Exhibit | Virgil Ortiz: Revolt 1680/2180

Located 22 miles southwest of Santa Fe, Cochiti Pueblo is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The Cohchiti pueblo people are a federally recognized tribe of Native Americans. At 1.2 square miles, the land is home to around 528 people, according to the 2010 census. The tribe has a tradition of pottery that dates back generations, and has produced several artists of renown, including Virgil Ortiz, a potter, fashion designer, and photographer.

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Ortiz is best known for his edgy pottery figures that provide a contemporary take on the traditional Cochiti figures of the late nineteenth century. Born in 1969, the youngest of six children, Ortiz grew up in a creative environment. His grandmother Laurencita Herrera and his mother, Seferina Ortiz, were both renowned Pueblo potters and part of an ongoing matrilineal heritage. “Art is in my blood,” Ortiz says.

Aeronaut-Cuda_5 300dpi

Virgil Ortiz (b. 1969), Cochiti, Aeronaut – Cuda, 2015. Clay, slip, waxed thread and wild spinach paint. Gift of Virgil Ortiz, 2015.59. © Virgil Ortiz

“It’s important to recognize that Pueblo communities are very much alive and have a level of vitality that speaks to generations of strength, persistence, brilliance, and thriving energy.” Ortiz explains, offering insight into the spirit that moves him to create.

Using contemporary art to blend historic events with future elements, Ortiz has created a series of 31 clay figurines set against graphic murals that tell a story of survival, self-determination and empowerment in an exhibition titled “Revolt 1680/2180” at the Denver Art Museum now through May 1, 2016.

Virgil Ortiz (b. 1969), Cochiti, Tahu, 2012. Clay, slip, leather and wild spinach paint. Promised gift from Vicki and Kent Logan to the collection of the Denver Art Museum. © Virgil Ortiz

Virgil Ortiz (b. 1969), Cochiti, Tahu, 2012. Clay, slip, leather and wild spinach paint. Promised gift
from Vicki and Kent Logan to the collection of the Denver Art Museum. © Virgil Ortiz

The story begins with the historic Pueblo Revolt of 1680 and ends in a futuristic revolt in 2180. Although individual groups in this exhibition have been displayed publicly, this is the first exhibition to encompass the entire Revolt series. Ortiz uses his work to explore the past, reconnecting to the battles of the past by reviving the great art of its people.

The Pueblo Revolt, known as Popé’s Rebellion, which was an uprising in which the Pueblos joined together in an army of 2,000 and were met by a Spanish force of 170. A total of 400 people were killed, and the Pueblos drove the remaining 2,000 settlers out of the province. This was a great victory for the original people of this land, one which repelled the foreign invaders for several decades.

Ortiz, Virgil - Virgin of Guadalupe 300dpi

Virgil Ortiz (b. 1969), Cochiti, Virgin of Guadalupe, 2010. Clay, slip and wild spinach paint. Promised gift from Vicki and Kent Logan to the collection of the Denver Art Museum. © Virgil Ortiz

By casting the story in a series of Cochiti ceramic figurines and setting them against bold, graphic murals of futuristic warriors, Ortiz has created a vibrant, immersive experience for the viewers. Each figure commands our attention and our gaze, luring us in with its strong and seductive shape. By combining the traditional and the avant garde, “Revolt 1680/2180” offers a dynamic telling of history. The victories of the past can fuel the strategies of our day in service of a better tomorrow, for most assuredly, so long as there is life, there is war to be waged.

Revolt 1680/2180 is on view at the Denver Art Museum now through May 1, 2016.


Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.