Born to working-class Puerto Rican immigrants in Brooklyn, NY, Juan Sánchez is an influential American visual artist, and one of the most important Nuyorican cultural figures of the latter 20th century. Maintaining an activist stance for over four decades, his art is an arena of creative and political inquiry that encompasses the individual, family, the communities with which he engages, and the world at large. Sánchez emerged as a central figure in a generation of artists using diverse media to explore ethnic, racial, national identity and social justice in 1980s and ’90s.
While Sánchez first gained recognition for his large multi-layered mixed media collage paintings addressing issues of Puerto Rican identity and the struggle against U.S. colonialism, his work has evolved to embrace photography, printmaking, and video. Sánchez exhibited and lectured throughout the United States, Europe, and Latin America. His art is in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, El Museo del Barrio, El Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Centro de Arte Contemporáneo Wilfredo Lam, Havana, Cuba, the Smithsonian’s Museum of American Art, The National Museum of African American History & Culture and The National Portrait Gallery and the Mead Museum of Art.
The US Latinx Art Forum (USLAF) in collaboration with the New York Foundation for the Arts and supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Ford Foundation, awarded Juan Sánchez the Latinx Artist Fellowship. He was the recipient of the 2020 CUAA Augustus Saint-Gaudens Achievement in the Visual Art Award and was inducted into The Cooper Union Hall of Fame. Sánchez received other awards and fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Joan Mitchell Foundation, New York Foundation for the Arts, the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Juan Sánchez is Professor of Art at Hunter College, The City University of New York.
The artworks presented on this webpage are part an on-going series title Fractured Grids/ Cuadriculas Framentada. They are made up of several single, diptychs and triptychs assemblages, and multi-paneled wall and floor installations.
A central image throughout this go-going series is that of a figure whose face is draped with the Puerto Rican national flag. This veiled female/male figure became a recurring motif in my work, appearing as if facing interrogation, torture, a firing squad. Throughout the years this photograph has been compulsively appeared in several paintings, prints and videos. They allude to a history of colonialism, oppression, and marginalization. The anonymity of the figure allows me to pass between my own identity and others. At times this image evokes more specific reference, such as the story of Alejandrina Torres, a Puerto Rican political prisoner who was isolated, tortured and raped at the Lexington Control Unit in Kentucky.
The anonymity of the obscured figures allows us to project ourselves into these works and question our personal relationships to these histories and experiences. By re-contextualizing and juxtaposing historical, cultural, popular, and auto and biographical references, nuanced narratives emerge with new meaning and relevance, I want to imbed the turmoil, anguish, and rebellion along with the beauty, joy, and life-affirming aspirations.