A Defiant Exhibit by an Artist, at a Museum He Helped Create

by AryanArtnews
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This article is part of the latest special section on museums, focusing on new artists, new audiences, and new ways of thinking about exhibits.


Rafael Montagnes Ortiz was a famous avant-garde artist when he helped East Harlem’s group of parents, teachers and students create Elm Theo del Barrio in 1969. Of art.

He left Elmseo in 1971 and resumed his groundbreaking career as an artist while taking a tenure-track teaching profession at Rutgers University. Now the man and the museum are reunited with a comprehensive retrospective of Montagnes Ortiz’s 60-year career.

The exhibition “Rafael Montagnes Ortiz-Contextual Retrospective” will be held on April 14th in Elm Theo del Barrio and will be held until September 11th. Then move to Tamayomseo in Mexico City.

Ideally, the show will reintroduce the widely respected Latin artists to a new generation in their hometown and raise the profile of the museum he founded to connect Latin students with art. ..

Chung A. Noriega, a professor of film and media studies at the UCLA School of Drama, Film and Television, said the show illustrates why specialized museums are important for expanding art appreciation.

“We need all museums. We need all kinds of museums as much as possible,” he said.

The show divides Montagnes Ortiz’s career into four periods centered around a rich collection with no punch in the title. , With the Conquerors, colonize and bring the wealth of the New World to Spain. The human cost to fewer indigenous peoples than the indigenous peoples of the New World is irrelevant. “

The first section is Destruction, which includes a film he created by randomly cutting and reassembling a short documentary, and a performance in which he dismantles the piano with an ax. Next is decolonization and guerrilla tactics. It works on the heritage and activities of Brooklyn-born artist Puerto Rico, including the founding of Elm Theo del Barrio.

This is followed by the word ethnocentrism, which he coined to explain his resistance to cultural ethnocentrism. Finally, Physio-Psycho-Alchemy shows how he incorporates meditation and rituals into his performance. This section also includes digital videos he created in the 1980s.

El Museo curator Rodrigo Moura organized the show with guest curator Julieta González. “I’ve been working for a long time,” said Moura. “I’ve been in Elmseo for three years. This is one of the shows I wanted to do as soon as I arrived. It’s part of rethinking some of the museum’s formative values ​​and history.

Montagnes Ortiz’s work is included in the permanent collections of 20 museums in Europe and the United States, so it is necessary to arrange to borrow works from institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Whitney Museum of American Art to hold the exhibition. was. Menil Collection in Houston, New York, Everson Museum of Modern Art, New York, Chicano Research and Research Center, University of California, Los Angeles. Its final institution contains photographs of Montagnes Ortiz’s manifesto and his performance, including his prestigious participation in the Destruction in Art Symposium in London in 1966.

Montagnes Ortiz, 88, retired from Rutgers University 50 years later, recently retired as a prominent professor of visual arts, and believes the show will renew the connection between El Museo and the city. Said that. “This is part of my curator’s interest in revisiting and reconnecting new generation museum patrons with this Elmseo history, in this case the work of the founder,” he said. rice field.

Montagnes Ortiz introduced the Brooklyn Pratt Institute in 1964, when New York claimed its position as the center of the art world and people were open to the idea that art could be more than painting and sculpture. I graduated. Montagnes Ortiz was painting traditional abstract paintings and paintings at the time, but Montagnes Ortiz had a long conversation with the early champion of the young artist, Dadaist writer Richard Hülsenberg. It helped me take a highly intelligent approach to what constitutes art. He concluded that it does not have to adhere to the traditional idea of ​​”creation” and that “destruction” can be included as a means of reflecting the violent tendencies of mankind.

Montagnes Ortiz wrote a manifesto on “destructiveism” as an art form in 1962, and four years later he was invited to the Destructive Arts Symposium in London to calm the piano with an ax as the audience sees. I made a headline by dismantling it. Elsewhere, he destroyed his chair and other furniture.

The destruction believed in the deep spirituality of the artist, which came from growing up in a Puerto Rican excursion on the lower east side of Manhattan’s predominant Jews. “I was open to so many spiritual things,” he recalled in a telephone interview. He came to know and appreciate his father’s high Anglican faith, his mother’s Catholicism, and his neighbor’s Orthodox Judaism.

“One of the really important things for me was to discover that in Judaism you could argue with God and in Christianity it wasn’t,” he said.

Montagnes Ortiz said that when he was a boy, Rabbi told him about a loving couple who lost their daughter to polio. The couple spent most of their rest of their lives sitting on the tête-à-tête sofa, where they felt the presence of their beloved child. After the death of his parents, Rabbi said the sofa remained warm and brilliant, and many began to believe that the spirit of the family remained behind. Montagnes Ortiz said destroying furniture is a way to “release the spirit as part of a reconciliation.”

The museum has more women and color artists than in 1969, but institutions like Elmseo are still important, says Noriega of UCLA. In New York.

“You don’t have to look at a gallery that has only Latin art, but at the end of your visit to the museum, you need to come out as if we were hanging on a wall. And what’s on the wall is the world. We belong to the world because it reflects. “

The message resonates with large-scale philanthropy. The Ford Foundation awarded Elmseo a $ 4 million grant in 2020, and a year later, writer and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott donated $ 8 million, the museum’s largest single gift in history. ..

The grant helped to alleviate El Museo’s lasting financial challenges and allowed educational institutions to mount programs that might not have been otherwise attempted.

“This is a very late exhibition for the museum, as Raphael’s retrospective and major presentations were last published in 1988, and he has produced great works since then,” Moula said. Said.

From randomly stitched films to well-disassembled pianos to works that embrace spiritualism and oppose the deprivation of Latino cultural rights, it’s not easy for museums to properly present a retrospective exhibition of artists.

Kevin M. Hatch, an associate professor of art history at Binghamton University, said: “He appeared in the 1950s and 1960s, where artists really pushed the limits of what could be counted as art. He pushed many of those artists to what extent he pushed them. I made it look conservative in that respect. “

“The world of art has finally caught up with him,” Hatch added.

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