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Jose Luis Cortes


At fifteen, I realized what I liked sexually. I met a very good looking Canadian who picked me up and took me to his hotel room. We began to have sex, he slapped me on the face, took me from behind while pulling my hair. When it was all over I -knees shaking -

felt exhilarated, fulfilled, and happy. From then on I developed a fixation with rough sex, being dominated and one night stands. I hardly ever dated and have been promiscuous ever since. I went on living my life this way. Pain, pleasure, sex, beauty, drugs and love have always been intertwined within my essence.”

-Jose Luis Cortés

(excerpt from the essay

It feels like Love but it’s the Drugs

2013 Web Gallery under the same


Jose Luis Cortés is known for his artwork inspired by his time in New York City in the early 1990’s. Cortés’ very personal work reflects the underbelly of gay life – documenting a life on the fringes of society: of sex workers, addiction, and of a changing landscape. He is an artist who, with his work, validates his world and voices his identity as both a gay man and as a Puerto Rican

José Luis Cortés was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Puerto Rican parents. His family moved to Puerto Rico when he was three years old, and he lived there until the age of 28, when he moved to New York City. A gay man, José Luis’s artistic career took off more when he began producing work inspired by the 1990’s New York City gay scene. José Luis’s work has been exhibited in galleries and museums in Amsterdam, London, Berlin, New York, Miami, among other locations. His work has been reviewed in the New York Times, Art in America, and Out Magazine and many other publications. You can see more of his work at the Visual AIDS Online Registry. and learn more about him at joselcortes.blogspot.com.

José Luis is also an AIDS activist. He was a founding member of The Archive Project, and was included in the landmark exhibition, The First Ten (1995), which showcased the work of artists living with HIV. Currently he works with urban youth in Puerto Rico, teaching them about art, and how it can become a part of their daily lives. In 2013 José Luis participated in VIAL, a project of the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico (MAPR)

While living in NYC in the late 1990s, the gay porn industry became José Luis’s obsession. He spent several years documenting this industry from the inside out. He performed as a stripper at Eros I, the first gay male porn theater in the United States. During his performance intermissions, José Luis would step out to photograph the then soon-to-be destroyed theaters by the Times Square’s “renewal” (or “Disneyfication”) plan set in motion by NYC’s mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

It was during this time that José Luis began painting on newspapers, mostly the New York Times, using only black and white gouache while letting other colors already in the newspapers bleed into the images he paints. Both his work and medium reflect the complexity of his life history as a gay man and artist. The short-lived nature and deceptive fragility of newspaper is the ideal medium to document the context in which José Luis life and art happen. When asked why he chooses newspaper instead of canvas, José Luis quickly replies, "Because newspapers document what happens in the world; and my work documents what happens in my life."

Paradoxically, as the Times Square’s all-male theaters were disappearing, José Luis spent years preserving their images in newspapers printed during those same days in which gay life in NYC was being transformed. The scenes painted in those newspapers depict the gay theater era intertwined with “the news that’s fit to print” of the 1990s. The images as well as the medium—newspapers printed in the 1990s—are now time capsules. Fifteen years later, those images and newspapers are still around to transport us back in time.

In 1999, New York Times’ art critic Roberta Smith referred to Jose Luis’s work as “muscularly expressionistic paintings on newspaper.” More recently, his work has been the subject of analysis in an attempt to understand the intersection where life and art converge. In this regard, Richard Rothstein, contributor for ‘Art and Perception,’ has described José Luis as an artist that “paints within the framework of an odd lifestyle pattern.” However, this is a rather narrow view of both his work and his life. The same way José Luis’s homoerotic work evokes raw emotions, other facets of his work— his parents’ wedding portrait, portraits of his niece and his deceased father, as well as urban scenes of the Puerto Rican neighborhoods where he grew up— evoke tender emotions and reveals yet another dimension of his life and art.

There is another medium through which José Luis expresses his life and art: live performances in which his body becomes his canvas, once again, blurring the distinction between art and life. Some of these performances are evocations of his days as a Times Square stripper; others involve applying makeup that makes him indistinguishable from his self-portraits on newspaper. During other performances some of his self-portrait images are tattooed to his body.

Currently now in Puerto Rico, he works as fetish film maker in queer film festivals which includes the award winning CASH MASTER, a published poet with his poem THE PERFECT MAN and performance artist. Both his work and mediums continue to reflect the complexity of his life history as a gay man and artist.films can be seen here.


Jose Luis Cortes

667Calle Estado Apt #6 San Juan PR, 00907-350

Email: jlcortesx@gmail.com

Blog: JoseLCortes.blogspot.com2017 Préñame, Guionista y actor

Emai jlcortesx@gmail.com


2023 Worthlees Director at puerto rico querer film fest

2017 Préñame, Guionista y Actor HIVIDEO

2016 Long Term Survivor, Actor script Balaclava. Q


2016 Cash Master, PR Queer Film Fest 2016, Mencion Especial Del Jurado

2014 Raising a Fag, PR Queer Film Fest 2014


2022 the perfect man ,el cuadrado gris san juan pr

2020 str8 men are better el local san juan

2019 Ivan xxx el cuadrado gris

2017 La destruccion del beso, Festibal Del Tercer Amor, Teatro Colibantes, San Juan, PR

2015 En Blanco y Negro Gay & Boricua, Taller Puertorriqueno Philadelphia, PA

2014 Concreto Pintado en Periódico, Casa Escuté, Carolina, PR

2010 Men Wanted, Hans Payán Gallery, Houston, Texas

2007 Old Time Square, Newyorican Poets Café, NYC

2003 Art & Leisure, Gallery M, NYC

1997 New York Years, Wall Gallery, NYC

1993 Help Wanted, Manny Maldonado, NYC (curated by Mauricio Laffitte Soler & David Hirsh)


2023 simposium on art aids and action organized by visual aids hosted by Whitney

2023 oral history project by visual aids

2000 háblame sucio fetich fim festival at el local san juan

2015 Castillo Films Production Company (Startup)

2016 El ichu Zine - Revista de artistas

2016 HIVideo-2016 Puerto Rico Festival internacional en El Local

2017 HIVideo-2017 Puerto Rico Museo De Arte Contemporaneo


2022 Mi Cuerpo mis Mahones Mi Bloque

2022 Trash SAN JUAN PR

2016 20 pesos por un beso, Club 77, Rio Piedras, PR

2016 Como fue Que me volvi loco, En la Calle

2016 El Paseo Del Deceo, en el Newyorican Cafe


2023 Radical Perverts,NYC museum of sex curated by Alexis Heller

2023 Parabolica La Casa de Los Contrafuertes san juan pr

2022 Anarquia MAC San Juan pr

2017 Hustler, at Miami, Bogota, Colombia

2017 HE, Los Angeles CA

2017 Little Fucks and the Expose Monster, Taller Secreto, Santurce, PR

2014 30 Años en Santurce, MAC, Santurce, PR

2014 La Jardinera de la Cerra, Recinto Cerra, Santurce, PR

2013 Colectiva Monopatin 2.0, C787, Santurce, PR

2013 VIAL MAPR (Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico) San Juan, PR

2013 Where Do We Go From Here, The Cock Gallery, Portland Oregon

2009 NADA Art Fair, La MaMa La Galleria & Visual Aids, Miami

2009 Tainted Love, La MaMa La Galleria (curated by Steven Lam & Virgina Solomon for Visual Aids

2004 Don’t Call It Performance, El Museo del Barrio, NYC (curated by Paco Barragan & Deborah Callen)

2001 Skank, Plus Ultra Gallery, NYC (curated by Ed Winkleman)

2001 Benefit for 911 Victims, Alexander & Bonin, NYC

2000 Blondies and Brownies, Torch Gallery, Amsterdam (curated by Raphael Von Uslir)

1999 The S Files, El Museo del Barrio, NYC (curated by Deborah Cullen & Carolina de León)

1997 Edifying Saphos & Socrates (traveling exhibition), Sydney and Amsterdam

(curated by Raphael Von Uslir)

1997 The Puerto Rican Equation, The Bertha Leubsdorf Art Gallery (curated by Juan Sanchez)

1997 Collaborative Self-Portrait (with Boys & Girls Club) Jersey City Museum, New Jersey

1997 Summer Invitational, Steffany Martz Gallery, NYC

1997 A Living Testament of the Blood Fairies – Part 2, Printed Matters, NYC (curated by Geoffrey

Hendricks, Frank Moore & Sur Rodney)

1997 Queer 2000, Parsons School of Design, NYC (curated by Ann Meredith & Salle McCorkie)

1997 Afro-Homo, Parsons School of Design, NYC

1996 A Night of a Thousand Drawings, Artist Space (Benefit), NYC

1996 Me, Myself, and I, La MaMa Gallery, NYC

1996 Domestic Violence: The Facts Are In, P.S. 122, NYC (curated by Susan Scriber)

1996 Visual AIDS – The Archive Project (curated by David Hirsch & Geoffrey Hendricks), Catalog

1995 The First Ten, P.S. 122, The Archive Project, NYC (curated by Ernesto Pujol & Susan Scriber), Catalog


Mariela Fullana Acosta, Puerto Rico se une al HIVideo, Nuevo Dia, pagina 54, 2017

Claridad, El Pais En Quiebrea, Portada y Editorial

Liliana Ramos Collado, Melodía de Arrabal, visióndoble.net, 2014 http://www.visiondoble.net/2014/07/15/


Smith Roberta, Tainted Love, The New York Times, 2009, Pag. C27

Strong Lester, A Global Gallery, OUT Magazine, 2003, #121, Pag. 40

Cotter Holland, Skank, The New York Times, 2001

Bleys Rudi C. Images of Ambiente, First edition, Wellington House,

Smith Roberta, Art Rediscovers a Home On the Upper East Side, The New York Times, 1999

Anderson Jack, A Little Show With the Food and Wine, The New York Times, 1999

This Week, Time Out New York, 1999, Pag, 47

Cotter Holland, Art & Aids, The Stuff Life is Made Of, Art In America, 1997, Pag, 51


Ivan El Terrible por ADÁL

Cash Master

Long Term Survivor