The newest art pieces by retired Chicana/o studies and art professor Malaquias Montoya are now on display at the Pence Gallery in downtown Davis. The exhibit – which features 23 paintings and prints – is titled “Globalization & War: The Aftermath” and will be open for viewing until Dec. 21.
He will be speaking at the Pence Gallery – located at 212 D St. in downtown Davis – about his exhibit on Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. The event is free.
Montoya, a graduate of UC Berkeley and one of the founding members of the Mexican American Liberation Art Front, said that the works attempt to confront the effects of globalization and war through art.
“These works deal with the brutality of war and the conditions that are created by globalization. There are people all over the world whose cultures have been disrupted by global capitalism,” he said. “If you could look down at the world from somewhere up high, you would see thousands of people searching for better lives away from home because their lives have been disrupted by globalization.“
Montoya said that he saw the problems with globalization reflected in the stories of torture and prisoner abuse in Iraq at Abu Ghraib.
“I started working on both of these ideas – globalization and war – and decided that they were pretty much inseparable,” Montoya said. “Globalization is another form of colonization. Wars are also a form of colonization.“
Montoya said he first began to combine political ideas with art after he graduated from Berkeley and founded the Mexican American Liberation Art Front with other artists in 1968.
The MALAF was a group of young Chicano artists who wanted to use their art to help the cause of Mexican-American farm workers and workers in general, Montoya said.
“We started to have meetings and get together and talk about what our role was as artists. We had to do more than just make artwork; we wanted to do something useful with it,” he said. “We – the MALAF – became the visual side of the farm workers movement, the student movement and the Chicano people in general.“
Melanie King, a UC Davis graduate who majored in cultural anthropology and took a number of classes with Montoya, said that he taught his students that art had a social purpose.
“The most important thing I learned from [Montoya] was that although art springs from the creativity of the individual, it must speak to the heart and consciousness of the […] community,” she said in an e-mail. “Art must be used as a tool for social betterment […] even if in doing so, the images it employs remind the viewer of existing injustices and wrongs committed.“
King said that Montoya’s class on the “History of Chicano Art” introduced her to Chicano artists who had skillfully blended art and social agendas.
“He opened to me a whole world of art [that was] used as a tool for clearly speaking [about] particular social ideals,” she said.
Natalie Nelson, the Pence Gallery director, said she first saw an exhibit in the Nelson Gallery by Montoya about the death penalty.
“His work is very critical of established norms and the current political situation,” she said. “His art is meant to provoke an emotional response – whether it’s to feel empathy for his subjects who are often poor and from developed countries or to make us think about ourselves as taking part in the oppression.“
Montoya said that the goal of the exhibition is to make people think about the structure of the world today.
“I hope it raises questions and I hope that people think about what we are doing in the world.“
ZACK FREDERICK can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.