José Montoya’s Abundant Harvest: Works on Paper/Works on Life
February 21 – July 17, 2016
Chicano activist, poet, artist, intellectual, professor, and musician, José Montoya (1932-2013) was a veritable Renaissance man. Montoya often found inspiration in the verdant fields of the San Joaquin Valley where his family arrived from their home in New Mexico in the 1940s looking for work. The visual artist and poet humanized the farmworker and understood the backbreaking work of field labor from firsthand experience. A Chicano civil rights activist, he marched alongside Cesar Chavez and advanced the cause of the United Farm Workers movement to bring justice and dignity to agricultural laborers.
José Montoya’s Abundant Harvest honors the artist’s prolific work as well as his subject matter in this exhaustive and energetic survey that includes nearly 2,000 drawings along with paintings, poems, sketchbooks, video footage, music, and other ephemera. The works on paper will be displayed in nearly 100 boxes that evoke the flat containers and grape trays used to hold the Central Valley’s harvested fruit. The boxes will stand in long rows like the rows of grapevines in a vineyard, allowing visitors to walk freely among them and view their contents.
Alive and pulsating with the bebop rhythms of pachucos and pachucas, the Beatnik scene in the Bay Area, and sailors on leave in port cities, each curated box shows how Montoya captured the spirit of the times with his pen and pencil. The artist also documented some of the most important civil rights and labor movements of the 20th century.
Image Credit: José Montoya, Untitled [detail], date unknown. Ink on paper, 23 x 8 cm. Courtesy of the Montoya Family Trust