Simanaitis Says

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INVETERATE 17-YEAR-OLD that I am, I associate Cheech Marin with his stoner-hippie comedy partner Tommy Chong. And then in the 1990s he was Don Johnson’s partner in the Nash Bridges San Francisco cop series. However, it turns out that Marin also collected a lot more than roaches and bad guys. He has been a major collector of Chicano art.


Papel Chicano Dos: Works on Paper from the Collection of Cheech Marin, CauseConnect, 2016. The cover image is a detail of Soy Chicano, 2013, mixed media on gessoed paper, by Cici Segura González.

Initially curated by the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, the exhibition Papel Chicano Dos is currently at the Riverside Art Museum through May 7, 2017, also in southern California. Then the exhibition moves to Tulsa’s Philbrook Museum of Art, June 4 through September 3, 2017. Last, it closes out the year at the University of Wyoming Art Museum, September 23 through December 16, 2017. Organizers acknowledge the support of these showings by Tres Papalote Mezcal, an agave-based spirit.

Here are four of my favorites in the exhibition.

Gilbert “Magu” Luján, 1940–2011, was a founding member of Los Four, a Los Angeles art collective. He was also active in civil rights movements in the 1960s. The Hollywood & Vine Metro station is an example of Luján’s public art.


Blue Dog and Piwi, by Gilbert “Magu” Luján, pastel on paper, 1990. This and the following from Papel Chicano Dos.

I love how Blue Dog is slyly doing Rabbit Ears on his friend Piwi.

Glugio Nicardo, born in Los Angeles 1954, uses solely his middle name Gronk; he notes this is Brazilian-Indian for “to fly.” Gronk’s career includes stage design as well as painting.


Lifeboat!, by Gronk, lithograph, 1995.

Gronk’s gathering aboard ship reminds me of an Addams Family portrait. The view through the porthole is properly offsetting.

Frank Romero is Los Angeles-born in 1941, residing part of the time in Mirmande, France. He is another founder of Los Four art group known for its historic 1974 Chicano show at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the nation’s first such exhibition at a major cultural institution.


A detail from Festival of Masks Parade, by Frank Romero, pastel on paper, 1991.

Romero’s works are included in the permanent collections of LACMA and the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.

Sonia Romero, born in Los Angeles 1980, is the daughter of artists Frank and Alice Romero. She’s the granddaughter of Frank and Edith Wyle, founders of the Craft & Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles. Indeed, art is very much a family affair: The Craft & Folk Art Museum can be seen in the background of her father’s Festival of Masks Parade shown above.


Awakening triptych, by Sonia Romero, acrylic and papercut on paper, 2012.

Sonia received her formal training at the Rhode Island School of Design, with an emphasis in printmaking. I love the way her young woman emerges from the papercut tree.


Cheech Marin, Los Angeles-born 1946, American comedian, actor, writer, activist and art collector.

Describing the exhibition’s focus of works on paper, Marin observes, “One of the attributes that I most appreciate about paper is its ability to absorb—it can merge with any other medium, whether it is watercolor, pastel, ink, paint, or just about anything else. There is a bond formed that is both unique and unpredictable.” ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2017

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