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Mathias Goeritz Brunner was a sculptor, poet, art historian, architect and painter born in Germany who lived most of his life in Mexico. Goeritz focused on form, texture and colour to arouse emotions with his creations. He founded the movement of Emotional Architecture, where he thought of architecture as a form of art and spirituality where emotion surpassed the practical and functional purpose of the form. This opposition to functionalism was deeply developed and manifested in a series of creations that majorly influenced a new cultural and artistic scene in Mexico which are still recognized not only in the country but all around the world.  

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Mathias Goertiz was born in Danzig, Germany in 1915. He studied in the School of Arts and Works of Charlottenburg, Berlin and obtained a PhD in Philosophy and Art History at the University of Friedrich-Wilhems. Later on, he studied and worked in several parts of Europe, including Paris where he learned at the School of Paris where Picasso, Chagall and other artists studied too, in the following short period of time he studied in Switzerland as a disciple of Paul Klee. On his return to Berlin, 1941 to 1942 he was the director of the National Gallery (Museum for XIX century paintings). Goeritz was of Jewish descent and with the rise of the nationalistic movement in Germany he was forced to flee to Tetouan, Morocco where he lived and worked as an academic before living in Spain to work as a painter.

 

Alexander Calder, El Sol Rojo, 1968, 25 meters, stainless steel, Photograph © Fundación ICA

 

In 1949 he was invited to work as an academic in Mexico. This would prove his most productive and creative era of his lifetime, creating the monuments, theoretical movements, paintings and artworks that now best represent him. His life in Mexico as an artistic figure was so determining that Goeritz also nationalized as Mexican. His vision influenced a full restructuration of the artistic paradigm that prevailed in Mexico and Latin-America, which were mainly influenced by European and American tendencies. These are some of his most iconic artworks:

Museo Experimental “El Eco” (The Echo Experimental Museum) – 1952.

In 1952 Mathias Goeritz was commissioned by a local entrepreneur to envision the creation of a cultural space for private purposes. One year later, the Museum was designed and founded under the Manifesto of Emotional Architecture, where Goeritz imprinted his vision on this building of focusing on emotiveness and subjectivity, suppressing function and rationality unlike the current worldwide of architecture at that time. The Echo Museum was established as a multidisciplinary space where different practices of culture and art coexisted with an architecture that would organically flow with these performs. The purpose of this building, (as his movement also established) was to promote, expand and mirror the sensibility end emotionality of humans, hence the name "The Echo". This building is considered a cornerstone in Mexico’s modern art scene.

 

Mathias Goeritz, The Echo Experimental Museum, 1952, Photograph © copyright Artesur 2020

 

La Serpiente del Eco (The Echo’s Serpent) – 1953

The day "The Echo Museum" was inaugurated, Walter Hicks represented a choreographed dance orchestrated by famous surrealist film director Luis Buñuel. The dancers would execute this choreography with "The Serpent" as a stage and a character itself. This sculpture is a large-format prismatic piece that is halfway between geometry and abstraction. This work is also an interpretation of part of the mythology of Ancient Mexico and is recognized as an iconic piece by the artist.

 

Mathias Goeritz, The Serpent, 1953, stainless steel, Photograph by Marianne Goeritz; Fondo Mathias Goeritz, CENIDAP/INBA

 

Emotional Architecture – 1954

In that year, Goertiz published the “Emotional Architecture Manifesto”. This was done at a time when monumental public spaces where being built in Mexico, this new arrival established a shift of paradigm from functionalism to sensitivity which influenced many of those creations. This trend established the conjunction of colour, light and water to create new atmospheres and highlight the senses. The focus was to incite sensations on whoever observed these artworks through the use of shapes, space and volume.

Torres de Satélite (Satélite Towers) – 1957-1958

Mexican Pritzker award-winning Luis Barragán and Goeritz designed "Las Torres de Satélite", a group of sculptures composed of 5 triangular prisms of different shapes and colours (the tallest is 30 meters tall and the smallest is 52 meters). These sculptures are positioned in one of the most important intercity highways of Mexico City at the entrance of Ciudad Satélite, a suburban area outside the city founded around those years. This new suburban area held the promise of a new urban system of modernity and economic prosperity and thus that was the symbolic meaning of the towers. In 2012 the sculptures were declared as national artistic heritage and is still a well-recognized landmark in the city.

 

Mathias Goertiz, Luis Barragán, Torres de Satélite, concrete, 30-52 m. 

 

El Mensaje (The Message) – 1959

Mensajes Dorados is the name of a series of abstract artworks that the German painter made from 1959 onwards. Several golden creations which were not made of paint, but instead covered in sheets of gold. Some of them are simply monochromatic pieces, while others were severely punctured by the artist in a rhythmic way, creating meaningful combinations of small dots. These seem to contain an abstract writing or a coded message. This messages conveyed a divine message and were mainly used for decoration in specific architectural spaces that would resonate with his vision.

 

Mathias Goeritz, Mensaje, goldleaf on wood, 53 1/8 x 48 in. (135 x 122 cm.), circa 1959

 

La Ruta de la Amistad (Friendship Path) – 1968

In that year Goeritz was placed in charge of the cultural and artistic international promotion as part of the committee of the XIX Olympic Games “Mexico ’68”. In his role, he commissioned “The Friendship Route”, the biggest sculpture corridor of the world, in Mexico City. A 17km pathway holding 19 sculptures built with concrete by artists from all 5 continents. Amongst them, Alexander Calder, the author of the Red Sun, built a statue still visible next to the Azteca football stadium.

El Centro del Espacio Escultórico (The Center of the Sculptural Space) – 1979

One of the best-known artworks of Mathias Goeritz is placed inside an artistic project designed by sculptor Federico Silva, where several artists were invited to exhibit large-scale sculptures inside a monumental space of the world-known UNAM (Autonomous National University of Mexico). Goertiz presented the biggest of them, grouping a series of prismatic blocks of concrete in which a centre the original natural lava surrounded by a garden of endemic flowers. This monument to “nothingness” as named by himself, was a tribute to the indigenous cosmogony. The intention of this piece was to mix art and ecology, having as a final product a circular edification with a perimeter of 120 meters of diameter.

Conclusions

The artworks of Mathias Goeritz went through many different aspects of social reality. He worked for private owners as for the government, he created sculptures for universities and also for religious institutions. This artist was an honorary member of the Berlin Arts Academy and the Royal Academy of The Hague in Nederland. Achieving awards like Elias Sourasky his works have been exhibited around the world and his legacy had huge influences not only in Mexico but in all Latin America.

Cover image: Mathias Goeritz, El Centro del Centro Escultórico, 1979, 125 diameters, concrete.

Written by Eduardo Alva Lòpez

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