About the Artist
Born in Guatemala but spending most of his career in Mexico, Carlos Merida first established a reputation as a figurative painter beginning 1907, but in 1927, he abandoned that approach to become one of the pioneering non-figurative, geometric abstract artists in Mexico. In the 1920s, he also went through a Surrealist phase.
One of his unique contributions to art in the Americas was fusing elements of that culture to what he had learned from European modernists. He also did artwork with geometric symbolism linked to the Mayan culture, and incorporated barkwood paper into his paintings.
From 1908 to 1914, he was in Europe including four years in Paris, beginning 1910 where he associated with avant-garde artists including Pablo Picasso and Amadeo Modigliani. He studied with Hermengildo Anglade y Camarosa and Kees Van Dongen.
His early training was at the Institute de Artes y Artesanias in Guatemala City and in Quelzaltenango. After his time in Europe, he returned briefly to Guatemala and then settled in Mexico where he participated in the mural painting movement led by Diego Rivera and Rufino Tamayo. However, he felt much more affinity with Tamayo than Rivera because of Tamayo’s preference for easel painting rather than large-scale narratives.
In 1932 to 1934, he was director of a school in Mexico City established for the purpose of “exhibiting, preserving, and recording historical dances of the Indians. Merida recorded costumes and dance postures in a series of colored lithographs printed in Mexico City and published in New York. A second set of lithographs was published in Mexico City in 1940.” (Powers 353) From 1941 to 1943, he was also in Texas, where he was a teacher of drawing and painting at North Texas State Teachers College in Denton. After that period, he returned to Mexico, where his reputation remains strong for his abstract paintings and subjects of Mexicans and Mexican Indians and their cultures interwoven with their music and architecture.
Exhibition venues in the United States include the Art Institute of Chicago, Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Santa Fe.