René Yañez is an artist, curator and producer who lives in San Francisco. A founder and former Artistic Director of Galeria de la Raza, Yañez was one of the first curators to introduce the contemporary concept of Mexico’s Day of the Dead to the United States with Rooms for the Dead and Labyrinth for the Dead at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Since the early 1970s, René Yañez has been instrumental in establishing the Day of the Dead as an important cultural celebration. With co-director Ralph Maradiaga, the celebrations were marked by increasingly large exhibitions, ceremonies, processions, and school-based activities. They quickly spread beyond the Mission District, encompassing various communities in the Bay Area, California, the American Southwest and back home to Mexico.
René Yañez galvanized a large community of Latino and Chicano artists and their allies from all communities. The list of artists he supported at early stages of their careers reads like a who’s who of internationally-recognized Latino artists, including Rupert García, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Ester Hernández, Yolanda López, Carmen Lomas-Garza, Enrique Chagoya, Amalia Mesa-Bains, Gronk, and ASCO. Active as both a visual and performance arts curator and artist, Yáñez co-founded the successful Chicano performance trio Culture Clash. In 1998, he received the “Special Trustees Award in Cultural Leadership” from the San Francisco Foundation for his long-standing contribution to the cultural life of the Bay Area.
Yáñez is widely recognized for his innovative art projects that promote a greater awareness of our culturally diverse society. He has curated numerous exhibitions including the art exhibit Chicano Visions: American Painters on the Verge. The collection features works by Chicano artists from around the United States. During its five-year, 15-stop tour, Chicano Visions will be shown simultaneously with its companion cultural exhibit, Chicano Now: American Expressions.
Throughout his decades of work in the arts, René has remained a stalwart supporter of grass-roots organizations and community artists, collaborating with organizations such as SomArts, Oakland Museum of California, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Kearny Street Workshop, Mission Cultural Center and the San Francisco Arts Commission. He has been a strong role model and vital cultural force in the San Francisco arts community.