The editorial categories are research topics that have guided researchers during the recovery phase and continue to be the impetus behind the Documents Project’s digital archive and the Critical Documents book series. Developed by the project’s Editorial Board, each of the teams analyzed this framework and adapted it to their local contexts in developing their research objectives and work plans during the Recovery Phase. Learn more on the Editorial Framework page.
In this essay, George Vargas attests that Carlos Lopez “serves as a vital historical link connecting American modern art in Michigan with a new Latino history of the state.” During the 1920s–1940s, Carlos Lopez was a Latino artist who did not allude to or relate to his own culture or heritage, but rather adopted the ways of the mainstream art of his time. Vargas asserts that Lopez, a Cuban-born artist who contributed to American mural art in Michigan, was extensively involved in the mural movement prompted by the United States government- sponsored Works Progress Administration (WPA) and its Public Works of Art Project during the 1930s. From 1937–1942, Lopez completed many important murals for numerous post offices in Michigan, which caused mixed public reactions. Vargas discusses specific paintings and murals, dated from the 1930s until just before Lopez’s death in 1953, including Boy on a Horse (1936), Plymouth Trail (1938), The Pioneer Society’s Picnic (1942), and other murals Lopez painted in Michigan.
This text by the Texas-based art historian, activist, and artist George Vargas traces the life and works of Carlos Lopez and was published in 1999 under the auspices of the Julian Samora Research Institute at Michigan State University, as part of their Latino Studies Series. Lopez, who was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1908 and immigrated to the United States during his childhood, did not self-identify as a Latino artist during his lifetime. Vargas has endeavored to recover Lopez’s work as part of a history of Latino artists working in the United States during the early decades of the twentieth-century, and who, like Lopez, were involved in the mural projects commissioned by the federal government. Seeking to convey Lopez’s importance in this period of American art history, Vargas weighs how his murals—especially those painted in Michigan—display a distinct illustrative style that reflected American popular culture. He stresses here how Lopez’s talent was widely recognized during his lifetime.