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This article by Carlos Mérida begins by citing Raynolds Maryland, who stated in a text published in the New York Herald, that Mexico was experiencing a birth and not a renaissance, with reference to Mexican art. This birth resulted in a discovery and strengthening of the American soul, because of the way expression was given to color and form, as well as the decorative richness found in native objects. Together, these two characteristic traits would impart a personality to the movement that would make it preeminent throughout the continent. For Mérida, the North American critic describes the phenomenon of Mexican painting with clarity, adding that it has emphasized the need to achieve the highest and most noble expression: mural painting. This involves its monumental stature and the path blazed by indigenous artists. The author points out that official patronage, led by Minister José Vasconcelos, was offered so that murals could be created in the governmental buildings of Mexico. Thanks to this patronage, the foundation was built for an art of our own in an emotional sense. For Mérida, the modern Mexican movement was based on two manifestations: the structural French painting represented by cubism and the Mexican tradition comprised of folk engravings and retablos [altarpieces]. He sees cubism as a pictorial discipline that reacted against impressionism and was also a form of intellectual painting derived from architectural necessity. He urges that order and balance also be imposed on institutions through mathematical logic. The Guatemalan artist states that cubism freed painting from the abundant prejudice against photography-light, from the anecdotal representation of nature and from theatrical scenes that are false and anti-pictorial. Regarding the second element, Mérida states that both the retablo and the painted boxes of Olinalá are the very finest artistic manifestations in the country. In addition to outlining the origin of the altarpiece, he states that it possesses a richness of material, sound knowledge of decorative geometrical concepts and a powerfully Mexican expression. According to Mérida, the altarpiece has maintained the true pictorial tradition that the new painters now continue. He notes that the nature of today’s Mexican art contains enough elements to constitute a perfect manifestation, which is possible thanks to the near anonymous contributions and the holistic expression of a group of artists: those who dedicate themselves to muralism as a geometric, logical and complete concept.
Carlos Mérida (1891–1984), the Mexico-based Guatemalan painter, served as Diego Rivera’s assistant on the mural, La Creación [The Creation], painted in 1922 in the Simón Bolívar Amphitheater at the Escuela Nacional Preparatoria in Mexico City. Around 1923, he received the commission to decorate the children’s library, an annex of the SEP, the Ministy of Public Education’s building. Mérida was one of the few who recognized the formal influence that cubism had on the first murals. He defined the principal characteristic of painting from the most avant-garde perspective: manipulation of form rather than theatrical representation of reality or even the “anecdotal content” of the work; an ongoing concept that was present in his writings.