Cortez, Carlos, 1923-2005

Alternative names
Birth 1923-08-13
Death 2005-01-19

Biographical notes:

Carlos Cortez (1923-2005) was an artist, poet, printmaker, photographer, songwriter and lifelong political activist. His support for the working man was likely encouraged by his parents: his German mother was a socialist pacifist and his father was a Mexican Indian organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), also known as the Wobblies. Cortez himself was a member of the IWW for nearly sixty years.

Cortez began his art career drawing cartoons in 1948 for Industrial Worker, the IWW's newspaper, but soon became interested in printmaking. He later became an accomplished oil and acrylic painter, though it never replaced linoleum and woodblock as his preferred medium. Recurrent themes of his art include Chicano issues, Latino identity, and worker's rights; he is also known for his large linocut poster/portraits of well-known activists and labor organizers.

Cortez wrote several collections of poetry, including Where Are the Voices? & Other Wobbly Poems (1997), and was the editor of Viva Posada: A Salute to the Great Printmaker of the Mexican Revolution (2002).

Cortez served as editor of Industrial Worker and on IWW's General Executive Board, and was a popular public speaker. In 1985, to commemorate the union's 80th anniversary, he organized an exhibit entitled "Wobbly: 80 Years of Rebel Art," which featured original works by many of his fellow IWW cartoonists. Cortez's work has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Smithsonian Institution, and other venues throughout the United States, Europe and Mexico. In 1998 the Center for the Study of Political Graphics awarded Carlos Cortez their "Art as a Hammer" Award for "his inspired and inspiring use of art to create a more just world."

"When you do a painting that's it, it's one of a kind. But when you do a graphic the amount of prints you can make from it is infinite. I made a provision in my estate, for whoever will take care of my blocks, that if any of my graphic works are selling for high prices immediate copies should be made to keep the price down." (Carlos Cortez, quoted on

From the guide to the Carlos Cortez Prints, Undated, (Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries)


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  • Mexican American poets
  • Wood-engravers
  • Printmakers
  • Mexican American artists
  • Art--Illustrators


  • Printmaker


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