About Carlos Cortez Koyokuikatl's
INFORMATION ABOUT THE ARTWORK
REPRODUCTION: What can I learn about how this reproduction is different
from the original artwork?
The image on the computer is a digitized image taken from a photographic
slide of the original linocut. The original linocut is 29 1/2" high
x 19 1/2" wide.
CONDITION: What can I determine about the condition of the artwork?
The original work is in excellent condition.
SUBJECT MATTER: What can I determine about what the artwork depicts,
The linocut depicts Mexican Revolutionary, Ricardo Flores Magón
(1873-1922) from his cell in the Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary. Magón
is wearing a prison suit and stands before prison bars. He stands at a
3/4 angle to the viewer. He has thick hair, eyeglasses, a mustache, and
strong features. In his right had he holds a fountain pen and in his left
a sheet of paper with printed words and his signature. The paper is adisplaying
a manifesto which he has just completed and signed that criticizes "art
for art's sake." The translation of the letter is as follows:
This stuff of "art for its own sake" is an absurdity and its
defenders have always gotten on my nerves. I feel such a reverent admiration
and love for art that it causes me great distress to see it prostituted
by individuals who incapable of having others feel what they feel nor think
what they think, hide their impotence behind the slogan of "art for
The name and address of a Chicano art organization appear at the bottom
of the print.
|TOOLS, MATERIALS, AND PROCESSES: What can
I learn about how the artwork was made?
Carlos Cortez Koyokuikatl's linocut is an example of a relatively recent
relief-printing technique. The artist can cut freely in any direction in
making an image on a linoleum block because linoleum, unlike wood, has
no grain. As with the much older woodcut technique, the artist carves away
the sectrions to remain untouched by ink (in this case ,the white areas),
leaving the areas to be printed (in this case the black areas) untouched.
After ink is rolled over the untouched surfaces and a sheet of paper placed
over the inked linoleum block, pressure is applied to produce the print.
The printed image is a mirror image of the linoleum block. So in order
to make readable letters on the manifesto, Cortez had to not only leave
the letters standing while he carved out the white, negative spaces around
them, he had to do this whilc carving in reverse. As a form of print permitting
editions of multi-originals, linocuts and woodcuts gained popularity in
the United States in the 1920s and 1930s through the illustrations of Rockwell
Kent and the artists working in the Work Projects Administration that was
established by Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the Great Depression. Similarly,
in Mexico the Taller de Gráfica Popular (TGP) was established by
the Mexican government as part of a national printing program and a workshop
for popular graphic arts. Alfredo
Zalce was one of the cofounders of TGP and worked occasionally in the
medium of the woodcut.
Sensory Lesson Index
What visual elements do I see?
The work uses only black and white, which lend themselves to the production
of a linocut that is inexpensive to duplicate and distribute. Black and
white are the two extremes of value (dark and light) and they are contrastively
combined to great advantage. This is vividly apparent in Flores Magón's
striped prison suit; the interlacing of the white bars and the black spaces
between them; the white face set against the foreground of the black mustache,
eyeglasses and hair; the black pen held in the white hand; and the manifesto
that appears in black against a white sheet of paper. The contrasts of
black and white reinforce the manifesto itself which is neither subtle
nor nuanced, but rather, expresses direct antagonism toward the notion
of "art for art's sake."
FORMAL ORGANIZATION: How do the elements in the artwork work together?
INFORMATION ABOUT THE ARTMAKER
The art viewer is situated in the same space, the prison cell, as Flores
Magón. Thus, the perspective is from the inside with the viewer
able to see nothing outside of the cell bars except black spaces. The figure
of Flores Magón, particularly his head and hands, is drawn primarily
with softer, rounder contours that contrast sharply with the horizontal
stripes of the prisoner's outfit that he is forced to wear and the prison
bars that are imposed upon him that feature austere vertical and horizontal
lines filled with black spaces.
Researcher Archie Green tells us that Industrial Workers of the World
artists "have been modest in telling their life-stories," and
"within this laconic tradition, Carlos Cortez reports key facts."
Archie Green, "Carlos Cortez and Wobbly Artistry," in Carlos
Cortez, Where are the Voices and Other Wobbly Poems? Chicago: Charles
H. Kerr, 1997, p. 5.
These facts include the following: Carlos Cortez was born on August
13, 1923 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was the son of Alfredo Cortez, a Mexican
partisan of the Industrial Workers of the World (acronym, IWW, popularly
known as "Wobblies"), and a German socialist-pacifist mother,
Augusta Cortez. He grew up in Milwaukee and later moved to Chicago. He
spent two years in federal prison (Sandstone, Minnesota) during World War
II as a conscientious objector "because he did not want to kill living
things." Eugene Nelson, "Introduction" to Carlos Cortez,
Crystal-Gazing the Amber Fluid and Other Wobbly Poems, Chicago:
Charles H. Kerr Publishing Co., 1997, p. 6.
Upon his release from federal detention in 1947 he joined the IWW and
has remained active for five decades as a graphic artist, poet, and advisor
within that organization. In 1985 at the Gato Negro Press [transl. Black
Cat Press] he printed a catalog for a touring exhibition of cartoons, Wobbly:
80 Years of Rebel Art.
Cortez has been a muralist, woodblock and linoleum-block artist, and
cartoonist. He added the name Koyokuikatl (using the Náhuatl for
coyote) as an adult, but usually does not include it in identifying his
poetry. He typically signs his art with the letters CAC, the imprint of
a coyote baying upward, and a date.
His formal art training consisted of two years of art basics in high
school and later night classes at Layton Art School (uncredited).
He says of his current life: "After some 40 years of being a construction
laborer, record salesman, bookseller, factory stiff and janitor, am no
longer punching a clock for some employer and am now engaged in the most
productive phase of my life." (Resumé submitted to project,
Carlos Cortez has had numerous exhibits including the following group
shows: "Hispanic American Art in Chicago," June-July, 1980, Chicago
State University; "El día de los muertos," Galería
de la Raza, November 1982, San Francisco; "A través de la frontera,"
August-September 1983, Centro de Estudios Económicos y Sociales
del Tercer Mundo, Mexico City; "Das Andere Amerika" (also titled,
Det Andra Ameriaka, La Altra America, The Other America), August-September
1983, Statliche Kunsthalle, Berlin (subsequently this exhibit toured various
other German and European cities); "Chicano Art--Resistance and Affirmation,
1965-1985," December 1988-January 1989, Wight Art Gallery, University
of California, Los Angeles (subsequently this art exhibit went on tour);
and "Committed to Print," January-April 1988, Museum of Modern
Art, New York City (subsequently this exhibit went on tour in the U.S.
His one-man exhibitions include: "The Graphic Works of Carlos Cortez,"
December 1988-January 1989, Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum, Chicago; "Las
obras de Carlos Cortez," September 1989, Chicano Humanities and Arts
Council (CHAC), Denver, Colorado; "Gráfica chicana de Carlos
Cortez," January 1988, Galería Julio Ruelas, Zacatecas, Mexico;
and "Carlos Cortez, 50 Years Retrospective," summer 1997, Mexican
Fine Arts Center Museum, Chicago.
Cortez has given a multitude of workshops, demonstrations, and lectures
at numerous elementary and high schools and colleges in the greater Chicago
area and at the Field Museum and the Chicago Art Institute Childen's Museum,
the University of California, Santa Cruz and the University of Wisconsin,
His work is available at the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum (Chicago),
the Okee Chees Wild Horse Gallery and Guild Books (both Chicago), the Trumbull
Art Gallery (Warren, Ohio) and Resistencia Bookstore (Austin, Texas).
Carlos Cortez is also a well-known poet whose books have been published
by Charles H. Kerr Publ. Co. (1740 West Greenleaf Ave., Chicago, Illinois
60626 and have appeared in numerous magazines. Some of his poems have been
reprinted in school textbooks including Arrangement in Literature and
United States in Literature (both Scott Foresman, 1979), Journeys
(Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1982) and English (Houghton Mifflin,
1992). As a poet, he has shown facility with varied forms including parody
and satire, ode, ballad, blues, haiku, and narrative poetry.
FUNCTIONAL CONTEXT: What can I learn about how the artwork was used?
The Flores Magón linocut is one of a series of such (many of
which evolving from cartoons) that Carlos Cortez Koyokuikatl produced that
depict labor heroes. The series includes depictions of Lucy Parsons, Joe
Hill, Mother Jones, Ben Fletcher, and César Chávez. The purpose
of this series, including the Flores Magón linocut, was to inspire
young workers world wide, to invigorate their commitment to the workers
movement, and to recognize and recapture the contributions of past labor
The Flores Magón linocut has an additional specific goal directed
toward Chicanos and the Chicano Movement which had become widespread and
influential by 1978, the date of the work. This goal was to relate the
Chicano Movement of the 1960s and 1970s to the earlier activities of Flores
Magón and his followers which led to the Mexican Revolution of 1910.
Thus the linocut of Flores Magón was intended to inspire and encourage
the contemporary Chicano Movement and to help its followers recapture and
understand its roots in prior struggles revolving around the Mexican Revolution
CULTURAL CONTEXT: What can I determine about what people thought, believed,
or did in the culture in which the artwork was made?
Carlos Cortez has been a "Wobbly" for over 50 years. The organization
was founded in 1905 in Chicago when syndicalists, trade-unionists and socialists
gathered together to create the IWW in order to work toward "a commonwealth
of toil--a revolutionary order to be achieved within a decade." Archie
Green, "Carlos Cortez and Wobbly Artistry," in Carlos Cortez,
Where are the Voices and Other Wobbly Poems? Chicago: Charles H.
Kerr, 1997, p. 5.
In Chicano culture the work builds a bridge between the Mexican Revolution
of 1910 and the contemporary Chicano movement through political action.
Ricardo Flores Magón, his brother, Enrique, and Antonio Díaz
Soto y Gama (who later became the principal political spokesman and idealogue
for the Zapatista peasant revolution), formed the Partido Liberal Mexicano
(PLM) in 1905 (the same year as the founding of the IWW in Chicago) from
pre-existing hundreds of "Liberal Clubs" launched at the beginning
of the century by disgruntled middle class liberals and intellectuals upset
by Porfirio Díaz's authoritarian Mexican regime and concessions
to the clergy. They radicalized these clubs and were the first to coin
the slogan, "Tierra y Libertad" (Land and Liberty) which was
later to become the slogan of Emiliano Zapata, see Diego
Rivera. The creation of these entities, the PLM of Flores Magón
and the Zapatista movement within the Revolution of 1910 resonate strongly
in the contemporary Chicano movement.
ARTWORLD CONTEXT: What can I learn about the art ideas, beliefs, and
activities that were important in the culture in which the artwork was
The Wobblies have been very active not only in labor economics but art
and literature. They rejected Marxism, the Communist Party/Popular Front
politics of the 1930s-40s, and the notion of a "party line" in
art and culture, that is an officially sanctioned form of art. In contrast
to Communist Party cultural activities, the IWW artists are notable for
their exuberance and diversity. While most of their art is realist in nature,
some Wobblies worked in expressionism and some even experimented with the
modernism of James Joyce and Pablo Picasso. The Wobblies internationalized
issues of gender and ethnicity and the support of environmentalism long
before craft unionists generally, and even before many radicals faced these
The IWW was similar to the Mexican Taller de Gráfica Popular
of the 1940s in that there was a close correlation between the creation
of art and political activities (see Alfredo
Zalce). There was one major difference however, in that the Wobblies
were self-supported from the funds of its worker membership while the Taller
de Gráfica Popular was an officially supported institution of the
Mexican government of the period, which identified itself as "revolutionary"
VIEWPOINTS FOR INTERPRETATION
MAKER'S INTENTION: What can I learn about why the maker wanted the artwork
to look the way it does?
The artist produced the linocut to instruct, inspire, and provide a
role model for workers generally as well as the Chicana and Chicano community
about an important labor and political hero. This hero was also a figure
linking the Mexican revolutionary movement culminating in the Revolution
of 1910 with both Chicanos active in the early 20th century and the reinvigorated
Chicano movement of the 1960s and 1970s.
At the lower left of his linocut, Carlos Cortez prints the words, Chicano
Artistic Movement, with the intention of adding his voice to the manifesto
of Flores Magón that is itself printed on the linocut. Thus, the
fusion of art and political and social movements that Flores Magón
expressed in 1920 is linked to a similar philosophy of art that Carlos
Cortez espouses for the contemporary Chicano movement. This political posture
led Carlos Cortez to use inexpensive materials, to sell his work at cut-rate
prices, often by himself, not to number the work, and to cut at least one
additional edition (on yellow paper stock instead of white), as the first
edition was exhausted.
Viewer Lesson Index
|ARTWORLD VIEWER UNDERSTANDING: What can I determine
about how the viewer, patron, or user understood the artwork?
The typical viewers of the Flores Magón linocut would be either
young workers of any race or ethnicity whom the IWW would be attempting
to recruit, or Chicanas and Chicanos in the factories, mines, fields, or
schools and colleges. They would respond positively to the political impact
of the image, of Flores Magón who has the markings of an intellectual
and teacher who has transcended his prison dress and his cell in order
to solemnly instruct the viewer about something important. They would also
empathize with a proponent of an aesthetic philosophy based on social justice.
The softer, rounder contours of the figure set against austere horizontal
and vertical lines heightens our empathy with and solidarity with the figure
who is expressing himself directly and without artifice. The sense of transcendence
of the prisoner despite his physical confinement is heightened by his firm,
solemn, and defiant look, his flamboyant mustache, which also has an air
of confidence and defiance, and the authoritative way that he also holds
both his pen and the manifesto itself for all to read. His signature is
bold and uneffacing, a size or two larger than the text itself.
At the lower left is printed, Movimiento Artístico Chicano [Chicano
Art Movement], and at the lower right is the box number and address where
copies of the linocut can be obtained. The reference to the Movimiento
Artístico Chicano is an important link between the early 20th century
Mexican hero who is being depicted and the Chicanos of the 1970s who have
been inspired by him.
CULTURAL IMPACT: What can I learn about how the artwork was understood
within culture in which it was made?
Flores Magón was resurrected in Mexico, and to a lesser extent,
the United States among Chicanos, as a result of the Mexican student revolts
of 1968 (a time of maximum world exposure because both the World Soccer
Cup and the Olympics were taking place in that nation). These revolts ended
very badly, with the massacre of many Mexican students and their supporters
in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas, with the previously unheard of military
raid and takeover of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM),
and with the imprisonment and "disappearance" of many protesters.
However, after the student revolt, Mexican politics was transformed to
some extent and the previously scorned Ricardo Flores Magón, previously
scorned as an anarchist was accepted into the pantheon of official Mexican
heroes and became an object of admiration among Chicano students and activists.
In 1973, noted Chicano historian, UCLA professor Juan Gómez Quiñones,
published his influential book, Sembradores. Ricardo Flores Magón
y el partido liberal mexicano: A Eulogy and Critique. Monograph No.
5. Los Angeles: Aztlan Publications, Chicano Studies Center, University
of California, Los Angeles, 1973. This book had a significant intermediating
effect both on the Chicano community and on Carlos Cortez, who was directly
inspired by the book in his selection of the "art for art's sake"
material. This book led to the incorporation of Flores Magón into
Chicano history as well as Mexican, pointing out, among other important
features of the intellectual's life, that he spent 18 years in the United
States, propagandizing, recruiting and organizing "among Chicanos
and from within the Chicano community." (Gómez Quiñones,
p. 2). Moreover, the Chicano historian observed that Flores Magón
was arrested for the final time on March 18, 1918 under the Espionage Act,
charged that he was hindering the American war effort with his ideas, and
imprisoned in the federal penitentiary of Leavenworth which gradually caused
outrage at the time among both Mexicans and U.S. liberals and that he died
under highly suspicious circumstances, supposedly of a "heart attack,"
but, according to Chicano inmates who subsequently rioted and killed his
principal "murderer," at the hands of prison guards (Gómez
Quiñones, pp. 68-69).
Ten years after the student riots and their massacre in 1968 and five
years after the appearance of Gómez Quiñones' influential
book, in 1978, Carlos Cortez produced his linocut of Ricardo Flores Magón
which commemorates that rehabilitated figure both in Mexico and among Chicanos.
CONNECTIONS AMONG ARTWORKS
STYLE: How does the artwork look like other artworks?
The Flores Magón image has similarities with the prints produced
by the Taller de Gráfica Popular done between 1937-1949, due not
only to the relief-print medium, but the political content and the characteristics
of illustrative images which have an immediate impact and are directed
to workers or peasants (see Alfredo Zalce for an example of a Taller woodcut). The Flores Magón
image also shares certain features in common with Luis Guerra's Texas Farmworker,
particularly in the prominence given to the hands and the integration of
written political content into the work of art itself. Both works have
in common a manifesto quality.
Carlos Cortez's work also has strong affinities with the political theater
(particularly of the 1960s and 1970s) of the Teatro Campesino, established
by Luis Valdez, which had the goal of organizing farmworkers and raising
INFLUENCE: What can I learn about how earlier artworks influenced this
artwork or about whether this artwork influenced later artworks?
Carlos Cortez has acknowledged the influence of José Guadalupe Posada, who greatly influenced the images of Alfredo
Zalce and others of the Taller de Gráfica Popular who share
with Carlos Cortez the use of art as a means of social education and reform.
Others who have influenced Cortez are the American cartoonist, Art Young
(1866-1943), biting German political cartoonist, George Grosz (1893-1959)
who fled Nazi Germany in 1932, and Kathë Kollwitz (1867-1945), German
painter, lithographer, and etcher of life among the poor and the proletariat.
THEMES: What general ideas connect this artwork to other artworks?
The primary theme is the conflict stark between, on the one hand, the
labor movement and its creation of art with political content, and, on
the other hand, those adherents of "art for art's sake," art
without overtones of struggle for social justice. Cortez strongly supports
the former and clearly rejects the latter. Mny artists and aestehticians
of the Modern Art era take the opposite position regarding this conflict.