Rene Yañez, an artist and co-founder of Galería De La Raza and the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, died Tuesday morning in the hospital. He was 75.
Yañez had long suffered from cancer, and despite a short prognosis and intensifying symptoms, he continued to produce art until the end, showing it earlier this year at “Into the Fade” at the Luggage Store.
Reviewing the show for Mission Local, Lydia Chavez wrote, “The breadth and playfulness recall SFMOMA’s Robert Rauschenberg show, “Erasing the Rules.” Like Rauschenberg, Yañez has a restless mind and loads of talent, and he experiments freely with medium and materials.”
Following the news of his death, friends and family members took to social media to mourn the loss of the local icon that helped define culture in the neighborhood.
“He was surrounded by people who loved him and having been taking amazing care of him,” Rio Yañez, his son, wrote in a Facebook post.
“Rene is my Father, my creative partner, and my best friend,” he continued. “I miss him so much already.”
Some remembered him for kicking off a unique style that incorporated art, activism and humor.
“Rene Yañez taught us how to use our art to organize, how to hold space for Chicanos in the art world, how to fight and how to mourn beautifully,” said local educator Nancy Pili in a Tweet. “I’m so grateful for his life. May the ancestors greet him with open arms.”
Mary Molly Mullaney, who said on Facebook that she worked with Yañez at SOMArts Cultural Center for 16 years, said his art inspired her daughter.
“Rene, you are always amazing to watch working with artists to bring out their best work for their art installations,” she added. “You bless all you know and meet by sharing your talents and humor.”
We will be publishing a full obituary this week.