Newswise — New Brunswick, N.J. (Jan. 7, 2021) – The performance and dis-assemblage artist Raphael Montañez Ortiz, a Distinguished Professor and the longest-serving Department of Art & Design faculty member at Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of the Arts, has defined himself for more than a half-century as an avant-garde breaker of artistic boundaries.

Melding creation with destruction, making with unmaking, Ortiz has deftly turned the contemporary art world’s gaze from Europe to the Caribbean, while also maintaining a vibrant teaching practice, serving as a mentor to young artists and helping them chart their own paths. 

This month, as he turns 87, Ortiz is having a moment: The Whitney Museum of American Art, as part of its Making Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950-2019 exhibit, is displaying his 1964 work Archaeological Find, which Ortiz made through a ritualized deconstruction of his living room couch. El Museo del Barrio, the museum he founded in 1969, collaborated in the publication of an extensive book on his life and work. 

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. is honoring Ortiz with a virtual Artist X Artist Salon, part of a series of events to highlight “the most important artists of our moment.” In 2013 the museum hosted one of the Dadaist piano destruction concerts for which Ortiz is best known; the remains of that piano are now installed in the Hirshhorn’s permanent collection. Examples of his piano destructions can be found in many YouTube videos.

The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t slowed down Ortiz’ production of artwork. Having finished a cycle of works in 2019 and 2020 based on Indigenous Northwestern American potlatch traditions, Ortiz recently completed Tears of the Indies, a memorial to his Taino and Arawak ancestors which he calls “my final work, my Guernica,” referring to the Pablo Picasso anti-war masterpiece.

The full story, with 21 photos of Ortiz’s works from 1961 to the present (including Tears of the Indies), can be found here.


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