This exhibition features three complete print portfolios by Carlos Mérida (1891- 1984) from the McNay’s collection. Though born in Guatemala, Carlos Mérida would live for most of his life and career in Mexico where he, like so many other modernists working there, would celebrate and document indigenous cultures and traditions through his art. Particularly close to his heart was the pre-Columbian Mayan text called the Popol Vuh. Variously translated as “Book of the People” or “Book of the Community,” the document is a rare survivor of the Spanish conquest that puts forth a creation story for the K’iche or Quiché people of western Guatemala who were Merida’s ancestors. His color lithograph suite, Estampas del Popol Vuh (1943) is his visual interpretation of the texts of the important document. Also close to his heart was dance. Mérida had a great interest in the traditional dances of Mexico and had co-founded the dance school of the Secretariat of Education to teach and thereby preserve them. Dances of Mexico (1939) is a visual document of the same traditional dances. Perhaps the most joyous of the three portfolios is Carnival in Mexico (1940) which celebrates the commingling of indigenous cultures and traditions with Catholicism during pre-Lenten festivals throughout the republic of Mexico.
The portfolio Dances of Mexico is a recent acquisition so this is the first time that these three complete portfolios, consisting of ten color lithographs each, will be installed together.