Malaquias Montoya Exhibit

Duke University’s Latino/a Studies Program presents:

Fredric Jameson Gallery, Friedl Building, Room 115, Duke East Campus


Montoya is a leading figure in the West Coast political Chicano graphic arts movement, a political and socially conscious movement that expresses itself primarily through the mass production of silk-screened posters. Montoya’s works include acrylic paintings, murals, washes, and drawings, but he is primarily known for his silkscreen prints, which have been exhibited nationally as well as internationally.  This exhibition features silkscreen images and paintings, and related text panels dealing with the death penalty and penal institutions– inspired by the escalation of deaths at the hands of the State of Texas in recent years.  As Montoya states, “We have perfected the art of institutional killing to the degree that it has deadened our national, quintessentially human, response to death.  I want to produce a body of work depicting the horror of this act.”

Since 1989 Montoya has been a professor at the University of California, Davis.  His classes, through the Departments of Chicana/o Studies and Art, include silkscreening, poster making and mural painting, and focus on Chicano culture and history.  He is credited by historians as being one of the founders of the “social serigraphy” movement in the San Francisco Bay Area in the mid-1960s. His visual expressions, art of protest, depict the struggle and strength of humanity and the necessity to unite behind that struggle.  Like many Chicano artists of his generation, Montoya’s art is rooted in the tradition of the Taller de Grafica Popular, the Mexican printmakers of the 1920s, 30s and 40s, whose work expressed the need for social and political reform for the Mexican underprivileged. Montoya’s work uses powerful images that are combined with text to create his socially critical messages.

This exhibit is presented by the Program in Latino/a Studies in the Global South at Duke University and is co-sponsored by: the UNC Chapel Hill Program in Latina/o Studies and the following Duke University units: Duke Human Rights Center; the Spanish Service Learning Program; the Program in Literature; the Departments of Cultural Anthropology, African & African American Studies, and History; the Archive for Human Rights and Duke University Libraries; the Franklin Humanities Institute; the Institute for Critical US Studies; and the Kenan Institute for Ethics.

The following is an excerpt from Malaquias Montoya’s artist statement:

“I have always been against the death penalty.  It is an irrational idea that you kill a person because they have killed another.  It seems like the State, composed of intelligent people, would find another way of seeking justice; revenge seems too infantile a way of settling a dilemma.  So how does the victim obtain justice?  In a recent murder of a young woman and her unborn child, the victim’s mother said she hopes that whoever killed her daughter, would hear her daughter’s pleas not to be killed for as long as he lives.  Life imprisonment without parole would allow this torment to continue.  For proponents of the death penalty, however, this punishment is too easy; there is no immediate satisfaction; it is too anticlimactic after a long and agonizing trial where we are daily kept in suspense by headlines and TV news briefs.  Death penalty proponents argue that life imprisonment would not be enough to deter those preparing to murder; that those convicted must be killed in order to prevent others from committing such heinous crimes.  Numerous studies, though, conducted by various researchers, report that the death penalty has no deterrent effect.

What concerns me is, why do we kill, what happens to our humanity and to us, as a culture? Why is state-sanctioned killing any different than a killing that takes place in the streets?  One is planned and the other is not?  Amadou Diallo, shot forty-one times by the NYPD, had no weapon, was innocent, and yet, the police officers were set free.  I personally remember the young man, José Barlow Benavides, shot to death by Peace Officer Cogley in Oakland, California.  The investigation was futile—no one was charged for the crime. One must ask one’s self––who lives and who dies?”


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