t visible layers.  Alvarez comments on the American Dream and a culturally diverse society.  The two Press paintings by Ana Teresa Fernández wittily presents a sexy woman ironing with both her torso and an iron.  It’s a male fantasy all right – she even does it in heels, but she might also be so exhausted that she’s fallen asleep on the ironing board.  The catalogue reproductions don’t capture the clarity of her near-photorealism. 

"Wrestler's Centauro"
by Jose Lozano

     José Lozano and Eloy Torrez present the male portrait, the former in a tough stance, but in the context of their family members and friends through pen and ink with a doodling feel about them, while the latter utilizes a realistic approach in showing very relaxed, almost dreamy, subjects.

"Natasha's Rose Garden"
by Patssi Valdez

In terms of landscapes, Patssi Valdez suggests both a childlike naïveté and an updated Matisse, Vincent Valdez images of L.A. at night are both photographically realistic and Baroque, and Jaime “Germs” Zacarias enters a wild psychedelic world.  

     Cheech Marin visited for the opening and signed lots of catalogue copies.  Congratulations to UW for yet another cool show, especially after the 2012 display of Goya’s Los Caprichos, the first time I’d seen the entire collection of those historic aquatints. 

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