Melodic Incidents of the Irrational World, 1st Edition, 1944 by Leopoldo Mendez, Mexico
Incidentes Melódicos del Mundo Irracional (Melodic Incidents of the Irrational World), 1st Edition, 1944
Illustrations by Leopoldo Mendez, Text by Juan de la Cabada
featuring wood engravings and scratchboard prints
11" high x 8.5" wide (book size)
Incidentes Melódicos del Mundo Irracional (Melodic Incidents of the Irrational World), featuring wood engravings and scratchboard prints by Méndez, won the best illustrated book award at Mexico City’s Fourth Book Fair in 1946, and the volume was a bestseller for the Taller de Gráfica Popular’s publishing arm, La Estampa Mexicana. Author Juan de la Cabada’s story is an allegory of popular revolution told through the lens of traditional Mayan legends. It tells the tale of a snail-woman songstress and her squirrel husband, who are deceived by a vulture dressed unmistakably in capitalist top hat and suit coat. When the bird’s deeds are discovered, he meets his end through popular justice.
Although Méndez rarely took up Pre-Columbian imagery, he drew here on ancient sources, such as the snake figure reminiscent of Mesoamerican codices, while inflecting them with a modern sensibility. The book design deftly intertwines Méndez’s sinuous images with verse, Maya-Quiché folk songs and their Spanish translations, and musical notation in a rhythmic dance appropriate to the story’s musical theme.
Condition: Overall excellent condition with wear on the binding from use and age
Provenance: Purchased from the Morton Subastas Auction Libros de Exploradores y Viajeros, Geografia de Mexico y Univeral, Mapas y Cartogrfia, February 27, 2018.
Collections: Metropolitan Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Portland Art Museum, Yale University Library, The Guggenheim, Museo del Estanquillo, National Museum of Mexico
Leopoldo Mendez, muralist, printmaker, painter, political activist, teacher, administrator, father and husband, was born in Mexico City on June 30, 1902, the youngest of eight children. At age fifteen, Mendez became the youngest student to have enrolled in the San Carlos Academy of Fine Arts, where he studied with Saturnine Herran, Leandro Izaguirre, Ignacio Rosas, German Gedovius, and Francisco de la Torre. Following his graduation, he continued his studies at Escuela de Pintura al Aire Libre (the plein-air Impressionist school founded by Alfredo Ramos Martinez, until 1922.
To keep himself financially afloat while creating his art, he designed book jackets, taught drawing and printmaking in elementary and technical schools, and contributed drawings and prints to journals and liberal publications. In 1930, he made his first trip to the United States with a group of friends; while there, he was invited to illustrate a limited edition of Heinrich Heine's The God's in Exile.
One of the founders of the Liga de Escritores y Artistas (LEAR), Mendez is perhaps most well-known as the leader and co-founder of the Taller de Grafica Popular, a cooperative printmaking workshop dedicated to serving the needs of the Mexican people. He joined the Stridentists, a group of artists, writers and musicians whose goals were not unlike those of Dadaists and Futurists. He became known internationally for his art and activism, and received many awards and appointments for his works and accomplishments in both fields. Among these include the Guggenheim Fellowship for travel and study in the U.S.; the International Peace Prize in Vienna; was appointed from Mexico to the World Congress of Intellectuals for Peace in Poland; and the Posada Prize for Printmaking at the Second InterAmerican Biennial of Painting, Printmaking, and Sculpture, among others.
Leopoldo Mendez died in Mexico City on February 8, 1969