Alex Sunheart Galindo, Untitled (Carlos Cortéz), ca.1987. Gelatin silver print, 10 x 10 in. National Museum of Mexican Art Permanent Collection, 2008.5
This centennial exhibition celebrates the legacy of Carlos Cortéz Koyokuikatl (1923–2005), one of Chicago’s most important social justice artists working in the 20th century. Often a poet, often a printmaker, but always an activist, Cortéz in his life’s work uplifted the working class, marginalized communities, and social struggles by depicting scenes of labor disputes, protests, and ignored historical events and individuals.
Carlos Cortéz, an artist, poet, labor journalist, citizen activist, conscientious objector and Elder in his community, would have been 100 years old in August 2023. He continues to hold an exceptionally dear place in the hearts of many artists and organizers and in the history of the National Museum of Mexican Art. Cortéz used his printing press, Gato Negro, as a means to communicate messages of justice, activism, and solidarity, while his poetry repeatedly aimed to raise awareness, provoke thought, and inspire action regarding issues of inequality and oppression.