In 1932, the Fine Arts Department in Mexico City appointed Guatemalan-born painter Carlos Mérida (Guatemala, 1891) director of Mexico’s National School of Dance. Cultural institutions were at an embryonic stage in Mexico, and the foundations were laid for the development of artistic education emerging from an ideal of national identity in step with the classical canons. For public schools including this one, this triggered the possibility of an experimental vision that set itself apart from the Eurocentric representations involved in the development of the classical arts since the Colonial period in Mexico. Elements of regional dance were adopted as contents in this process, generating hybrids of different artistic disciplines. Discussions that went beyond dance to notions of dynamic plastic arts led to a model that integrated fields of expression into the National School of Dance project. The active participation of artists in creating spaces for artistic education in disciplines other than their own became a key moment for the nation’s cultural revolution. This was the case in 1931 of the School of Dynamic Plastic Arts (Escuela de Plástica Dinámica), directed by painter Carlos González; in 1932, of the National School of Dance, directed by Carlos Mérida; and in 1950, the National Institute of Fine Arts, directed by José Clemente Orozco.
Shifts and transformations in the plastic arts are evident in projects by Carlos Mérida, be it in the aesthetics of his works, the spaces chosen for their exhibition or in projects that weren’t subjected to notions of salons or museum spaces. These explorations ranged from the architectural adaptation of friezes, doors, and wainscots to the design of Gobelin tapestries and sculptural series, creating a singular interior design as a whole—always in fight so as not to submit to specific presentation models and contributing to much of what came to be known in Mexico as the plastic arts integration movement (movimiento de integración plástica).
Taking the shifts and appropriation of the term “dynamic plastic arts” (plástica dinámica) as a starting point—a term coined in the thirties—this show comprises a cabinet of evidences with the different routes arranged by Mérida as territories of action, influencing areas that lie parallel to the field of visual arts: specifically, architectural projects that allowed him to operate within initiatives of enormous social significance. He diluted his authorship with regards to the housing estates in which he participated, breaking down the borders between “high art” and the “minor arts.” Cracks were generated from this process that opened creative possibilities for collaborating with other creators of his time, sowing the seeds of a local aesthetic that revolved around the dynamism of art in a developing country—an art that is now defined, paradoxically, by the contradictions generated by its own institutional nature.