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Fronteras: The Legacy Of Chicano Artist Adán Hernandez

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One of the Chicano art world’s greatest figures died this month.

Adán Hernandez was born in Robstown, Texas to a family of migrant workers. He and his family eventually moved to San Antonio’s West Side, which is where he got his introduction to Chicano art.

Cheech Marin, left, and Adán Hernandez, right, at the Los Tejanos exhibit opening at the Art Museum of South Texas in Corpus Christi. Jan. 11, 2018. | Credit: Melissa Richardson Banks
Melissa Richardson Banks
Cheech Marin, left, and Adán Hernandez, right, at the Los Tejanos exhibit opening at the Art Museum of South Texas in Corpus Christi. Jan. 11, 2018.

Hernandez is considered one of the premier Chicano artists in the world. He painted images of pachucos, cholos and the gente of the barrio. He was perhaps best known for his work in the 1993 film “Blood In Blood Out,” in which Chicano gang members in East Los Angeles live out the often tragic paths their lives take over the course of two decades.

Actor Jesse Borrego’s character, Cruz Candelaria, plays a painter, which served as the vessel for Hernandez’s work to make its way to a wider audience.

“We would have discussions about the social impact of Chicano art and the artistic impact and value of art,” Borrego told TPR’s Arts & Culture reporter, Jack Morgan. “But it was always rooted in, how does it affect my community? How does it affect my hood, my barrio? How does it affect my people, my children, my familias? And I think those are the things that were so important to the root of his inspiration that it's expressed in all of his work, from the little to the big.”

Hernandez’s work also caught the attention of museum curators and art collectors. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City purchased two of Hernandez’s paintings for its collection, one of the paintings from the film is part of the San Antonio Museum of Art collection and his work is also part of Cheech Marin’s prominent Chicano art collection.

Hernandez died May 15 at age 69 in his San Antonio home.

“He will be missed. We lost a good one,” said Borrego. “Vatos locos art is forever.”

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Norma Martinez can be reached at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter at @NormDog1
Lauren Terrazas can be reached at lauren@tpr.org and on Twitter at @terrazas_lauren