Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art Home


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In this essay, Rafael Montañez Ortiz, a United States-born artist of Puerto Rican descent, argues that Eurocentrism, patriarchy, and racism have deprecated the art and culture of peoples from the Americas, Asia, and Africa. He notes that the legacy of western bigotry was challenged in the 1970s by minority artists in New York and throughout the U.S; thus they began to investigate and redeem their ethnic roots. Ortiz further notes that grassroots organizations, such as Taller Boricua [Puerto Rican Workshop] and El Museo del Barrio, were founded during this revolutionary era and share its ideals. He warns, however, that artists must continue to challenge the ideological biases that frame western art history because cultural pluralism without parity is not true integration.  


Rafael Montañez Ortiz (b. 1934) is recognized as an important figure in the international avant-garde of the 1960s and is also credited with being a trailblazer of new genres, such as destruction art, video art, and performance art. He was a member of several vanguard collectives in New York City, including Fluxus, the Guerrilla Art Action Group, and The Art Workers Coalition. Montañez Ortiz also conceived and founded El Museo del Barrio in 1969, and collaborated with the founders of Taller Boricua [Puerto Rican Workshop] during the early 1970s. A professor of fine arts at Rutgers University, Ortiz’s work and writings on the subject of art, ethnicity, and the avant-garde have inspired younger generations of artists. His essay “Aesthetic Considerations” was written to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of Taller Boricua, a Puerto Rican artist collective founded in 1970 in East Harlem, New York City.

Yasmin Ramirez.
Courtesy of Rafael Montañez Ortiz, Highland Park, NJ
Courtesy of El Museo del Barrio, New York, NY