A Donation by Raphael Montañez Ortiz
On View December 4, 2020 – January 17, 2021

Raphael Montañez Ortiz started a new large-scale work, in a development of a series of assemblages in which he had been working for the past decade. In the spring of 2020, he began to relate the work, inspired by the genocide of indigenous peoples during the European invasion of the Americas, to the impact caused by Covid-19 among Latinx and BIPOC populations in the United States. Last summer, Montañez Ortiz decided to donate the work to El Museo del Barrio, the institution he founded in 1969. The condition he put in place was that the work should be presented in 2020, in order to ensure its resonance in the context of the global pandemic. The work was completed after several months gathering material purchased online, presented in a specially created display case. This structure echoes the shape of various exhibition apparatuses and their colonial genealogies — from the cabinet of curiosities to the diorama and the reliquary. Inside are presented pages of books, replicas of gold nuggets, bones, feathers, and weapons, all alluding to the invasion of the Americas. The orchestration of these objects articulates recurring interests in the artist’s practice since the 1960s, such as colonialism, destruction, authentication, magic, and animism. Described in the artist’s own words “a personal prophecy”, he relates the piece to recent events as well as to his own mortality: “I put myself into this piece.”

With its monumental title (The Memorial to the Sadistic Holocaust Destruction of Millions of Our Ancient Arawak-Taino-Latinx Ancestors Begun in 1492 by Columbus and His Mission to With the Conquistadores Colonize and Deliver to Spain the Wealth of the New World no Matter the Human Cost to the New World’s Less Than Human Aborigine Inhabitants…), the work is presented here together with another item from El Museo’s permanent collection, an English edition of the book by Fr. Bartolome de las Casas. Brevísima relación de la destrucción de las indias was first published in 1552 and is one of the earliest and most important historical accounts documenting the brutal treatment of indigenous cultures by the Spanish conquerors.

This presentation anticipates the retrospective that will celebrate Montañez Ortiz’s more than sixty-year career, scheduled for the end of 2021. With this major donation, the founder of the Museum creates a gesture that expands and deepens his legacy in the institution.


El Museo del Barrio is delighted to present in collaboration with Editorial RM, RAPHAEL MONTAÑEZ ORTIZ, the first monograph of the preeminent Nuyorican artist and founder of El Museo del Barrio, Raphael Montañez Ortiz. Edited by Javier Rivero Ramos, the monograph seeks to redress the scarcity of bibliographical resources dedicated to the life and work of an artist who early on committed himself to push and exceed disciplinary boundaries. Sailing through the wake of abstract expressionism into recycled cinema and afterwards into object-oriented and performance-based destructivist art, Raphael Montañez Ortiz has spent more than six decades at the forefront of American postwar art.

The preeminent monograph features leading voices in the visual arts world. Artist Pedro Reyes shares an intimate conversation with the artist in his New Jersey home focused on his long career and on the pressing question how we can transform violence into a creative experience. Kevin Hatch, Associate Professor of Art History at State University of New York (SUNY) Binghamton, offers an examination of Montañez Ortiz’s revolutionary experimentation in the media of film and video, as well as his extraordinary aptitude for creative self-fashioning, whether in text, performance, photograph, or moving image. Finally, Chon Noriega, Director of the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, offers seventeen propositions (moments) that were pivotal in Raphael Montañez’s formation as a human being, and subsequently as an artist. The monograph concludes with a curriculum vitae of the artist’s extensive trajectory, updated and revised by Ana Cristina Perry, CUNY Graduate Center PhD candidate, Smithsonian Predoctoral Fellow in Latinx Art and IUPLR Mellon Fellow. 

RAPHAEL MONTAÑEZ ORTIZ is made possible thanks to funding provided by Galeria Labor, and Dobel.  

Virtual Launch 

In celebration of RAPHAEL MONTAÑEZ ORTIZ, a monograph dedicated to the preeminent Nuyorican artist and founder and first director of El Museo del Barrio, Raphael Montañez Ortiz, El Museo presented a special evening with artists, friends, and contributors. The evening included the participation of artist Raphael Montañez Ortiz; monograph editor Javier Rivero Ramos and contributors Chon Noriega from the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center; Kevin Hatch from the State University of New York (SUNY) Binghamton, and Ana Cristina Perry, CUNY Graduate Center PhD candidate, Smithsonian Predoctoral Fellow in Latinx Art and IUPLR Mellon Fellow; as well artist Marcos Dimas, Pedro Reyes, and Juan Sanchez.