Gilcrease Museum is temporarily closed for construction.

Get the Full Story

Portfolio Title: Estampas del Popol-Vuh / Carlos Mérida


This energetic, colorful image with abstracted forms is part of a series of ten lithographs that illustrate the ancient Mayan creation story. Created by Guatemalan artist Carlos Mérida, the lithographs accompany selections from the Popol-Vuh meaning “Book of the Community” in the K’iche’ language. The story includes the dangerous trials and feats of the hero twins Hunahpú and Xbalanqué in the underworld and recounts how they prepared the way for the planting of maize and for human beings to live on earth.

Like many of his Mexican contemporaries in the early 1940s, Mérida embraced his ancient, indigenous roots through modern cultural expressions. The lithographs combine Abstract Expressionist gesture influenced by European artists such as Paul Klee and Joan Miró with interpretations of linear drawings found in Mayan murals.

Look at the colors, lines and forms in Plate 9. Can you find the floating profiles of the hero twins? Where do you see references to the birds called Molay featured in the story? What other forms do you notice? How does this dynamic composition leave you feeling? OR What does the composition leave you wondering about?

Alison Rossi, Director of Learning and Community Engagement, 2020.

Gallery Label

Carlos Mérida’s Estampas del Popol-Vuh are inspired by the ancient Mayan story about creation, the Popol Vuh, and correspond with its narrative sequence. Abstracted, linear profiles of the hero twins Hunahpú and Xbalanquém float in fields of saturated color with energetic animal forms. Like many of his Mexican contemporaries, Mérida fuses modernist styles with ancient indigenous traditions of the Americas.

Las Estampas del Popol-Vuh de Carlos Mérida corresponden a la secuencia narrativa de la antigua cosmología maya llamada el Popol Vuh. Perfiles abstractos y lineales de los héroes gemelos Hunahpú y Xbalanaquém flotan en campos saturados de color con formas animales energéticas. Como muchos de sus contemporáneos mexicanos, Mérida mezcla estilos modernistas con las antiguas tradiciones indígenas de las Américas.

From the exhibition: Mexican Modernism: Revolution & Reckoning, August 29, 2019 - August 30, 2020.
Alison Rossi, Director of Learning and Community Engagement, 2019.

You may be interested in...

Portfolio Title: Estampas del Popol-Vuh; Portfolio Title: Prints from the Popol-Vuh
Carlos Mérida (Artist);
Talleres Graficos de la Nacion (Printer);
Graphic Art Publications (Publisher)
color lithograph on paper
Object Type: 
Accession No: 
Previous Number(s): 
1747.6.15; 40859
Signed, "Carlos Merida".
Not On View

Our Online Collections site is a work in progress. If you have information about this item that may be of assistance, please contact us.