Kortez feels his portraits are a by product of several sources including Graffiti culture, his parents exposing him to African and modern art and pop culture. Jokingly Kortez said that the over exaggerated style might also be due to his Father having a negative response to his faces. Because some of the portraits reminding his father of the derogatory illustrations from the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, Kortez honed in on this stylized approach to creating these portraits. As a young man, painting in this manner was the equivalent to a teenager blasting risque music and annoying the conservative adults in the room. “It was at times a visual jab at my Dad and society as a whole.” Kortez speaks on this for the very first time on video in the latest episode of 5 Minutes with the Gallery Guy Blog on YouTube,
With that said, Kortez states, “As an artist I feel a need to address this social construct called race, not because I want to but because I can’t avoid it in my own life. I wish I didn’t have to be so conscious of so-called race. As a African-American artist who has an understanding of our history, I feel compelled to address it even in a simple portrait. My discontent sometimes shows in the fact that most of the faces don’t smile. That is what I sometimes feel when I paint these images. I’m pretty sure most people are just drawn to the bold colors and overall style of my portraits. I love the fact that I can make a social or political statement using a painting of a simple face and not say a single word.”
By the late 90’s these portraits started to develop when Kortez started doing Live Painting at the Giantstep Sessions parties in NYC. The artist was first painting abstract paintings at these events and it was suggested that he do something that the audience could identify with easily. In front of a audience, the portraits began to take a life of their own and the samples below are the foundation to what you see today. The artists seldom creates these portraits on canvas now but is willing to create works for commission. Contact the artist directly for more information. One of the many places you can see his signature styled portraits is Vonda’s Kitchen in Newark NJ.