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, art historian Kristine Stiles provides the most comprehensive essay written to date on the work of Rafael Montañez Ortiz, who is recognized as an innovator in the destruction art movement of the 1960s. Stiles’s essay chronicles Ortiz’s early experiments in the 1950s that take advantage of “destruction” as a creative tool, as well as the production of his first sculptures of destroyed mattresses and pianos, whose series he titled Archeological Finds. Furthermore, she provides details on Ortiz’s development of “ritualized destruction” performances that led to his participation in the Destruction in Art Symposium in London in 1966, and to international acclaim. The author maintains that while Ortiz was aware of avant-garde movements like Dada and Fluxus, his readings in psychology and anthropology were the most influential sources for art making. Indeed, Ortiz incorporated native elements drawn from his Puerto Rican heritage into the process of deconstruction, underscoring his awareness of indigenous cultural practice, and its possibilities as a model for contemporary aesthetics.
In conjunction with participating in international avant-garde circles, Rafael Montañez Ortiz, was active in anti-war and civil rights struggles; particularly with regard to ending race, class, and gender discrimination in the New York art milieu. Faithful to his convictions, Rafael Montañez Ortiz founded El Museo del Barrio in 1969. Initially established to serve as a Puerto Rican museum in New York City, El Museo del Barrio’s mission was revised in the 1990s to present and preserve the art and culture of Puerto Ricans and all Latin Americans within the United States.