Juan Sanchez A’77: Photographer, Painter, Mixed Media

Born in 1954 in Brooklyn, New York to immigrant working-class Puerto Rican parents, Juan Sánchez earned a BFA from The Cooper Union School of Art in 1977, and in 1980 a MFA from the Mason Gross School of the Arts of Rutgers University.

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 forty-five years, he establishes his art as an arena of creative and political inquiry that encompasses the individual, family, the communities with which he engages, and the world at large.  Sánchez has produced an extensive body of work that consistently addresses issues that are as relevant now as they were in the 1980s – race and class, cultural identity, equality, social justice and self-determination.

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 colonialism, his work has evolved to embrace photography, printmaking, and video installation. Lucy R. Lippard once wrote that Sánchez “teaches us new ways of seeing what surrounds us.”

Juan Sanchez is Professor of Art at Hunter College, The City University of New York

Major Solo Exhibitions

His work has been exhibited in the United States, Latin America, Europe and Africa. Major solo exhibitions include:

  • Juan Sánchez:¿What’s The Meaning of This?: Painting/Collage/Video, BRIC Arts / Media House, Brooklyn, NY
  • TRIPTYCH/TRIPTICO: RETRATOS/PORTRAITS at the Zoellner Arts Center Main Gallery, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA
  • Juan Sánchez: RicanStructions: Paintings of the 90’s, MoMA PS1 Contemporary Art Center, New York
  • 1898: Rican/Structions, Multilayered Impressions, Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York
  • Juan Sánchez: Printed Convictions/Convicciones Grabadas, Jersey City Museum, NJ; and Juan Sánchez: Rican/Structed Convictions at EXIT ART, New York.

Major Group Exhibitions

Major groundbreaking group exhibitions in which Sánchez has taken part include:

  • Home—So Different, So Appealing, Los Angeles Country Museum of Art, Los Angels, CA; Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art, The Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Washington, DC .
  • I, You, We: Activism in the 1980s, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
  • This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA.
  • Multiplicity, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC.
  • Think Print: Books to Billboards, 1980-95, Museum of Modern Art, New York and Latin American Artists of the Twentieth Century, the Museum of Modern Art, New York.


Sánchez’ art are in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and El Museo del Barrio, all in New York City; The Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Washington, DC; El Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico and El Centro Wilfredo Lam in Havana, Cuba, among others.


Juan Sánchez has been awarded grants 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. He is the recipient of the 2020 CUAA Augustus Saint Gauden’s Award and a member of The Cooper Union Hall of Fame.