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Friday, December 30, 2011

Chicano Visions: American Painters on the Verge by Cheech Marin

A great collection, a terrific exhibition

Published in 2002 by Bullfinch.
160 pages

I caught this exhibition at the Indiana State Museum while it was on a nationwide tour. It was so interesting that I took full advantage of my museum membership and came back and saw it several times while it was here in Indianapolis. I picked up the book as the exhibit was winding down but only recently read the well-written introductory essays that make up the first 35 pages or so of the book.

Cheech Marin has created a high-quality full color text of this travelling show which is mostly comprised of pieces from his own personal collection. Marin's taste tends to run towards political art, but there is plenty that speaks of life for artists who are both Chicano and American, as the exhibition title (also the book title) imply.

Artists that grabbed my attention include:

Carlos Almaraz - his car crash paintings were gigantic attention getters in the gallaries. His other works are great as well.

David Botello - his Monet-like style is fascinating.

One of the best paintings may well be "Janine at 39, Mother of Twins" by Margaret Garcia. Cheech Marin's comment on page 67 hits it on the head: "If there is a visual definition of the lushness, the strength, and the beauty of women, this painting is it."

Cesar Martinez's "Hombre que le Gustan las Mujeres (The Man who Loves Women)" is funny and a sadly realistic portrayal of the ways that men see women.

Patssi Valdez's "Room on the Verge"
Patssi Valdez was the painter that stole the show in Indianapolis, at least from the comments I heard. Her pictures are so bright and have the power to make the viewer feel as though he or she is being drawn in to the canvas, especially with works like "Room on the Verge." Another painting of hers graces the cover of the book.

I did not care for the works of a couple of established artists: Gronk and Mel Casas. The Casas pieces in this show seemed less like a work of art and more like very large, not very clever political cartoons. That being said, it was entirely appropriate to include their works considering their standing in the Chicano art movement.

I rate this book 5 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: Chicano Visions: American Painters on the Verge.

Reviewed on February 17, 2008

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