Biographical / Historical
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, he worked odd jobs before serving in the United States Army during the Korean War. Casas was wounded by a landmine in Korea and ultimately awarded the Purple Heart. After returning home he attended the University of Texas at El Paso and graduated in 1956. He subsequently earned a Master of Fine Art in 1958 from the University of the Americas in Mexico City.
Casas began his teaching career at Jefferson High School in El Paso where one of his students was artist Gaspar Enriquez. He went on to teach at San Antonio College and was chair of the art department there until his retirement in 1990.
Casas was a founder of the Chicano art movement and a key member of the art collective Con Safo with other founding members Felipe Reyes, Jose Esquivel, Rudy Treviño, and Roberto Ríos. Originally named El Grupo, the group's mission was to empower Chicano artists who were largely overlooked in the mainstream art world. In 1968 Casas penned the "Brown Paper Report," a manifesto explaining the meaning of Con Safo, Chicano, the "Brown Vision of America," and the group's use of the symbol "C/S." The report helped to 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 produced between 1965 and 1989. This series, along with smaller works, has been exhibited throughout the United States and Mexico. Casas's work can be found in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the San Antonio Museum of Art, and other collections worldwide.
Casas died in San Antonio, Texas, in 2014.