Ortiz, Virgil – Old Style “Monos” Figure
Virgil Ortiz is known for his innovative style of Cochiti pottery, inspired by the Monos figures made at the pueblo in the 1880’s. As I wrote in the book, “Virgil Ortiz: Pueblo Revolt 1680/2180,
“This use of the figures for social commentary is where they derived their name, monos. The word is a colloquial blend of Spanish and Keres, with inexact definitions that range from “mimic,” “mocking,” or “cute” to “monkey.” While “monkey” might have suggested the elongated bodies and arms or the simplified open-mouthed faces of the figures, it was also a subtle racial pejorative aimed at their Cochiti makers.”
This is one of Virgil’s traditional clay figures made from native clay and painted with native clays and wild spinach (black). The figure has been traditionally fired. As noted the Monos figures were originally created as objects of social criticism and reflection and Virgil continues on this same path in his contemporary work. This figure is made in the “old style” and as a reference check out the final image by Ben Wittick from the 1880’s. These figures were made with hollow arms and “open” hands. The mouths and eyes were also open. Here Virgil has revived those older technical forms. The designs on the figure a spinach leaf patterns on the vest and pants. The little pocket on the vest and the goatee on the figure are very reminiscent of the early Monos figures, as those were personal identifiers which were incorporated into the design. Note how deeply the black fired on this piece! The earrings are also traditional red clay and added after the firing. It is signed on the bottom and is from 2018.