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Leopoldo Méndez

Date of birth
Date of death

Leopoldo Méndez led and co-founded Mexico’s most famous printmaking collective, the Taller de Gráfica Popular (TGP) (the Popular Graphic Arts Workshop). A virtuosic printmaker himself, Méndez used his artwork to further the causes of agrarian reforms, Indigenous rights, and anti-fascism. He and the other members of the TGP initiated a tradition of activist printmaking that continues in Mexico to this day.

Méndez was born and studied art in Mexico City. In 1933, he joined the Liga de Escritores y Artistas Revolucionarios (the League of Revolutionary Writers and Artists), with whom he developed a philosophy of art as a means of activism and liberation for the people of Mexico. Soon after, in 1937, Méndez founded the Taller de Gráfica Popular, a collective of artists who made everything from ephemeral prints to high-quality illustrated books in service of leftist political reform. Méndez remained with the TGP until 1961, after which he devoted himself to publishing books on Mexican printmaking and folk art, as well as supporting leftist movements around the world, until his death in 1969.

The Art Institute of Chicago houses one of the largest North American collections of Méndez’s work and hosted a 1945 exhibition, Prints and Drawings by Leopoldo Méndez, of works acquired from the artist. Méndez created What May Come, a woodblock print commenting on the future of Mexico and the brewing World War II, specifically for that exhibition.

For further reading:

Avila, Teresa. 2014. “El Taller de Gráfica Popular and the Chronicles of Mexican History and Nationalism.” Third Text 28 (3): 311–321.

Caplow, Deborah. 1999. “Leopoldo Mendez, Revolutionary Art, and the Mexican Print: In Service of the People.” Order No. 9954820, University of Washington.

Matusoff Merfish, Beth. “Curating Context: The Art Institute of Chicago’s 1945 Leopoldo Méndez Exhibition.” Journal of Curatorial Studies 7 (1).

Torres Arroyo, Ana María. 2013. “El gesto expresivo en la gráfica de Leopoldo Méndez.” Amerika 8.

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