Cheech Marin Shares Thoughts on Some of the San Antonio Artists Represented in His Personal Collection

Although his name has been synonymous with tokin’ up doobies for the last 40 years in films like Up in Smoke and Still Smokin, actor and comedian Cheech Marin has also made a name for himself in an industry outside of hash bars and Hollywood.

Since discovering Chicano art in the mid-1980s, Marin has amassed what is considered the largest collection of its kind in the U.S. Currently, Marin is exhibiting artwork from 14 Texas artists, many of whom are from San Antonio, at the Art Museum of South Texas in Corpus Christi. The exhibition, “Los Tejanos: Chicano Art,” runs through April 29. Additionally, Marin’s “The Chicano Collection” (a portfolio of prints by Vincent Valdez, Mel Casas, Alex Rubio, Jesse Treviño and many more) is on view at Centro de Artes through June 10 as part of the sprawling exhibition “Voz: Selections from the UTSA Art Collection.”

Ahead of his visit to Pearl Stable on April 25 for San Antonio College’s “Chilaquiles con Cheech” Fiesta brunch, the Current caught up with Marin to chat about some of the San Antonio artists in his collection, and about smokin’ the wacky tobacky.

click to enlarge “Hombre que le Gustan las Mujeres” - César Mártinez
César Mártinez
“Hombre que le Gustan las Mujeres”
When you decide to purchase a piece of art, what do you look for? Is it as simple as finding something appealing to the eye or does it go beyond that?
I look for something that resonates with its time. San Antonio is one of the birthplaces of Chicano art. It reflects Chicano society and culture. It keeps growing and morphing and starts encompassing many, many more things. It’s an effort to keep an arts community together and prosperous. That seems to be happening in South Texas right now. The art movement down there has been doing very well.

Tell me a little about some of the San Antonio artists in your collection and what resonated with you about their work. I’ll throw out a name — Mel Casas.
His sense of humor. He takes these really funny, ironic, Chicano angles with his work. For him, it’s really about simplifying those images and using text. He’s great. I like him a lot.
click to enlarge “La Estrella Que Cae” - Adan Hernandez
Adan Hernandez
“La Estrella Que Cae”
Adan Hernandez.
Adan is from the dark heart of the barrio. He has his own Chicano noir. He’s a really good painter and a true vato.

What about Alex Rubio?
[Laughs] He cracks me up. Every time I see him, I make him take off his sunglasses for one second. Then he puts them back on. He’s a good guy, has a great heart and a totally unique style. He’s a mysterious, moving object, and I like that about him.

Vincent Valdez.
He’s a virtuoso. He’s doing very well because he’s got the talent and he puts in the work.

“Los Tejanos” is on exhibit 'til the end of the month. Why should people check it out?
It’ll make you feel emotions. What it is about the Chicano artists that I collect is that they can really, really paint. It’s like someone that can really, really play an instrument. It’s a talent that a lot of Chicanos display. If you want to see really good paintings, go see it.
click to enlarge “Kill the Pachuco Bastard!” - Vincent Valdez
Vincent Valdez
“Kill the Pachuco Bastard!”
Back in 1978 when you made Up in Smoke, did you ever think there would be a time when states in the U.S. were going to legalize marijuana for recreation?
I always thought that would happen eventually. I just wish it happened sooner. We’ve reached the tipping point.

Can you pinpoint when the tide changed? I mean, a recent survey shows 64 percent of Americans support legalization. That wasn’t always the case.
The support built up over the years. It’s spread across more and more generations. It’s a worldwide culture. It was always a state of being — a state of mind. Also, it has all these medicinal qualities. It goes through every single stratum of society — top to bottom, up and down, east and west, north and south, every economic stratum, every political stratum.

There have been a lot of stoner movies to come out since Up in Smoke. Are there any that you’ve liked?
The Seth Rogen ones tend to be funny. The Farrelly brothers (Dumb & Dumber, There’s Something About Mary), although they’re not classified as stoners, have a stoner sensibility. The Friday movies also crack me up.

When you think of celebrities and weed, names that come to mind are Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg, Seth Rogen and you and Tommy Chong. How have you stayed in the conversation over the years?
We have two strains out there right now that are doing very well. We have Chong’s Choice and Cheech’s Private Stash. We keep up with all the strains all the time. That’s our guarantee for our brand that it will always be good. It won’t always be the same, but it will always be good.

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