A High Flying Artist Never Forgot the People Working the Land

Among José Montoya’s Abundant Creative Output Are Thousands of Sketches Documenting Chicano Life

When Richard Montoya started organizing an exhibition of his father’s art, he was astonished at the sheer number of sketches he found. He and his co-curator, Selene Preciado, eventually chose 1,278 out of 5,000. “When did he do all these drawings?” Montoya wondered.

José Montoya led a full life as a writer, a teacher, a musician, an activist, and a fine artist who worked in painting and sculpture as well as drawing. Born in New Mexico in 1932, his family moved in the 1940s to the San Joaquin Valley, where …