"What I like about paper is that it's multi-facted in its absorption qualities. Watercolor absorbs differently on paper than printing does, or writing or drawing or acrylic. Especially watercolor. You can just hope. And I think the people that are most surprised are the artists themselves."
-- Cheech Marin on works on paper
This segment is really the latest installment of "Cheech Marin Saves Chicano Art." No, seriously.
Decades ago, the Anglo art world, on the whole, didn’t know or respect Chicano art. As Marin says, it said, "Chicano art isn't art. Chicanos don't make art, they make agitprop folk art, you know, blah blah blah." So he started collecting Chicano art, then sharing his collection in exhibits around the country, and "each succeeding show debunked that notion."
Now, Cheech says, LACMA director Michael Govan has asked him to help put together the Chicano collection for the museum, "and it's a big deal because LACMA is an encyclopedic museum; there's only five in the United States, and what it represents is the final imprimatur of the establishment."
Part of his work is raising money, and it's not easy. "Chicano philanthropy pretty much does not exist," he says, possibly throwing a bomb to shake loose some money. "I think the prevailing attitude is, 'Why do I have to contribute to museums? I already pay my taxes!' Well, so does everybody else."
Wait, I say, I can understand why working class people would say that. But millionaires and billionaires? "Yeah," he says. So what's up, I ask. "I don't know." Maybe because Chicanos have always been "pushed in the shadows," so there isn't the tradition of philanthropy. "The people who build museums by and large get to determine what goes in them. We just have to use that same approach."
Meantime, Cheech continues to tour his collection. The latest exhibit, now at the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego, and soon to come to Riverside Art Museum, is "Papel Chicano Dos," spotlighting works on paper by young Chicano artists.
There’s a book by the same name that accompanies the exhibit, and in the audio, you can hear Cheech telling us about some of the artists he picked for the exhibit, like Carlos Almaraz, Carlos Donjuan, Sonya Fe, and Sonia Romero.