For Muzeo, a publicly funded museum in downtown Anaheim, and for actor and art collector Cheech Marin, it’s a take two.
“Papel Chicano Dos” represents the second time Cheech’s Chicano art collection — with a specific focus on works on paper — has been shown at Muzeo. The first time was January through April 2008.
This second go-round features 65 works by 24 established and emerging Chicano/a artists. The artworks — many of them new to the collection and not exhibited before — date from the late 1980s to the present. Techniques range from watercolor, acrylic and aquatint to spray paint, paste and mixed media.
For the veteran actor, whose initial claim to fame was the “Cheech & Chong” comedy routine and stoner movies with Tommy Chong, this Anaheim show will be the final touring stop before his art collection gets enshrined in the Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art, Culture & Industry at the Riverside Art Museum. The 61,420-square-foot center, originally the Riverside Public Library, is scheduled to open in 2020.
For Muzeo, this exhibition is a chance to reconnect with a celebrity collector with a respectable and growing art collection. It’s also an opportunity to reach out to the community and show some works that should appeal to populations in and around Anaheim, Santa Ana, Orange, Fullerton, Los Angeles and beyond.
But because of its wide-ranging subject matter and focus on contemporary art, “Papel Chicano Dos” should appeal to many different communities and those interested in American arts and culture. The exhibition runs through July 14.
“I think it means a lot to this community,” said Mandy Rodriguez, Muzeo’s new exhibitions coordinator, who’s been at the nonprofit — which used to be known as the Anaheim Museum — for a year.
“I know personally, I’m happy to see art that I would have seen growing up from my peers,” Rodriguez said. “The guests that I’ve been able to talk to who don’t see their lives or their culture represented in a museum — it’s special but it also means that your culture is validated in a way. And seeing faces that look like yours — I think it resonates a lot more.”
In conjunction with this exhibit, the museum hosted a “Proud to Be Me: A Celebration of Chicano Culture” event on April 13. It took place at Muzeo and along Broadway in downtown Anaheim, a.k.a. the Anaheim Center Street Promenade.
About 800 people attended the all-day event, which included custom cars, zoot suits, mariachis, dancers, fashion and vendors selling food, drink, clothing and Chicano cultural items.
Muzeo also held a VIP reception when the exhibition opened. Some of the artists attended and praised the way their work was presented. While the original curator was Cris Scorza and the show was organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, the Muzeo installation was coordinated by Joyce Franklin, who has long been associated with Muzeo and the Anaheim Museum.
Some Impressive Names
“Papel Chicano Dos” features works by some very well-known and established Chicano artists, including Carlos Almaraz, graffiti artist Charles “Chaz” Bojorquez, Frank Romero, Gilbert “Magu” Luján, Glugio “Gronk” Nicondro, Leo Limón and John Valadez.
The show also features women artists and those who may not be as well known, such as Cici Segura González, Margaret García, Sonia Romero and Sonya Fe.
Fe’s “La Llorona” series from 2000 is captivating, playing on the legend of the weeping woman who drowned her two sons and wanders in search of their bodies. Yet Fe also mixes the myth with other tropes and icons. In “Retold Story of La Llorona #2 (Handsome Caballero),” she meets a masked man that appears to be Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata. Famed Mexican artist Diego Rivera immortalized Zapata in his 1931 fresco “The Agrarian Leader Zapata,” which is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
La Llorona also appears in some scenes dressed as an adelita, or a female soldier that was a vital part of the 1910 Mexican Revolution.
Elsewhere, there are other intriguing and well-executed works on paper. Pablo Andrés Cristi’s “If La Virgen Returned” is a 2009 spray paint and acrylic on paper. In this work, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe looks like a male Zapatista from Chiapas, with a signature black mask covering his face. The vision appears before an indigenous group, as Guadalupe appeared before Juan Diego in 1531, and the same yellow halo that graces La Virgen emanates from his body.
Three of “Los Four” are represented in this show: Almaraz, Romero, and “Magu” Luján. Los Four was a groundbreaking group of Chicano artists who were instrumental in bringing Chicano art to the forefront in the wider, mainstream art world. Los Four had a show at LACMA in 1974, which became the first Chicano art exhibit in a mainstream American museum.
The works by Almaraz, Romero and Luján are full of color and energy and are highly illustrative of day-to-day Chicano life.
“Papel Chicano Dos” also features six works by Nicondro, who is better known as “Gronk.” Once a member of the Chicano artists’ collective Asco, Gronk has always been an intriguing figure, participating in performance art and questioning gender constructions as well as creating murals, paintings and screen prints. His works in this show include “Bullet in the Back” (1995), “Chip on the Shoulder” (1994), “Lifeboat!” (1995), “Flipside” (1994) and “Breathing Hard” (1996).
While his works tend to get abstract and expressionist, they are always delivered with thought, feeling and sometimes humor.
Another notable body of work is “Stations,” a 2005 lithograph series by Vincent Valdez. Valdez depicts a young Chicano boxer at various stages of his big fight, from the weigh-in to his deadly demise. The scenes are numbered and captured like Jesus’ stations of the cross, and the overall effect is epic and masterful.
Near the end of the exhibition is a classic 1950 Chevy coupe painted by “Magu” Luján. “Our Family Car,” now owned by Paul Dunlap of Fullerton, has taken on its own almost-legendary status through the years. Luján painted and sculpted quite a few of these cars in his lifetime, and he certainly left his mark throughout Southern California, painting murals and designing the Hollywood and Vine station on the Metro Rail Red Line in Los Angeles. He died in 2011.
Also at the end of “Papel Chicano Dos” is a mini-theater that screens video interviews with many of the artists in the show. Here, the artists tell their own stories and reasons for creating the art that they did.
A New Boss at Muzeo, A New Look Downtown
Bill Bailor, the new chief executive officer at Muzeo, has been on the job at for three months. Previously, he came from the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, where he held several senior positions over a span of 20 years.
“Papel Chicano Dos” is an important show for him and his institution, but it’s not the only thing he has going on. He’s working on programming and events for the next several years.
Part of Bailor’s job is making people understand what exactly is on view now at Muzeo. This Cheech Marin collection is “the last time the art will tour,” he said. “It will go to the Riverside Art Museum. It won’t leave that location afterwards, so we really want people to see it here, not necessarily drive to Riverside to see it.”
According to Bailor, Muzeo has an annual budget of a little over $700,000. The nonprofit receives $250,000 per year from the city of Anaheim. But those funds must be matched every year through private donations, which is accomplished through fundraising and a couple of annual events, he said.
Next up at Muzeo is the exhibition “I’m An American,” Aug. 24-Nov. 3, which will explore the Japanese American experience during World War II. The exhibit will include artifacts and interviews with some of the Anaheim-based survivors of Japanese American internment during the war, as well as in the years that followed.
“Those stories will be told, and we will re-create a portion of the barracks that they stayed in,” Bailor said. “There’s obviously a piece of the tragedy of what happened, but there’s also a story of resilience in all of that. For better or for worse, the families made the situation the best it could be.”
On May 25, Anaheim’s Center Street Promenade will host the first-ever Anaheim Japan Fair, featuring Japanese food, art, calligraphy, pop culture, entertainment and beer and sake. Muzeo is planning to play a role in that event as well, with a new Japanese art exhibit opening in its original Carnegie Building, Bailor said.
For the new CEO and Muzeo, things are looking bright in downtown Anaheim. The Packing District has brought life to a formerly sketchy part of town, and foot traffic has increased. A new brewery, Modern Times, and an accompanying “Leisuretown” are set to open nearby, possibly later this year.
“There’s much more to Anaheim than Disney,” Bailor said. “The redevelopment of this whole area — it’s changed a lot. People used to say, ‘Don’t go over there at night.’ They don’t say that anymore.”
Richard Chang is a contributing writer for Arts & Culture at Voice of OC, focusing on the visual arts. He can be reached at email@example.com.