Carlos Merida Biography

Carlos Merida




Carlos Mérida, painter, muralist, printmaker, illustrator, theatre producer, musician, educator, and interior designer, was born in Quexaltenango, in the Guatemalan Highlands on December 2, 1891. Mérida is mistakenly thought as Mexican because of his extensive time spent there. He lived in Guatemala City until 1910 when he travelled to France on a German cargo ship with friend Carlos Valenti. It was in Paris that Mérida was introduced to the leading avant-garde artists such as Van Dagen, Amedeo Modigliani, Pablo Picasso, and Piet Mondrian, as well as other Latin American artists such as Diego Rivera, Jorge Enciso, Angel Zarraga, and Dr. Atl.

By 1914 Mérida had returned to Guatemala, formed a partnership with sculptor 'Yela Gunther, and attempted a pro-Indian movement in art but found mitigating success in his home country. A suggestion from his Mexican friends in Europe prompted Mérida to exhibit his works in Mexico. He relocated to Mexico in 1919 and had found an audience that appreciated his folk-themed paintings: a combination of traditional Guatemalan folklore and his "American" or New World identity. Just before 1920 Mérida returned to Mexico. It was the end of the Mexican Revolution, and was also one year before Diego Rivera returned to Mexico from Europe.

Diego Rivera approached Mérida, as well as Xavier Guerrero and Jean Charlot, with the idea of beginning the Renacimiento Mexicano (Mexican Renaissance) in 1922. They began the movement with a mural project: the frescoes of the National Preparatory School in Mexico City. Mérida had also worked as an assistant to Rivera at the Bolivar Amphitheatre. At the Children's Library in the Ministry of Education Mérida had designed and painted a mural called Caperucita Roja y los Cuatro Elementos. He continued to work on a number of murals in Mexico and throughout Guatemala.

In the late twenties Mérida travelled to Europe again and renewed his love of French art and relationships with those he befriended back in 1910. It was on this trip that Mérida's affinity for abstraction truly blossomed and greatly influenced much of his later works. He returned to Mexico before the end of 1929.

Soon after returning to Mexico, Mérida began working on a mural at the Secretaria de Recursos Hidraulicos (Secretary of Hydraulic Systems) with Mexican Muralist Mario Pani. During his work with Pani, Mérida became enthralled with a concept called "plastic integration." Plastic integration is a process in which art and architecture are combined; each conceived with the conscientiousness of the other. This new concept culminated in one grand project: the Benito Juarez Housing Project, a housing development that was to cover 4,000 square meters. Unfortunately the majority of the project, including Mérida's huge mural (largest of the world at that time) were destroyed in the 1985 Mexico City earthquake. 

Mérida teamed up with Mexican artist Carlos Orozco Romero in 1932 to open the Dance School of the Secretariat of Public Education. He also invited other artists to take part in the project, including Agustín Lazo, Leopoldo Méndez, Silvestre Revueltas, and Blas Galindo. Mérida ran the school for three years working with dancers such as Gloria and Nellie Campobello and his own daughter, Ana Mérida, who was later to become a noted Mexican choreographer. For Mérida it was a means of expressing that which music and painting could not. This work led him to design the sets and costumes for twenty-two works from 1940 to 1979.

Carlos Mérida exhibited at the National Academy of Fine Arts in Mexico City, Mexico in 1920; the Valentine-Dedunsing Gallery in New York in 1926 and the Gallery Des Quatre Chemins in Paris during 1927. He returned to the Americas by 1923 and exhibited with the Society of Independent Artists. While in the United States, Mérida exhibited in the Delphic Studios, New York in 1930; the Art Institute of Chicago in 1932; and personally supervised exhibitions in San Francisco and Los Angeles in California during 1933 and 1934. Mérida exhibited once again in Southern California in 1936 with the Stanley Rose Gallery in Hollywood. Mérida's last North-American exhibits at the Art Institute of Chicago, consecutively, from 1937 through to 1944.  

The works of Carlos Mérida can be found at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, California; Museum of Dallas, Texas; Museum of Modern Art, Sao Paulo, Brazil; and the Museo de Arte Moderna, Caracas, Venezuela.

Mérida continued to paint until the day he died at the age of ninety-three years old on December 22, 1984.




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