One Of The Major Artists In The Chicano Art Movement Has Died At 75

credit: m4martinez / raysantisteban / Instagram

On May 29, René Yañez, a man instrumental in shaping and cultivating the Chicano art scene in the Bay Area, died from prostate and bone cancer at age 75. Yañez, an artist, curator and social justice activist was the co-founder of Galería De La Raza and the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts. Yañez has been curating the beloved SOMArts’ annual Dia de Los Muertos group art show in the Mission District for years. However, he was one of the first curators that presented arts shows centered around Day of the Dead in the U.S. back in the early ’70s. Yañez was also Director of Special Projects and Building Manager at SOMArts.

Rio Yañez, René’s son, posted the news of his death on Facebook and wrote that he had been preparing for this exact moment for the past four years.

Hi Everyone, my Dad passed away this morning about an hour ago. He was surrounded by people who loved him and having…

Posted by Rio Yañez on Tuesday, May 29, 2018

“Rene is my Father, my creative partner, and my best friend,” Rio writes. “I miss him so much already. These last two weeks have been the hardest of my life but I’ve had a partner and extended family that have taken such great care me. I may be grieving but please know I that feel incredibly loved and supported right now.”

René had been working until the very end. In March, he presented his retrospective exhibition titled “Into The Fade.”

René put on his retrospective all the while receiving weekly infusions of chemotherapy or blood, according to Mission Local.

“The artist, who has lived in the Mission District for most of his adult life, said that when he told his doctor earlier this year that he was thinking of doing a show in the fall, ‘the doctor told me, ‘You’d better do it sooner.’ So I’m doing it sooner.’ He laughed at the thought that he might beat his prognosis. ‘I’m playing this out.'”

His last show included one of his most known works titled “The Great Tortilla Conspiracy” which featured the face of Emma Gonzalez.

The concept behind “The Great Tortilla Conspiracy” is that it brings “the gospel of tortilla art” to the masses.

People took to social media to remember René and all that he contributed to the art scene, social justice movements and to their lives.

According to an interview in Mission Local, René was born in Tijuana and migrated with his family to San Diego.

René’s family has requested that SOMArts establish a memorial fund in his honor. All proceeds from this fund will be dedicated entirely to continuing René’s legacy of hospitality, beauty and creativity in SOMArts’ garden. Help us honor René by contributing to the memorial fund. We were truly blessed to work with such an incredible mentor, artist and friend for so many years. SOMArts will host a community memorial for René in the coming weeks.

Rene’s coworker at the Somarts Cultural Center said: “You bless all you know and meet by sharing your talents and humor.”

I had the privilege of working with Rene Yanez for over 16 years at SomArts Cultural Center. I miss sharing an office…

Posted by Mary Molly Mullaney on Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Rene was also a military veteran having served in a medical unit during the Vietnam War.

René is remembered as “El Padrino de la Mison.”

Grammy nominated emcee, DJ, actor, Wonway said that Rene inspired him.

“Que viva René Yáñez!”

Alicia Cruz, has worked with Rene for several years for the Day of the Dead exhibition and said that he took a chance on her and her altar vision.

 “He nurtured my evolution as an artist.”

CREDIT: Instagram/@mexichicastyle

“He was a gentle soul, very personable, lots of humor, he was a guide,” Cruz described Rene.

She says he also inspired her activism.

“He was my social media,” Cruz said. “He would tell me when there would be a march and say ‘you should join us.'”

Adding that “He’s the glue, he’s the heart of the SOMarts.”

An altar has been placed in front of the SOMArts Cultural Center in his honor.

CREDIT: Courtesy of Alicia Cruz

René was once asked what advice he would give to young artist, which he responded with: “Do what you like and be passionate about it, because you can’t be mediocre and be successful at it. Try to be as diverse in your skills, from computers, theater, performance, set design — all different aspects — because if you can’t get one thing, something else will come out.”


READ: This New Exhibit Shows The Incredible Evolution Of Lowrider Culture

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