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.
José Montoya’s Abundant Harvest: Works on Paper/Works on Life is organized by the Fowler Museum at UCLA and co-curated by playwright and filmmaker Richard Montoya and independent curator Selene Preciado. Major funding is provided by the Donald B. Cordry Memorial Fund. Additional support is provided by the National Compadres Network, John and Rosa Martinez, Art Nunez, Michelle Shocked, and the many other donors who made gifts to the Fowler Museum’s 2015 UCLA Spark crowdfunding campaign. The accompanying publication has been generously funded by The Ahmanson Foundation, at the recommendation of Trustee Emeritus Lloyd E. Cotsen. Educational outreach activities are made possible in part by The Nicholas Endowment.
We would like to thank the following donors who made gifts of $250 or more in support of the exhibition during the UCLA Spark campaign (November 1 – December 1, 2015):
Marla C. Berns
John and Rosa Martinez
National Compadres Network
And those who wish to remain anonymous