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Carlos Mérida states that he will base his commentary on the exhibition of the Escuelas Libres de Pintura [Open-Air Schools of Painting], taking place at the Palacio de Minería, on the writings of Dr. Atl (Gerardo Murillo), which he feels could have very well served as an introduction to the catalog. He takes up Dr. Atl’s notion that these schools produce works that belong to a folk artistic expression. Upon observing the exhibited works, Mérida determines that the aforementioned criteria are definitively erroneous because two different trends can be distinguished: one folk and the other “pictural” [sic, pictorial]. The latter, according to the artist, unfortunately prevails in the majority of works from these schools because the students must follow the guidelines that the founder, painter Alfredo Ramos Martínez, has imposed on them. Mérida notes a “violated” Impressionism, somewhat transformed from the paintings of the Open-Air School of Coyoacán, as well as the inclination toward an academic concept of perspective. The works are far removed from the expressive quality of all those who have not studied painting. In sum, they are very distant from the national sentiment. The painter also detects the fault of excessive decorative folk elements; these might have once been necessary in order to create a trend to counter the public’s bad taste, but were by that time (as far as the pictorial values of Mexico had been defined) no longer tolerable. It was also untenable to try to base a national art on the representation of “pitchers from Guadalajara or trays from Michoacán.” Mérida concludes by demonstrating his enthusiasm for the works that he considered to be the products of the people and he lists some of their positive characteristics.
In this article, Carlos Mérida (1891–1984) questions the results achieved by the work of the Escuelas de Pintura al Aire Libre [Open-Air Schools of Painting]; at that time the school was a viable alternative to a traditional art education in Mexico that also formed a point of conflict between the academic instruction that was supported by the conservative sector and the spontaneous creativity of Mexican craftsmen—freedom of creativity was a concept defended by the liberal artists and intellectuals of the era. The painter’s critical perspective pointed out the imposition of certain artistic guidelines within the concept of creative freedom reflected in the official discourse; these did not allow the students to share the creative spirit of the people. In an article on the 1920 exhibition of the Academy, Mérida stated that the works presented by the students at the Coyoacán School revealed a youthful approach to art and a praiseworthy desire for renewal. Nevertheless, he also noted that these young artists still lacked direction because all their paintings were characterized by the same sense of color, which he could only attribute to their same shared influence. In his opinion, this had not changed significantly. (See docs. nos. 733656 and 773096).