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Mel Casas papers, 1963-1998

Biographical Note

Mel Casas (1929-2014) was a painter and educator in San Antonio, Texas. Casas was born in El Paso in the historic El Segundo Barrio. After graduating from El Paso High School, Casas worked a few odd jobs before serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He became wounded by a landmine and subsequently received a Purple Heart. After returning home from the war, he attended the University of Texas at El Paso graduating in 1956. He received a Master of Fine Art in 1958 from the University of the Americas in Mexico City. He began his teaching career at Jefferson High School in El Paso where one of his students was artist Gaspar Enriquez. Casas went on to teach at San Antonio College and was Chair of the Art Department until he retired in 1990.
Casas was a member of the art collective Con Safo. The group was founded by Felipe Reyes under the original name El Grupo. A few of the original members included Jose Esquivel, Rudy Treviño, and Roberto Ríos. The mission of the group was to empower Chicano artists who were largely overlooked in the mainstream art world. In 1968 Casas penned the "Brown Paper Report," a manifesto discussing the meaning of Con Safo, Chicano concepts, and the use of the symbol "C/S." The report helped define Con Safo as an organization and remains a fundamental document in the history of the Chicano art movement.
Casas' is well-known for his series Humanscapes that includes 150 large-scale paintings that were produced from 1965 to 1989. This series, along with smaller works, has been exhibited throughout the U.S. and Mexico. His work is also in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the San Antonio Museum of Art, and other collections worldwide.
Casas died in 2014 in San Antonio, Texas.