Carlos Cortez, Chicano Printmaker -RIP

The Struggle Continues - by Carlos Cortez

Famed Chicano printmaker Carlos Cortez died of heart failure this past January 19th, 2005, at the age of 81. Jailed for 18 months as a conscientious objector during the second world war, Cortez joined the radical Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or “Wobblies”), in 1947. He drew illustrations for the IWW paper, The Industrial Worker, from the early 50’s until his last days.

As a resident of Chicago in the early 1970’s, Cortez was part of the Chicano mural movement that painted its visions of struggle and pride on the walls of the windy city. He switched to printmaking after being inspired by the works of the great Mexican printmaker, Jose Guadalupe Posada -and it would be for his woodblock and linoleum prints that Cortez became most well known. He co-founded Movimiento Artistico Chicano (MARCH), the first Mexican American arts organization in Illinois, in 1975.

Around that period Aztec elders gave Cortez the name, Koyokuikatl (Singing Coyote), and ever since the artist signed his prints with an image of a coyote. As a frequent exhibitor at Chicago’s Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum, Cortez bequeathed over 100 wood and linoleum blocks to the institution. The museum’s president, Carlos Tortolero said of the artist, “As an arts advocate, he argued that art is essential to the human experience.”

Cortez was exhibited in galleries and museums from Mexico to Germany, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Remaining active to the very end, his last project was involvement in a traveling art exhibit and art book on the history of the IWW called Wobblies! -A Graphic History, organized by Paul Buhle.

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