The editorial categories are research topics that have guided researchers during the recovery phase and continue to be the impetus behind the Documents Project’s digital archive and the Critical Documents book series. Developed by the project’s Editorial Board, each of the teams analyzed this framework and adapted it to their local contexts in developing their research objectives and work plans during the Recovery Phase. Learn more on the Editorial Framework page.
In this essay, Rafael Montañez Ortiz, an artist of Puerto Rican descent born in the United States, relates his early history as an artist and activist working in New York City during the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s. He provides a firsthand account of the founding of El Museo del Barrio and discusses reactions to exhibitions he curated relating to Puerto Rican history and culture, notably, the multimedia installation work: Boricua: Aquí y Allá [Puerto Ricans: Here and There, 1970]. Montañez Ortiz credits the museum’s goal with educating and raise cultural awareness as a means of uplifting groups of disenfranchised people, especially Puerto Ricans, living in El Barrio (East Harlem).
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.
“The Artist and the Community” was published in El Museo del Barrio:1969–2004, a catalogue commemorating the thirty-fifth anniversary of El Museo del Barrio, the first museum in New York City dedicated to Puerto Rican, Latino, and Latin American art.