Malaquías Montoya

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Malaquías Montoya
EducationUniversity of California, Berkeley
Known fordrawing, painting, murals and silkscreen
AwardsAdaline Kent Award from the San Francisco Art Institute 1997. Special Congressional Recognition, Awarded by Congressman Mike Thompson in recognition of outstanding and invaluable service to the community, Woodland, California 2005.

Malaquías Montoya is an American born Chicano poster artist and a major figure in the Chicano Art Movement of the 1960s and 1970s.

Early life and teaching[edit]

Montoya was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico.[1] He was raised by a single mother in a family of migrant farm workers (including brother, José Montoya) in California's Central Valley. He joined the U.S. Marines and through the G.I. Bill was able to attend the University of California at Berkeley.[2] In 1968, Montoya founded the Mexican-American Liberation Art Front and was "arguably the most influential Chicano artist collective in the movement".[3]

Since then he has taught at University of California, Berkeley, Stanford University, California College of Arts and Crafts, University of Notre Dame, and University of Texas, San Antonio. Since 1989 Montoya has held a professorship at the University of California, Davis, teaching both in the department of Art and the department of Chicana/o Studies.[1]

Art works[edit]

Montoya is known for incorporating social justice themes in his work. In 2006 he completed a series of paintings and screenprints on the death penalty which referenced those killed by the death penalty from Ethel and Julius Rosenberg,[4] to Jesus Christ. Other themes include immigration, the zapatista movement, Palestine, and others.

Montoya has produced substantial work on the issue of immigration. He produced the print “Immigrant’s Dream (2004)” which shows a faceless figure covered completely in the American flag with serves as a bag with a tag labeled “undocumented.”[5] This print presented the horrific reality of what becomes of the coveted American Dream. Another print titled, “Undocumented” includes a man trapped in barbed wire with the word undocumented written in red with blood dripping across his body.[6] The barbed wire is representative of the physical barrier of the US Mexico Border migrants encounter when crossing the border. In addition the captivity of the man within the barbed wire is metaphorical for the emotional suffering due to migration. Montoya’s art is evident of social justice themes that expose the realities of marginalized communities that can make people uncomfortable.[7]


Montoya’s activism was shaped by his exposure to the Chicano movement which incorporated ideals of resistance and cultural affirmation. This movement had an emphasis on civil rights for Mexican Americans and raising political, economic, and social consciousness.[8] He became part of the Mexican American Student Confederation (MASC) and produced leaflets and posters to empower the community and raise awareness about the cause. He demonstrated solidarity with fellow activists by distributing UFW buttons and bumper stickers. Moreover, he participated in MASC sit ins which were organized to demand University of California, Berkeley to include a Mexican American Studies course of study and requested that the administration demonstrate solidarity with the UFW’s grape boycott.[9]

At Berkeley, Montoya was actively involved with advocacy organizations by contributing art to their mobilization efforts. He continued his poster making collaboration with the UFW in Berkeley. One of his famous works for the UFW was the poster with a central message of “Support the Farmworkers War” asking for donations of food and clothing. The color palette includes bold colors such as red, black, and yellow and bold lettering with the intention of demanding attention to support the labor movement which is referred to as a war effort. The inverted Aztec eagle (UFW logo) is covering three faceless and barely identifiable figures.[10] In his UFW poster, he represented the farmworker families as advocating for their rights to frame the discourse on the struggle of marginalized communities. Montoya was also linked to the Third World Liberation Front (TWLF) advocacy efforts seeking to establish a separate Third World College that would enhance representation for minorities including African Americans, Chicanos, Asians, and Native Americans.[11] His involvement in the TWLF provided an invaluable perspective on mobilization such as learning about “coalition politics” which conveyed that collaboration between groups with overlapping interests could be a powerful force to enact change.[12] There was an emphasis on the shared struggle which he sought to include in his posters of mobilization. In this wide array of posters, he used the terms “Huelga” (strike) to emphasize the resistance and would use “Unidos” to suggest a form of solidarity between various disenfranchised groups. In addition, his TWLF posters include faceless or unrecognizable figures to suggest that this is a collective fight against power. His time at Berkeley shaped him as an artist as he began to merge politics with aesthetics with the intention of participating in activism at the local and international level.


  1. ^ a b Acuna, Rodolfo F. (2011). The Making of Chicana/o Studies: In the Trenches of Academe. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. p. 104. ISBN 9780813550701.
  2. ^ Selz, Peter Howard (2005). Art of Engagement: Visual Politics in California and Beyond. University of California Press. p. 176. ISBN 978-0-520-24053-7.
  3. ^ Malaquías Montoya
  4. ^ Malaquias Montoya
  5. ^ "An Immigrant's Dream, The American Response". Galería sin Fronteras. 2014-09-15. Retrieved 2020-05-05.
  6. ^ "Malaquias Montoya | Smithsonian American Art Museum". Retrieved 2020-05-05.
  7. ^ ""What better function for art at this time than as a voice for the voiceless": The Work of Chicano Artist Malaquías Montoya". NACLA. Retrieved 2020-05-05.
  8. ^ Martin, Sam; Fri.; Aug. 28; 1998. "Art Fights the Power". Retrieved 2020-05-05.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  9. ^ Romo, Terezita (2011). Malaquias Montoya. UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center Press. p. 32.
  10. ^ Line, The Bottom. "Giving a Voice to the Voiceless: Malaquias Montoya, Renowned Artist | The Bottom Line". Retrieved 2020-05-05.
  11. ^ Delgado, Manuel Ruben, author. The last Chicano : a Mexican American experience. ISBN 978-1-4490-1414-8. OCLC 502160841. {{cite book}}: |last= has generic name (help)CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  12. ^ Romo, Terezita (2011). Malaquias Montoya. UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center Press. p. 35.

External links[edit]