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Written by well-known muralist John Pitman Weber, this essay provides biographical information on Carlos Cortez, a Milwaukee-born and Chicago-based artist and poet of Mexican-Indian and German ancestry. Weber talks about the places and people Cortez encountered during his lifetime, and sources of Cortez’s inspiration, including the artists Käthe Kollwitz and José Guadalupe Posada, among others. A member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), Cortez made works mirroring his political convictions, social activism, and class-consciousness. Weber addresses Cortez’s stance against the commercialization of art and the strategies he took advantage of to make his graphic artwork available to a broad audience.


The author of this essay, John Pitman Weber, was a contemporary of Carlos Cortez’s, and is a muralist, printmaker, and co-founder of the Chicago Mural Group, now the Chicago Public Art Group. Cortez, in turn, was a member of key art groups and collectives of the 1970s and early 1980s including Movimiento Artístico Chicano (MARCH), MIRAza Arts Consortium, Chicago Indian Artists Guild, the Chicago Mural Group/Chicago Public Art Group, and the Chicago’s Artists Call Against U.S. Intervention in Central America and the Caribbean. 

This essay has been published in many forms between 1995 and this 1998 version. It was first published by the Dittmar Memorial Gallery at the Norris University Center, Northwestern University in conjunction with the exhibition Culture, Politics & Art: Expressions in the Dance of Life (January 2–February 20, 1995). The author of the essay has noted that it was published with two typos that did not get edited in subsequent reproductions of the essay: a misspelling of the author’s name as Pittman and an incorrect age reference to Carlos Cortez. (This means that he was 50 years old, not 60 years old, when he found a new career as an artist within the Chicano movement).

Olga Herrera, Elizabeth Ferrufino
Institute for Latino Studies, University of Notre Dame, South Bend, USA
Courtesy of John Pitman Weber, Chicago, IL