City Life Org – El Museo Del Barrio Presents Raphael Montañez Ortiz: A Contextual Retrospective

Raphael Montañez Ortiz | The memorial to the sadistic Holocaust destruction of millions of our ancient Arawak-Taino-Latinx ancestors begun in 1492 by Christopher Columbus and his mission to, together with the conquistadores, colonize and deliver the wealth of the New World to Spain, little matter the human cost to the New Worlds Less Than Human Aboriginal Inhabitants… | 2019-2020 | Mixed technique | Overall display dimensions 76 x 94 x 21 in. (193 x 238.8 x 53.3cm) | Collection of the Museo del Barrio, New York | Gift of the artist, 2020 | emdb access number: 2020.7ab | Work © Raphaël Montañez Ortiz | Image © El Museo del Barrio, New York | Photography: Martin Seck

The largest exhibition to date dedicated to the artist, activist, educator and founder of El Museo del Barrio

April 14 to September 11, 2022

PRESS OVERVIEW | Wednesday April 13 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

El Museo del Barrio is pleased to present Raphael Montañez Ortiz: A Contextual Retrospective, from April 14 to September 11, 2022, the first large-scale exhibition dedicated to the artist, activist, educator and founder of El Museo del Barrio, since 1988 Curated by El Museo’s chief curator, Rodrigo Moura, and guest curator Julieta González, the exhibition covers several decades of his production, from the 1950s to the early 2020s, in different media such as film, painting, photography, video installations, documents, and assemblages. This is the largest exhibition dedicated to the artist to date.

“This exhibition offers a special opportunity to discover a complete arc of the trajectory of Montañez Ortiz and testifies to the radicality of his work. Throughout his career, this true pioneer has combined his artistic practice with a unique vision as an educator and activist, of which El Museo is the most enduring result,” says Moura.

Raphael Montañez Ortiz is a central figure in post-war American art, whose pioneering practice began with pioneering experimental film works in 1957. In the 1960s he was a key figure in the international Destruction Art movement, with performative actions that would result. in powerful sculptures made from destroyed objects. Her practice expands art historical references, from American Abstract Expressionism and Dada to references to identity and her upbringing in a Puerto Rican family in New York. At the same time, his work is nourished by a constant interest in psychoanalysis and anthropology, which translates into his exploration of shamanic practices and the therapeutic and healing potential of art, alongside his research on pre-Hispanic cultures. It is a constant concern that ranges from the first pieces of destruction such as archaeological discoveries to his later performative actions and his works dealing with the indigenous cultures of the Americas.

In a text written in 1977, Montañez Ortiz states:

“For what purpose does art exist? For whom does art exist? Is there such a thing as a mainstream in art? What is the relationship between race, class and art? In Western culture, is there such a thing as modern and contemporary art that is distinct from the larger global history of Indigenous and folk art? What relationship do race and class have to world art history? What distinguishes the role of patriarchy from matriarchy in all of this? These questions and many more are being asked and must be answered to unravel the grand hoax perpetuated by the institutionalization of racism by Eurocentric European and American historians and art historians.

These words of the artist define a practice devoted for more than sixty years to the dismantling of the hegemony of Western knowledge, which this exhibition proposes to explore.

“At Bank of America, we value how the arts help economies thrive, educate and enrich societies, and create greater cultural understanding,” said José Tavarez, President of Bank of America New York. “It is a privilege to partner with El Museo, an institution that shares these values ​​and demonstrates them through rich programming and far-reaching exhibitions, including this comprehensive survey of its founder – a true New York pioneer in the celebration, sharing and preservation of culture.”

The exhibition is divided into four sections exploring Montañez Ortiz’s contributions to 20th and 21st century art. These include Destruction, which focuses on his early films and assemblages and a large group of “Archaeological Discoveries”, with works from different American and European museum collections seen together for the first time; Decolonization and Guerrilla Tactics, which discusses his Puerto Rican origins and related activism, including his participation in the founding of El Museo del Barrio and his involvement with other groups at the time, such as the Art Workers Coalition, Guerrilla Art Action Group, Taller Boricua and Judson Gallery; Ethnoesthetics, referring to a term invented by him and dealing with forms of resistance to cultural ethnocentrism; and Physio-Psycho Alchemy, which explores the basic concept of his doctoral thesis and the work he has done in this direction, where meditation, ritual and breathing practices are at the center of a series of performative and participatory. In addition, the section presents his videos made in the 1980s where cutting and editing are employed to produce almost hypnotic effects.

As guest curator Julieta González puts it, “the notion of authenticating art, as evoked by Montañez Ortiz, provides the framework for this exhibition – a singular concept that takes on a range of interconnected meanings in its practice, pointing to a series of problems. , experiences and epistemological constructions that nourish his production: from ethnoaesthetics as emerging from a decolonial impulse to the curative dimension of art that he explored with his physio-psycho-alchemy.

Emerging in the context of post-war American neo-avant-garde art and exploring his indigenous, Latin American and Puerto Rican origins, Montañez Ortiz brings a unique voice to the art of his time, influencing successive new generations. young artists. Contextual presentations are intertwined throughout the exhibition, placing her work in dialogue with other practitioners across chronologies, geographies and aesthetic affiliations.

After the presentation at El Museo, the retrospective will travel to Museo Tamayo in Mexico City, where it will be presented from October 15, 2022 to April 2, 2023.


Bank of America is the lead sponsor.

Management support is provided by Tony Bechara. Major support is provided by the Terra Foundation, the Andy Warhol Foundation and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Additional support is provided by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA).


Raphael Montanez Ortiz was born into a Puerto Rican family in Brooklyn, New York, where he grew up experiencing the city’s transformation after World War II. He began painting in the vein of abstract expressionism, but soon transformed his work into a particular synthesis of object-making and performance. His upbringing as the child of Latino immigrants is fundamental to his practice and particularly informs how he conceptualized his destructive ritual process in the late 1950s, with reference to his indigenous ancestry. His work has been included in several international exhibitions, such as the Destruction in Art Symposium in London, in 1966, when he presented a piano destruction concert. In 1988, he was the subject of the retrospective Rafael Montañez Ortiz: Years of the Warrior, Years of the Psyche, 1960-1988, at El Museo. Important museum collections include the Tate, London, the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. Recent exhibitions include the opening of a career survey at LAXART in Hollywood and the group exhibition Home – So Different, So Appealing, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

El Museo del Barrio is the main Latin American and Latin American cultural institution. The Museum invites visitors from all walks of life to discover the artistic landscape of these communities through its vast permanent collection, its varied exhibitions and publications, its bilingual public programs, its educational activities, its festivals and its special events.

The museum is located at 1230 Fifth Avenue at 104th Street in New York. The Museum is open Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pay what you want. To connect with El Museo via social media, follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. For more information, please visit

About Monty S. Maynard

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