Comedian, actor and director Richard “Cheech” Marin ’68 (English) always loved art. The native of South Central Los Angeles who moved to the San Fernando Valley as a young boy was fascinated by paintings and the stories they told.
“It just seemed like a wonderful form of expression,” said Marin. Today, the California State University, Northridge alumnus has one of the largest private collections of Chicano art in the world. From June 27 to Oct. 26, “Chicano Dream: The Cheech Marin Collection, 1980-2010,” will be on exhibit in Bordeaux, France as part of the Sister Cities of Los Angeles cultural exchange. It will be on display in the Museum of Aquitaine in Bordeaux.
“This is a great cultural exchange and opportunity,” Marin said. “It’s an important part of not only our Chicano culture but our American culture.”
Marin’s collection is one of two exhibits that will pay tribute to Chicano art during this cultural festival in France. Asco, a documentary exhibition featuring a collective of East Los Angeles Chicano artists in the ’70s and ’80s, will be on display in the Contemporary Art Museum of Bordeaux from June 26 to Sept. 21. This group of 12 artists includes CSUN Chicana/o studies professor Harry Gamboa Jr. Over the years, art collectors, museum curators and academics have hailed Asco and Gamboa for presenting the realities of a community that was long ignored and provocatively translating their universal experiences.
Sister Cities of Los Angeles celebrates the myriad of cultures that make up the city through a continuing program of service in the areas of civics, education, culture, trade and economic development, travel and sports and recreation. It promotes the image of Los Angeles around the world and expands global interest in the city and tourism. The series of art exhibits are expected to attract more than 500,000 visitors.
Marin, the comedian-turned-actor-turned-director-turned-art collector, owns more than 600 pieces of art including works by Carlos Almaraz, Elsa Flores Almaraz, Carlos Donjuán, Frank Romero, Sonia Romero, Leigh Salgado and Vincent Valdez. He is best known as one half of the hilariously irreverent, satirical duo “Cheech and Chong.” Marin and his partner, Tommy Chong, released a series of best-selling comedy albums in the 1970s and received a Grammy Award among his achievements. The comedians’ movie, “Up in Smoke,” became the highest-grossing comedy of 1978, topping $100 million at the box office. The partnership lasted 15 successful years. Marin went on to direct and star in numerous films and television series.
He said he gained his first real appreciation of art while a student at then-San Fernando Valley State College.
“I took a pottery class and I found my medium,” said Marin, who said he always felt like an artist. “Art is just a wonderful way to communicate.”
Marin has maintained his connections to CSUN. He was the recipient of the 2004 Distinguished Alumni Award. He has participated in the university’s speakers’ series and exhibited his collection in the CSUN Art Galleries.