Newsletter Artists' Biographies April 5 2012

Newsletter - Artists’ Biographies - April 5, 2012

ALAN POGUE is a fifth generation Irish-American born in Corpus Christi, Texas. As a photographer, his essential mission is to show the common humanity of all people and thus overcome stereotypes that keep us from having sympathy for the marginalized and oppressed. From early childhood he was familiar with farming and ranching, when he noticed that much of the hard work was done by Mexican nationals and Mexican Americans. During his time in Vietnam as a chaplain’s assistant and a combat medic he took up photography. The beautiful people and landscape of Vietnam became his subjects and noticed their evident suffering.

Upon returning to the United States he enrolled at the University of Texas, Austin, as a philosophy major and began photographing social justice movements such as the Black Liberation, Brown Berets, United Farm Workers, the Texas Farm Workers, Gay Liberation and Women’s Liberation. Attempting to enroll in Russell Lee’s photography classes, where were full, Lee took Alan on as a private student because Alan’s interest in photography mirrored his own. In 1975, Alan went to the Rio Grande Valley to photograph farmworkers who had been shot by a field manager for requesting a slightly higher wage for picking cantaloupes. The similar treatment of Vietnamese farmers and the Mexican-American farmworkers was a striking realization. He returned to the Rio Grande Valley, the northern region of Mexico and Texas, and several other states to chronicle the struggle of farmworkers’ for rights other Americans take for granted. In 1983, the Department of Mexican-American Studies at the University of Texas sponsored a portfolio of Alan’s work, “The Agricultural Workers of the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo Valley,” and subsequently the Institute of Texas Letters awarded him a six-month residence at J. Frank Dobie’s Pisano Ranch to produce the portfolio.

Alan is also recognized for the quality of his black and white photographs. The union of fine art and deep social concern is a difficult and rare undertaking in this era that rewards artifice above all. Russell Lee’s last request of Alan was that he not abandon black and white still photography, not be seduced by either color or the moving image. The American Friends Service Committee, Voices for Creative Non-Violence, Veterans for Peace, Inc. and the Global Peace Campaign, a Japanese group, have all asked Alan to photograph in the Middle East at various times. Alan has photographed in Jordan, Israel, the West Bank, Iraq, and Pakistan.

ANDY ZERMEÑO was born in Salinas, CA, a small agricultural town. In 1954, he graduated from high school with a scholarship to the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland. While attending college, he worked at a local television station (KSBW-TV) as a set designer and a production artist. During the summer vacations he worked for the state as a fruit inspector.

He became involved with the Community Service Organization(CSO), where they explained their activities such as voter registration, participating in civic and political affairs and the problems with the discrimination against minorities. He was asked to design a logo for the organization and it became his introduction to the struggle for civil rights. Later he transferred and graduated from the Los Angeles Art Center College of Design. In 1962, César Chávez personally chose Zermeño to create art/graphics for the farmworker movement. From 1962-1970, Zermeño created hundreds of original pieces- including themovement’s eagle symbol (originally designed by Richard Chávez), artworkfor El Malcriado, posters, calendars, flyers, a series of 12 new stamps, etc. that were used as fundraisers to support union activities. More than forty years later, in 2010, Andy Zermeño has published an extraordinaryhomemade book – 155 pages, 282 ink drawings, 8 1/2 x 11page size- of illustrated short stories portraying thedevelopment of the farm worker movement. He has been a freelance illustrator and graphic designer for more than fifty years; worked many years as a project engineer for Hughes Aerospace Company, where he assisted engineers in the development of the Trident Robotic Assembly System; and worked with an electrical engineer, designing architectural models, at Solar Concepts. He retired in in 1998 to dedicate more time to painting, sculpture and other personal projects. Zermeño resides in Tarzana, CA with his wife, Anita, the proud father of Claire, Andrea and Gregory.

El Malcriado is the Farm Workers’ underground newspaper that was first printed and distributed in Delano, CA in 1964. The name of the paper, founded by Dolores Huerta and César Chávez, means “ill-bred or mischievous” or “children who speak back to their parents.” The name had resonance with many farm workers because in the Mexican revolution, there was a newspaper with the same name. Originally, the paper printed in Spanish and was read only by farm workers in the Delano area. Soon an English language version emerged and the mailing list for El Malcriado increased greatly. Chávez used El Malcriado to criticize the growers for low wages, poor working conditions and the use of pesticides; all very serious issues of the farm workers. Zermeño created Don Sotaco, the wily, resourceful, self-deprecating, slightly helpless, and sometimes bumbling farmworker character to represent the views of the striking farmworkers. Even during times of setbacks and dark days, Don Sotaco stood firm, and managed to find small union victories to buck up the spirits of the workers; he never gave up.

BARBARA CARRASCO is an artist and muralist. Her works have been exhibited throughout the U.S., Europe, and Latin America and her work has been featured in numerous publications, including Ms. Magazine (2008); Los Angeles Times; New York Times; USA Today; Art Forum; Boston Globe; New England Journal; High Performance; and Flash Art.

She received her Master’s in Fine Art (M.F.A) in Art from California Institute of the Arts (1991) and her B.F.A. in Art from UCLA (1978). Carrasco created numerous mural banners for the United Farm Workers of America (1976-1991). She was invited to the former USSR to paint murals in Leningrad and Armenia (1985 and 1987). Carrasco created computer animation PESTICIDES! That was presented on the Spectacular Light-board at Times Square in New York (1989).

Her original mural sketches and drawings are included in the Permanent Collection of Works on paper at the Library of Congress, Washington D.C. (1989). Documentation of her mural work is archived in the California Murals Collection at the Smithsonian Institution (1983). A permanent collection of her papers has been established and archived at Stanford University Special Collections Mexican American Manuscript Collections (1996). Her oral history is archived at the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution (1999)

Carrasco had her Mid-Career Survey Exhibition, A Brush With Life, in 2008 at the Vincent Price Gallery at East Los Angeles College. Carrasco was appointed the 2002-2003 UC Regents professor for the Spring Quarter at UC Riverside. She has also taught at UC Santa Barbara and Loyola Marymount University. In 2008, The Girl Scouts of America created a merit patch based on Carrasco’s image of Dolores Huerta.

CARLOS ALMARAZ’s family moved to the United States from Mexico City when he was a young boy. He graduated from Garfield High School in 1959 and earned degrees, including a Master’s in Fine Arts (M.F.A) from the Otis College of Art and Design. Almaraz also studied art at UCLA. He and close childhood friend Dan Guerrero lived and worked in New York for several years.

In 1973, Almaraz returned to California and was one of four organizers of Los Four, an organization that managed to bring attention from mainstream art critics and painters to the Chicano street arts movement. Los Angeles artist Judithe Hernández, whom Almaraz had met while he was attending graduate school at Otis, became the "fifth member" and only female member of Los Four.

Almaraz then went on to work for César Chávez and the United Farm Workers (UFW), painting murals, banners and other types of paintings. He also painted for Luis Valdez's El Teatro Campesino. Another of Almaraz's works, named "Boycott Gallo", became a cultural landmark in the community of East Los Angeles. During the late 1980s, however, "Boycott Gallo" was brought down. Almaraz married Elsa Flores, a Chicana activist and photographer. Together, the pair produced "California Dreamscape". Almaraz died in 1989 but he is remembered as an artist who used his talent to bring critical attention to the early Chicano Art Movement, as well as a supporter of César Chávez and the UFW. His and Flores' papers are preserved at the Smithsonian Institution.

CARMEN LOMAS GARZA was born 1948 in Kingsville, TX. The initial roots of her artwork lay in her family, to whom she is close, and in the Chicano Movement. Garza's parents had been involved in political organizing through the American G.I. Forum, and Garza followed in their footsteps by organizing Chicanos on her college campus. Garza later wrote that the Chicano Movement nourished her goal of being an artist and gave her back her voice. She says that her artistic creations helped her "heal the wounds inflicted by discrimination and racism."

The artist adds: "I felt like I had to start with my earliest recollections of my life and validate each event or incident by depicting it in a visual format. At the age of thirteen I decided to become a visual artist and pursue every opportunity to advance my knowledge of art in institutions of higher education. The Chicano Movement for self-determination of the late 1960s inspired me to dedicate my creativity to the depiction of special and everyday events in the lives of Mexican Americans based on my memories and experiences in South Texas. I saw the need to create images that would elicit recognition and appreciation among Mexican Americans, both adults and children, while at the same time serve as a source of education for others not familiar with our culture. The process of creating these images has been a salve for the wounds of discrimination and racism in the public schools of my youth. It has been my objective since 1969 to make paintings, prints, installations, paper and metal cutouts that instill pride in our history and culture in American society.”

DAN GUERRERO began his entertainment career in New York where he was a successful theatrical agent with clients in the original casts of countless Broadway musicals. He returned home to Los Angeles for an equally successful time as a casting director for stage and television before turning his talents to producing and directing.

Guerrero recently co-produced and co-wrote Lalo Guerrero: The Original Chicano, an award-winning documentary on his late father, Chicano music icon Lalo Guerrero. The film aired nationally on PBS stations in the Voces series hosted by Edward James Olmos and included a DVD/CD release. It has also screened at national and international Film Festivals, including the Turks & Caicos International Film Festival where the film garnered awards for Best Documentary, Best Director and Best Song. The eclectic producer/director has been twice honored by the distinguished Imagen Foundation for his positive portrayal of the Latino culture in his work and Hispanic Magazine recognized him as “one of the 25 most powerful Latinos in Hollywood.”

The Dan Guerrero Collection on Latino Entertainment and the Arts has been established in the California Ethnic and Multicultural Archives at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

ELAINE FLORA GRAVES is a former volunteer with the United Farm Workers (UFW). In 1968, she served as a teacher and liaison for community services to migrant families as a VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) volunteer, where she worked with Mexican and Mexican-American migrants in Parma and Caldwell, ID, under the auspices of the former Idaho Farm Workers' Services, Inc. Given her passion for helping others, she later joined the UFW in various capacities: as a Boycott Organizer in Denver, CO; Reporter/Editorial and Production Assistant on union newspaper El Malcriado in Keene, CA; Assistant in various departments, including labor contract negotiations, and Financial and Budget Assistant at the UFW Headquarters. From 1976—1979, she served as a Washington, DC, boycott volunteer and Fundraising Co-Chair of the Washington, DC-area farm worker support committee.

In 2000, Elaine’s interview with César Chávez about developing the union's newspaper, El Malcriado was featured in Remembering Cesar, The Legacy of Cesar Chavez, compiled by Ann McGregor, Quill Driver Books, Sanger, CA. Elaine has an extensive collection of UFW memorabilia, which includes UFW posters, El Malcriado newspapers, photos, buttons and a membership card belonging to the late Barbara J. Pruett, a librarian, who worked in the early 1970s to organize the UFW's library and extensive archives.

ELSA FLORES ALMARAZ began to gain recognition for her paintings, which have been exhibited around the world, during the 1970s. It was during that decade that she met Carlos Almaraz, a fellow Chicano who was part of the early Chicano street art movement. Almaraz was a member of the famed Los Fourartist collective. Elsa Flores and Carlos Almaraz eventually married, and the two collaborated on one of the most famed Chicano murals, the "California Dreamscape". While Almaraz was already an icon among Chicanos because of his murals across California (as part of Los Four and as a solo artist), "California Dreamscape" helped Flores become an icon herself among Chicano artists. The 15' x 70' mural was commissioned by the California Arts Council and is exhibited at the Reagan State Building on 3rd and Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles.

After Almarez’s death in the 1980s, Flores' fame continued to grow. Her paintings have been met with critical acclaim in museums and art houses in places such as Hawaii, New York City, and Mexico. She has had solo exhibitions in New Mexico and in Los Angeles. Her paintings have also been showcased in group exhibitions alongside those of other famous artists.

ESTER HERNANDEZ is a Chicana visual artist known for her pastels, paintings and prints primarily depicting Chicanas/Latinas. Her artwork aspires to create a visual dialogue for womens’ role in this new multi-cultural millennium. Her main mission as a long-time community artist is to create a visual dialogue between the different communities to work toward a healthier and more just world.

As a solo artist and member of Las Mujeres Muralistas, an influential San Francisco Mission district Latina women mural group in the early seventies, her career is marked as one of the pioneers in the Chicana/Chicano civil rights art movement. Her work is in permanent collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Library of Congress, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Mexican Museum in Chicago, Cheech Marin and the Frida Kahlo Studio Museum in Mexico City. Stanford University has acquired her artistic and personal archives.

She writes about Sun Mad, her best-known piece, “I first created Sun Mad after finding out about the long time contamination from agri-business chemicals in the water table in my hometown. It would have been so easy to walk away, but I chose to create this visual dialogue about the overuse of pesticides and its effect on farm workers, consumers and the environment - lest we forget that it is all connected.

In 2008, I printed a new version of Sun Mad, which is talking about the new face of farm workers who are now mostly indigenous peoples from Oaxaca, Mexico – many of whom speak their native languages but do not Spanish, much less English. For numerous ecological and political reasons beyond their control, these once self-sustaining Mexican farmers have been forced to migrate north to try to make a better life for themselves and their families. Although these migrant workers are very much needed to harvest our crops, they are totally disrespected and have become scapegoats for our failed economic policies. Many have become targets for Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents’ raids (where the name of the print comes from) and deportation. Our sweet Sun Maid girl now has an electronic monitor and global positioning bracelet, lest she escape deportation. We have globalized money, trade, and commerce, but haven’t globalized fairness toward work and labor.”

FRANK ROMERO has been a dedicated member of the Los Angeles arts community throughout his 40-year career. As a member of the 1970s Chicano art collective Los Four, Romero and fellow artists Carlos Almaraz, Beto de la Rocha and Gilbert Lujan, helped to define and promote the new awareness of La Raza through murals, publications and exhibitions. Los Four's historic 1974 exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art was the country's first show of Chicano art at a major art institution.

Since then, Romero has successfully balanced a career in both the public and private arenas. He has completed over 15 murals throughout Los Angeles, and was a key contributor to the 1984 Olympic Arts Festival with “Going to the Olympics,” a large scale mural which adorns one of Los Angeles’ busiest freeways (Highway 101). He recently restored this mural with a grant by the Amateur Athletic Foundation, as well as working on new murals for SPARC (Ritchie Valens Park in Pacoima) and North East Trees (along the Los Angeles River) and in Silverlake. Romero has shown extensively in the United States, Europe and Japan. Notable exhibitions include: "Chicanarte" (L.A. Municipal Gallery), "Hispanic Art in the United States" (Corcoran Gallery, Washington D.C. and national tour), "Le Demon des Anges" (Nantes, France; Barcelona, Spain; Lund Sweden and Brussels, Belgium), and "American Kaleidoscope" (National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.). His work is featured in many permanent collections, including the National Museum of Art in Washington D.C., the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Carnegie Museum in Oxnard, CA.

DR. GILBERTO CARDENAS is the Julian Samora Chair in Latino Studies, Assistant Provost, and Director of the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame. He also serves as the Director of the Inter-University Program for Latino Research (IUPLR). He formally taught at the University of Texas at Austin for twenty-four years. He is recognized internationally as a pioneering scholar in immigration and Mexican migration studies. Cárdenas contributes to the creative expression, promotion, exhibition, and publication of Latino artists and to the support of cultural centers throughout the U.S. As a discriminating collector of contemporary art, he has amassed a sizable personal collection including paintings, prints, photographs, textiles, videos, and works on paper, three-dimensional works, and retablos.

Today, the Gilberto Cárdenas Latino Art Collection holds over 10,000 works of art, one of the most extensive collections of its kind in the United States. He serves on numerous boards, including Chair of the Smithsonian Institution Latino Board; Self-Help Graphics, Inc., L.A.; and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF). He formerly served on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Millennium Scholars Program and the National Museum of the American Latino Commission and the Commission on White House Fellows.

He writes, “I was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA. My parents divorced when I was ten years old, but I remained close to both. My mother worked to support our family. My father worked in construction and collected lots of building materials and other items that might be able to be used someday, keeping them in the backyard. I point to my fathers “packrat” habit as the reason for my own passion of collecting art, wine, books, and other items of interest.

As I made my way through undergraduate studies, first at East L.A. Community College and then at California State University of Los Angeles, I became witness to and a participant in the beginning of many social justice movements that developed in California and throughout the country. It was disheartening that mainstream newspapers and other media of the time, would not come into our neighborhoods to cover these important and historical events. My interest in photography began during the turbulent period of the 1960s and ‘70s when, as a student leader, my peers and I organized our communities to take part in social issues while artists created posters that condemned police brutality, inequality in education, and called the community to action. I thought it was important to find a way to get the word out about what was happening in our neighborhood and also preserve our history.

I left L.A. and continued my studies as a doctoral student at the University of Notre Dame, receiving my PhD in Sociology in 1977, all the while photographing the events surrounding me. The photos in this exhibit demonstrate a small portion of the events I was party to.”

  • View Dr. Gilbert Cardenas' Website

JUAN R. FUENTES is a cultural activist/artist/ printmaker who has dedicated his art to supporting and participating in a global movement for social change. His works have addressed many issues relating to local communities of color, social justice, and international struggles for liberation.

The turbulent times of the 1970’s set the tone for his creative approach to creating a social art. The Chicano, including the United Farm workers of America, African American, Middle East, Asian and Native American struggles for equality, peace and justice helped shape a consistent theme for his art. His development and introduction to silkscreen printing by mentors and Chicano artists Rupert Garcia and Malaquias Montoya guided his subsequent community and political poster involvement.

In 1997, Fuentes produced his first linocut after many years as a primarily poster maker while teaching art in the San Francisco County Jail’s Arts Program. His approach and influence with regards to the relief printing process has been the social realist tradition of Latin American artists (Jose Guadalupe Posada, Leopoldo Mendez, American artist Elizabeth Catlett and Canadian artist Leonard Hutchinson, to name a few).

His focus has continued to be the figure or portrait as a means to tell a story, and elaborate on the human condition. His relief work has included two series. The first theme was a synthesis of basic and primal elements of sustenance, survival and strength reflected by the bond between mother and child. The second series was of people carrying objects, or in the process of work. The image of carrying things has been a metaphor for the heavy load on one’s shoulder through experiencing life. He has been an artist and cultural activist in the San Francisco community for over thirty years and a mentor to many young emerging artists. His early poster art is now part of the historical Chicano Poster Movement. In 2007, after 10 years as Director of Mission Grafica at Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, he resigned and created Pajaro Editions, a printmaking studio. In addition, he is a founding member of Art 94124 Gallery in San Francisco’s Bayview District and teaches a relief printmaking class as visiting faculty at the San Francisco Art Institute.

Fuentes’ Piscando en Pajaro depicts flats of fruit emblazoned with the UFW thunderbird insignia balanced on the shoulders of two laborers. From these flats rises a spiral of birds, filling the sky. This image can be linked to one of the first encounters between Spanish explorers and the Ohlone Indians in what is now the Pajaro River. The Spanish were amazed by the Ohlones' use of condor-feather capes in religious ceremonies. In Fuentes' work, the sacred bird is again able to soar, as the spirit of the community is restored through solidarity.

JUDITH F. BACA is an American artist/muralist, activist, and University of California, Los Angeles professor of fine arts. She is the founder and executive director of the Venice, California, community arts center Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC), and is best known for project directing the largest mural in the world, the Great Wall of Los Angeles. She was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA, graduated from Bishop Alemany High School in 1964, and went to earn her B.A. (1969) and Masters (1979) in Art at California State University, Northridge (CSUN). Among her many national commissions and artwork, she completed the César Chávez Memorial at San José State University, and the Robert F. Kennedy monument at the Ambassador Hotel site (the site of Kennedy’s assassination), which is now the location of LAUSD K-12 RFK Community Schools. She is currently working on a 60-ft digitally painted mural for the Richmond Civic Center in Northern California and an interactive digital mural for the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex, a social justice high school located in downtown Los Angeles.

JUDITHE HERNANDEZ is one of the founding artists of the Chicano Art and Los Angeles Mural Movements. Judithe first won acclaim as a muralist and member of the influential east L.A. artist collective known as Los Four. In 2009, writing about the legendary print studio Self-Help Graphics, the British communications magazine Creative Review noted, “It begins with Los Four, the collective of local artists (Frank Romero, Carlos Almaraz, Gilbert Lujan, Beto de la Rocha and Judithe Hernández) who are widely credited with creating the Chicano visual vocabulary during the 1970’s.” Los Four worked actively from 1974 to 1984 and together provided visual support for the Chicano Civil Rights Movement, produced several of L.A.’s most historic Chicano murals, and individually created bodies of work that have achieved international recognition.

Hernández first gained attention in the early period of Los Angeles public art (1969-1983) developing a visual image bank that continues to influence contemporary artists and is credited with creating some of the earliest feminist works about women’s labor, migrants, heroic mothers, and Mexican Revolutionary female fighters. As Shifra M. Goldman notes about Hernández’s murals, the artist created “an idealized monumental woman” by mixing classical figurative gestures and compositions with urban calligraphy, pushing the boundaries or distinctions between fine art, graffiti, and folk art. Her career as a public artist existed concurrently with her gallery and museum exhibitions.Her first solo exhibition “Mi Arte, Mi Raza” opened at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery in 1978 and in 1983.Her exhibition at the Cayman Gallery in New York City's SoHo districtmade her the first Chicana toextend her artistic reach beyond the West coast.She continued tocollaborate with Los Four for a decade (1974-1984), participating with them inten major exhibitions. Hernández and Carlos Almaraz also worked together on murals for the United Farm Workers and for the Ramona Gardens Housing Projects in East Los Angeles.

In 2011, her contribution to the art of Los Angeles was honored in the sweeping arts initiative known as Pacific Standard Time: Los Angeles Art 1945-1980. Sponsored by the Getty Foundation and Getty Research Institute, this initiative will revise how art historians and critics think about Los Angeles visual art. Hernández is one of a handful of artists whose work will be honored in three differentPST exhibitions, one catalog essay, apublic television documentary, and an installation about Los Angeles muralsmaking the Pacific Standard Time initiativeyet another accomplishment in Hernández’s successful career.

LAS ARTES ARTS & EDUCATION CENTER in Pima County, AZ offers a unique learning environment for youth ages 17-21. Structured classroom study combined with community art projects allow students to prepare for general education development (GED) testing, and build employability skills by participating in community art projects. Las Artes graduates make a positive transition into the workplace and have greater opportunities for sustainable employment with an education and marketable job skills.

Magnificent mosaic art murals created by Las Artes students beautify neighborhoods, libraries, and other public buildings throughout Pima County. Through an eight-week project, students receive valuable on-the-job training and exercises promoting team building, punctuality, community involvement and self-confidence which are all essential to developing a strong work ethic. Plus, students gain a sense of pride and accomplishment through this community of artists. The tile of César E. Chávez dedicated at the Memorial Auditorium in the U.S. Department of Labor was hand painted by students from Las Artes.

LUIS VALDEZ is an American playwright, writer and film director. He graduated from James Lick High School in San Jose, CA, and went on to attend San José State University on a scholarship for math and physics. He later switched his major and earned a degree in English in 1964. In 1965, Valdez moved to Delano, CA, where he formed El Teatro Campesino, a farm worker's theater troupe. Valdez's Teatro was influential, according to Gale Resources: "Thanks to Valdez and El Teatro Campesino, what began as a farm workers' theater in the migrant camps of Delano now exploded into a national Chicano theater movement. Theater groups sprang up with surprising speed on college campuses and in communities throughout the United States."

As a media figure of the Chicano Movement, Valdez often lectures about El Teatro Campesino, media representations of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, and the importance of Chicano-produced media in order to help counter negative ethnic stereotypes. Valdez is a founding faculty member and director of the California State University, Monterey Bay’s Teledramatic Arts and Technology Department. He is credited with assisting in the development of a university program that prepares students in the entertainment industry: filmmaking, writing, sound, cinematography, and the like. He has been involved in projects like I am Joaquin (1969); Zoot Suit (1981); La Bamba (1987); La Pastorela (1991); The Cisco Kid (1994), among others.

MALAQUIAS MONTOYA was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and raised in the San Joaquin Valley of California. He was brought up in a family of seven children by parents who could not read or write either Spanish or English. The three oldest children never went beyond a seventh grade education, as the entire family had to work as farm laborers to survive. Montoya graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 1969. Montoya served as Director of the Taller de Artes Graficas in East Oakland and, since 1989, holds a professorship at the University of California, Davis, teaching both in the department of Art and the department of Chicana/o Studies. Montoya is credited by historians as one of the founders of the social serigraphy movement in the San Francisco Bay Area in the mid-1960's.

Montoya is a Chicano poster artist and a major figure in the Chicano Art Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. In 1968, Montoya founded the Mexican-American Liberation Art Front and was "arguably the most influential Chicano artist collective in the movement". He is known for incorporating social justice themes in his work. In 2006 he completed a series of paintings and screenprints on the death penalty with references to those killed under the act, from Ethel and Julius Rosenberg to Jesus Christ. Other themes include immigration, the zapatista movement, Palestine, and others.

His other “voice” is transmitted via the poster/mural – a medium he expresses himself more eloquently. It is with this voice that he attempts to communicate, reach out and touch others, especially to that silent and often ignored populace of Chicano, Mexican and Central American working class, along with other disenfranchised people of the world. A voice for the voiceless, this form allows him to awaken consciousness, reveal and actively work to transform reality.

“My personal views on art and society were formed by being born into that silent and voiceless humanity. Realizing later that it was not by choice that many remain mute but by a conscious effort on the part of those in power, I realized that art could only be a conduit for protest against what is akin to a death sentence.

As a Chicano artist I feel a responsibility that all art should be a reflection of political beliefs - an art of protest. The struggle of all people cannot be merely intellectually accepted. It must become part of our very being as artists, or else we cannot give expression to it in our work. I agree with Pedro Rodrigues, former Director of the Guadalupe Cultural Art Center, San Antonio, Texas, when he said, ‘Fundamentally, artistic expression, or culture in general, reaches its highest level of creation when it reflects the most serious issues of a community, when it succeeds in expressing the deepest sentiments of a people and when it returns to the people their ideas and feelings translated in a clearer and creative way.’

Through our images we are the creators of culture and it is our responsibility that images are of our times - and that they be depicted honestly and promote an attitude toward existing within reality; a confrontational attitude, one of change rather than adaptability - images of our time and for our contemporaries. We must not fall into the age-old cliché that the artist is always ahead of his/her time. No, it is most urgent that we be on time”

THE MURAL CONSERVANCY OF LOS ANGELES began in 1987, when a coalition of artists, public art advocates, city and state officials, and restoration specialists came together to establish the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles. Its mission today was the same as it was then: to restore, preserve, and document the murals of Los Angeles. In its role as public art advocate, MCLA works to protect the legal rights of artists and to prevent the loss of significant works of public art. Most importantly, MCLA is committed to preserving the artists’ heritage of Los Angeles as one of the mural capitals of the world.