Diego Romero (Cochiti Pueblo) - Design New York Tuesday, December 5, 2023 | Phillips

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  • Since the 12th century, the Chongo—a American Indian man characterized by a bun worn at the nape of his neck—has been a common image in indigenous American pottery. Nearly a millennium later, the legacy of the Chongo continues, as seen in the present bowl which includes an inscription along the rim that reads “CHONGO MADE AND PAINTED ME”. This legacy of the ancestral and contemporary person is the basis of Diego Romero’s work and results in ceramics that are both traditional in their geometric patterns and contemporary in the narratives that they portray.


    “That's the Chongo past and present. It's a direct signifier and codifier. It's boom! Right there. The people did not vanish; they are here today. I believe that Mimbres blood is in my veins.”
    —Diego Romero


    Born in 1964 into a line of Cochiti Pueblo artists, Romero began to find his own artistic footing when he moved from Berkeley, California to the Cochiti Pueblo at age fourteen. He enrolled at the Institute of American Indian Arts, where he began to study pottery. He then returned to California to study at the Otis College of Art and Design under Ralph Bacerra and later obtained his MFA at UCLA under Adrian Saxe. It was not until his MFA program, however, that Romero found his rhythm in ceramics and began creating the work he is known for today.


    Bowl by Mimbres artist, 10th-12th century.

    Inspired by traditional Mimbres pottery, a black-on-white style popular in the American Southwest and characterized by geometric patterns, Romero began to create works that are representative of both his ancestral and contemporary identities. Romero’s work is also inspired by his own experiences navigating both his culture as well as the art world. Important scenes from American Indian history, including the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 as well as scenes that depict the fraught relationships between the Spanish and indigenous peoples during times of colonization are also reflected in his works. These motifs are always depicted in Romero’s comic book style and are surrounded by Mimbres-style geometric patterns. The present work, which has been in a private collection for two decades, marks the first offering of Romero’s work at Phillips. The perfectly hemispheric bowl balances without support and depicts a Spanish Mission and graveyard, a variation on a theme he returned to throughout his career with great pathos.


    Portrait of Diego Romero. Photography by Gerry Williams.

    Romero’s work can be found in the British Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The National Museum of the American Indian, the New Mexico Museum of Art, and the Denver Art Museum, among others.

    • Provenance

      Santa Fe Clay, Santa Fe
      Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2003

    • Literature

      Ray Hemachandra, ed., Masters: Earthenware, Major Works by Leading Artists, New York, 2010, p. 168 for similar examples

Property from a Private Collection


"Untitled Landscape" bowl

Painted and gold leaf-applied earthenware.
3 7/8 in. (9.8 cm) high, 8 1/4 in. (21 cm) diameter

Full Cataloguing

$3,000 - 5,000 

Sold for $4,445

Contact Specialist

Benjamin Green
Associate Specialist
Associate Head of Sale
+1 917 207 9090


New York Auction 5 December 2023