The Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC has acquired Cruz Ortiz’s 2018 oil painting of noted Chicano scholar Tomás Ybarra-Frausto. The eight-foot-tall portrait, titled Tomás in an Aztlan Dream, is part of Ortiz’s Buena Gente series.
The Houston-born Ortiz (who has been based in San Antonio for long while, and has recently announced that he’s relocating to Houston) uses painting, print, sculpture, drawing and public activation to explore and share his experiences. With a history of Texas solo exhibitions at such institutions as Artpace in San Antonio, the Contemporary Art Museum in Houston, and the University of Texas in Austin, Cruz has also exhibited in national and international exhibitions and institutions, including the Louvre in Paris; EV-A in Limerick, Ireland; the traveling exhibition Phantom Sightings with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the San Juan Triennial in San Juan, Puerto Rico; and The Blue Coat Museum in Liverpool, England.
States Ortiz on the Smithsonian’s acquisition: “This is a huge honor for me as an American artist, and it makes me so proud to represent a community that is often neglected in spaces like these. It’s humbling, and it just makes me want to do more work.” He continues, “I want to document — in a substantial manner — those in my community who have inspired change. Those who were — who still are — in the trenches every day.”