When visitors enter the doors to The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture (aka “The Cheech”) in downtown Riverside, they will come face to face with a towering Aztec earth goddess with a special message about how to save the planet.
Although the center won’t open for another two months, the installation of the lenticular artwork (26 feet high x 13 feet wide) by brothers Einar and Jamex de la Torre was completed on April 26, 2022. Stretching from the ground floor to the second-level balcony, the yet-untitled large-scale installation is a commissioned artwork for The Cheech and will greet visitors as they enter the center.
“This piece is going to turn some heads,” said Einar. “There is a myriad of ‘Easter eggs’ to find as you move and take a closer look from the perspective of both floors.”
The image shows Coatlicue, the Aztec earth goddess also known as the mother of gods and mortals, rising from the earth, made of flora and fauna textures, which can be interpreted as a defense of mother nature. As viewers move laterally in front of the large LED backlit lenticular, the image of the goddess changes to another image of a Transformer-like robot made of lowrider cars. A closer look at the work reveals more details (look for faces of Cheech himself!). There are solar panels and windmills dotting the background map, going from East Los Angeles to Riverside.
Jamex said the message is clear: “We see her beckoning us back to a simpler life, using less resources and eventually living in harmony with nature,” he said. “We see technology as the only way out of the global warming debacle. So, this ‘Transformer’ is the empowering image of the future scientists coming up with creative ways to deal with the rising global temperatures.”
The vivid, ever-changing installation pays homage to its new home and points to the complexities of the often overlooked and misunderstood Inland Empire, which is now the fourth largest Latino metro region in the area. As the viewer moves around the piece, many Inland Empire-centric images and themes begin to emerge, including the area’s long history with the rail industry, its car culture, its network of freeways that are integral to the nation’s logistics industry, and its bounty of native plants and flowers that speak to growing environmental justice efforts. A map of Riverside is also visible upon closer inspection.
The de la Torre brothers are a natural fit for The Cheech. Born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, México, and now living in San Diego, California, the brothers have navigated life on both sides of the border since they were very young and have inherited their own unique vision of the Latino experience and American culture. Their work draws from traditional Mexican folk art, pop culture, and religious imagery and mythology.
The Cheech, which is inside a mid-century building next to the historic Mission Inn Hotel, is the result of a public-private partnership between the Riverside Art Museum, Cheech Marin, and the City of Riverside, the “City of Arts & Innovation.”
Opening June 18, 2022, the center is expected to welcome more than 100,000 guests annually to explore exhibitions and engage in educational opportunities. The center will initially house nearly 500 paintings, drawings, and sculptures gifted from Marin, the third-generation Mexican American and film and TV actor who has been collecting Chicano art for four decades, including the work of the de la Torre brothers.
“When I saw the initial renderings created by the brothers, I couldn’t wait to see the real thing as I knew it would be much more than I ever expected, and it is,” Marin said.
The de la Torre brothers will also be featured as part of the center’s first temporary exhibit, Collidoscope: de la Torre Brothers Retro-Perspective, which is being organized by the Riverside Art Museum in partnership with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Latino. Curated by Selene Preciado, the exhibition encompasses almost three decades of work by the de la Torre brothers and features more than 70 mixed-media works, including blown-glass sculptures and installation art, plus some of the artist duo’s latest lenticular artwork. After closing in Riverside on January 23, 2023, the exhibition will embark on a national tour managed by Melissa Richardson Banks of CauseConnect.
About The Cheech and RAM: RAM is one museum with two locations: the Riverside Art Museum, housed in a National Historic 1929 building designed by Hearst Castle and AIA Gold Medal-winning architect Julia Morgan, and The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture, slated to open June 18, 2022, just one block away in downtown Riverside, the “City of Arts & Innovation”. RAM integrates art into the lives of people in a way that engages, inspires, and builds community by providing high quality exhibits and art education programs that instill a lifelong love of the arts. A 60-plus-year-old, non-profit cultural arts institution, RAM strives to be a distinguished, yet accessible institution that serves as a cultural, collaborative, and educational focal point for our diverse community. For more information about RAM, visit www.riversideartmuseum.org. Find the Riverside Art Museum on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Find The Cheech on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
About the de la Torre Brothers: Collaborating artists and brothers Einar and Jamex de la Torre were born in Guadalajara, México (1963 and 1960, respectively) where they grew up until their family moved to California in 1972. They both studied at California State University at Long Beach and taught at the Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, Washington. Currently, the brothers live and work on both sides of the border (Ensenada, Baja California, México and San Diego, California). The complexities of the immigrant experience and contradicting bicultural identities, as well as their current life and practice on both sides of the border, inform their narrative and aesthetics. Since the mid-1990s, the brothers have collaborated in earnest and worked together to develop their signature style of mixed-media work with blown-glass sculpture and lenticular printing. Their pieces represent a multifaceted view of life that reflects a complex and humorous aesthetic that could be seen as baroque. Influences range from religious iconography to German expressionism while also paying homage to Mexican vernacular arts and pre-Columbian art. To date, they have had 18 solo museum exhibitions in six different countries, completed eight major public art projects and have participated in four biennales. Their work is represented in numerous public and private collections, including the Cheech Marin Collection, and they are recipients of the USA Fellowship Award, the San Diego Art Prize, the Louis Comfort Tiffany Award, and the Joan Mitchell Foundation Award, among other honors. The de la Torre brothers are represented by Koplin Del Rio Gallery in Seattle, Washington. To learn more, visit www.delatorrebrothers.art.