Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Art History


Katherine Manthorne

Committee Members

Mona Hadler

Araceli Tinajero

Alejandro Anreus

Subject Categories

Art Practice | Caribbean Languages and Societies | History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology | Latin American Languages and Societies | Latin American Literature | Photography | Spanish Literature


Adal Maldonado, Photography, Nuyorican, Spanglish, Surrealism, Puerto Rico


The Nuyorican movement was a cultural and intellectual movement beginning in the late 1960s through the 1970s that coincided with the era of civil rights struggle in the United States. The artists, writers, poets, and others in the movement were of Puerto Rican descent and resided in New York neighborhoods such as El barrio or Spanish Harlem, Loisaida or the Lower East Side and the South Bronx. The term “Nuyorican” was embraced as a badge of honor and pride by New York’s Puerto Rican community. It was during this time that cultural-specific institutions such El Museo del Barrio, Taller Boricua, and The Nuyorican Poets Café were all founded. Artist Adál Maldonado is a product of this movement and the focus of my dissertation.

Adál (born Adál Alberto Maldonado in Utuado, Puerto Rico, 1948) is a contemporary multimedia artist whose work, though resisting categorization, is firmly grounded in established photographic techniques as well as social justice movements of the 1960s. It is also informed by eighteenth and nineteenth century Puerto Rican literary and theater traditions such as the sainete. These traditions are at the root of Puerto Rican humor which is uniquely Caribbean. Although his artistic practices include performance art, installation, video, music, sculpture, and film, Adál is primarily a photographer. Adál arrived in New York City as a teenager, establishing his double identity as a “Nuyorican.” My dissertation will argue that Adál was the first visual artist within the Nuyorican movement to incorporate text with image to express a Nuyorican identity using Spanglish, a hybrid language that employs both Spanish and English. Adál’s extensive use of texts and humor to critique social and political concerns has roots in the sainete theatrical form, a short comic skit popular in eighteenth-century Spain and its colonies in the New World which he appropriates for a contemporary means of expression. Adál was the first among visual artists who has expressed the Nuyorican identity throughout his body of work through the use of the written and spoken word. In his multidisciplinary oeuvre, Adál has developed and consistently made use of language and text as means to inform and complete his images so that they function as both visual and “spoken” works of art.

This dissertation reveals his contributions to contemporary art in various mediums including photography, performance, and video, among others. His continuous explorations into culture/politics/literature/history focused on his Nuyorican and Puerto Rican identity or roots are manifested in his work since his early practices.