Mathias Goeritz : minister of change in Mexican Modern Art, 1949-1968
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In 1949, artist Mathias Goeritz (1915-1990) relocated to México from Germany, by way of Spain, with new aesthetic ideas, intellectual capital, and an extraordinary outgoing personality. Four years later Goeritz inaugurated his Museo Experimental: El eco, a space which presented “…an art form unknown in México: a modern architecture that motivates feelings or emotions.” Goeritz created a hybrid work, an architecture/sculptural space, as a counterpoint to the pragmatism of functionalist architecture, prevailing at the time. The inauguration in México City of the Museo Experimental: El Eco, in 1953, revived old controversies between doctrinaire and liberal artists. A block of party-line artists, led by David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896-1974), attacked the German émigré artist Mathias Goeritz as a hedonist and called El eco a sinful place. Siqueiros was the most active spokesperson against art that was outside the parameters of the Mexican school of painting, known as Muralism. Why was Mathias Goeritz’s practice so criticized and opposed by the Mexican art establishment? Was it Abstract art that muralists deemed a superficial practice against the national problems? Was it his spiritual and emotional claims about art and architecture? Was it his role as a visual arts teacher? In this dissertation, I seek to answer these questions through an analysis of spirituality in his art and architectural practice, as well as his writings. I also argue that it is through the monumentality of Goeritz’s sculptural work that his abstract aesthetic confronts, front and center, the artistic Social Realism dialogue of the era. This study concentrates on the period from Goeritz arrival in Mexico in 1949 and concludes in 1968, coinciding with the Mexico City Summer Olympic games. For this dissertation, spirituality is the exploratory thread. Goeritz’s aesthetic principle is based on the conviction that art, beyond what it represents, fulfills a spiritual function. Goeritz’s writing about the importance of believing in a higher calling through art creation is unique because it articulates what’s behind his art practice. An approximation of what spirituality meant to Goeritz is done by reading and reflecting on his artistic creations, writings in magazines, and manifestos.