South Texas artist Joe Peña is receiving long-overdue critical acclaim for his “Nightscapes” series of urban landscapes that invite viewers to accompany him on his sublime late-night journeys. Centered on food trucks, storefronts, and other venues illuminated against velvety black skies, his oil and ink paintings beautifully portray the heritage of the food truck in Mexican American culture, elevating its stature and representing his sense of identity and belonging — his notion of “home” as an internal sense of place and not merely a physical thing or location.
Cheech Marin, an avid collector of Chicano art, first discovered Peña’s paintings in 2009 during a visit to Corpus Christi, Texas and has actively collected the artist since that time (to date, one dozen works by Peña’s are in his collection). Peña’s paintings “1:15am, Final Stop;” “Late Night Elote,” and Rosie’s Tamales” are currently on view at The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture of Riverside Art Museum (aka “The Cheech”) in the inaugural exhibition, “Cheech Collects.” These three works caught the eye of Los Angeles Times art critic and winner of the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Criticism Christopher Knight who wrote about Peña in his raving review of the exhibition at The Cheech:
Peña shares that his work explores elements of his ethnic identity — his Mexican heritage, including aspects of cultural, familial and social issues. The inspiration for his current series first came to him after a late-night visit to a food truck that he frequented in his hometown of Corpus Christ, Texas. A streetlight that usually lit the area was not working, transforming an otherwise ordinary view into one that was suddenly extraordinary — the truck seemed to hover and emerge from the blackness of space as lightness surrounded it. Some might have regarded this scene in terms of isolation or foreboding. He was instead struck with a sense of welcoming and belonging, which felt like home to him. Aesthetically, he says he is fascinated with illuminated structures either set against the rich darkness of the backgrounds in some of his paintings or the interaction of light between figures, objects, and locations in others.
His current show at Redbud Gallery is on view through on Sunday, November 27, 2022. The gallery is located at 303 E. 11th Street in Houston, Texas. Public hours are 12-5pm on Friday and Saturday and by appointment at (713) 854-4246 and (832) 434-9961. To learn more, visit www.redbudgallery.com.
ABOUT REDBUD FINE ARTS: Founded in 1999 by Gus Kopriva, Redbud Fine Arts has presented 280 art shows to date. Monthly art shows are staged in its East Gallery and after expanding in 2019, bimonthly art shows are presented in its larger West Gallery. While a primary focus has been on established and emerging Texas artists, national and international artists have also been shown; often, those who produce works with an eclectic bent. Well-known artists who have had solo shows at Redbud include Lucas Johnson, Felicien Rops, Angelbert Metoyer, Al Souza, and John Biggers. A wide range of media is shown in Redbud’s galleries, including prints, sculpture, ceramics, photographs, drawings, glass, paintings, and installations. In addition to organizing gallery shows, Redbud Fine Arts provides a variety of art services.: (1) Redbud purchases and sells fine art on a global basis, specializing in works on paper by old and modern masters from Rembrandt, Ed Ruscha, Man Ray, Robert Rauschenberg, and numerous German Expressionists and Mexican masters; (2) Redbud promotes Texas artists by including their works in group exchange shows organized in Germany, China, Peru, Cuba, Mexico, Greece, Turkey, and France as well as in national fundraisers; (3) Redbud provides artists with an opportunity to work in Hilmsen, an artist-run residency located near Salzwedel, Germany and operated by Hans Molzberger; and, (4) Complimentary art collection consulting and appraisals are provided to patrons.
ABOUT JOE PEÑA: Joe Peña regularly exhibits in galleries and museums nationally and internationally, and his work is in several prestigious public and private collections, including the Cheech Marin Collection. After working ten years in New York City, he formerly was Public Arts Manager for the City of Corpus Christi and later was the Gallery Director for Texas A&M University (2007-2010), Corpus Christi. He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Fine Arts from Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi where he is now an Associate Professor of Art. Visit www.joepenastudio.com.
ABOUT CHEECH MARIN: A paradox in the world of entertainment, Cheech Marin is an actor, director, writer, musician, art collector, humanitarian and a multi-generational talent. Perhaps best known as one half of the hilariously irreverent, satirical, counterculture comedy duo Cheech & Chong, Marin is recognized today as a preeminent advocate for Chicano art. In the mid-1980s, he began developing what is now arguably the finest private collection of Chicano art. In addition to artwork loans to numerous institutions, this notable collection has been featured in over a dozen exhibitions organized and shown at more than 50 museums in the U.S. Comprising mostly paintings, followed by drawings, prints, mixed-media artworks, sculptures and photography, the collection now serves as the core of The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture of the Riverside Art Museum, which opened in June 2022. A long-term goal of “The Cheech” is to supplement and expand the collection with Chicano artists, media, and subject matter not currently included through acquisitions and donations from artists and their estates, art collectors, dealers, and institutions.