“I am an artist expressing the turmoil, yearnings, and aspirations of humanity. I want to express the cries, anguish, rebellion, and struggle for social justice and self-determination. I also want to celebrate beauty, joy, and life-affirming spirits.”
Born in Brooklyn to working-class Puerto Rican parents, Juan Sánchez is a visual artist and one of the most important Nuyorican cultural figures to emerge in the second half of the 20th century. He is part of a generation of artists—including Coco Fusco, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Pepón Osorio, and Papo Colo—who in the 1980s and ’90s explored questions of ethnic, racial, and national identity in their work. Sánchez specifically became known for producing brightly hued mixed media canvases, in addition to photography, printmaking, and video, that confront the United States’ colonial domination in his parents’ homeland of Puerto Rico, its struggle for independence, and the numerous obstacles facing Puerto Ricans in the United States.
Sánchez’s major solo and groundbreaking group exhibitions include Juan Sánchez: ¿What’s The Meaning of This?: Painting/Collage/Video at BRIC Art /Media House, Brooklyn; TRIPTYCH/TRIPTICO: RETRATOS/PORTRAITS, the Zoellner Arts Center Main Gallery, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA; and Juan Sánchez: Rican/Structions: Paintings of the ’90s at MoMA PS1 Contemporary Art Center, New York. His art is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC. Among his awards are the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, the Joan Mitchell Foundation Fellowship, NYFA Fellowship, a Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, the CUAA 2020 Augustus Saint-Gaudens Award for Achievement in Visual Art, and induction into The Cooper Union Hall of Fame. Sánchez is professor of art at Hunter College, City University of New York.