GOERITZ Mathias

Goeritz attended the School of Arts and Crafts of Berlin-Charlottenburg (1937-1939) and the University Friedrich Wilhelm in Berlin (1934-1940), where he studied philosophy, art history and archaeology. In 1941 he left Germany and lived in Morocco, prior to moving to Spain in 1945. He cofounded the Escuela de Altamira (Santillana del Mar, 1948), with the idea of stimulating the Spanish artistic avant-garde. He later moved the project to Madrid but after making strong declarations against the Spanish art critics, he was forced to leave the country in 1949. He moved to Mexico where he joined the faculty of the Escuela de Arquitectura de la Universidad de Guadalajara. Until then he had painted in a primitive style that included ideograms and figures inspired by cave paintings. His encounter with pre-Hispanic art in Mexico inspired him to become interested in sculpture.

In 1952, Goeritz signed a contract with businessman Daniel Mont for the construction of a building to house an art gallery, a restaurant and a bar in Mexico City. The result was the Museo Experimental El Eco, a structure in which the asymmetry and contrast of the walls, corridors and openings, kept the viewer in constant tension and generated a feeling of surprise. At the inaugural speech in 1953, Goeritz read his manifesto of emotional architecture that proposed the construction of spaces that provoked a “real emotion” in the users and viewers. This could be achieved through a total aesthetic experience integrating art and architecture. Upholding these ideas, Goeritz and his followers were confronted by supporters of architectural functionalism and by followers of figurative and nationalist mural painting.

Following the line of emotional architecture, he developed the Torres de Satélite (Ciudad Satélite, 1957-1958) with architect Luis Barragan. It was a set of five reinforced-concrete prisms of different colors and heights (between 37 and 57 meters). The towers, designed to be seen from a moving vehicle going at high speed, combined their monumental quality with simple volumes and were pointedly skeptical of functionalism. Taken as a sculptural element of architecture, the tower became a constant in many of his creations including the Torres de Temixco (Morelos, 1958), the Torres de Automex Chrysler (Toluca, 1963-1964), the Osa Mayor (México D.F., 1968), and the Pirámide de Mixcoa (México D.F., 1969).

In 1957 Goeritz began the series of Messages, paintings or murals covered with metallic foil or gold leaf (he later called them Gold Messages). These monochromatic works of luminescent nature (due to the material used) had a deep sense of Christian spirtuality. Light and the absence of representation made reference to the divine, while their titles referred to biblical passages. Goeritz first showed these works in Mexico (Galería de Arte Mexicano, Mexico City, 1959) and then in the United States (Carstairs Gallery, New York, 1960) together with a series of proposed designs for monumental sculptures that earned him the designation as a precursor of the minimalistic style that became popular in New York during the sixties. Also during his stay in New York, Goeritz protested outside the Museum of Modern Art against an exhibition by Jean Tinguely and distributed his manifesto Please Stop! A few months later, in Paris, he presented the Messages at the Galerie Iris Clert and introduced his manifesto L’art prière contre l’art merde. In 1960, he returned to Mexico and exhibited at the Galería Antonio Souza (Mexico City) where he publically read the text I’m fed up. In these manifestos, Goeritz criticized an art that, in his opinion, was lacking spiritual values and created general confusion (he was mainly concerned with New Realism). He also criticized the egotistical attitude of many artists. He proposed instead a metaphysical art, one that was stable and primarily transmitted religious values. These ideas eventually encouraged a brief collective experience known as the “hartistmo,” which had the “hartos” (fed-ups) as main followers, and the organization of Another international confrontation of contemporary fed-ups, a Dadaist-like event, held at the Antonio Souza Gallery (Mexico City) in 1961. In addition to the Messages, Goeritz produced from 1956 various religious works for places of worship including stained glass windows, altars and other objects for the Metropolitan Cathedral (1963), the Convent of the Capuchins Sacramentarias (1963), and the Magen David Synagogue (1964), all in Mexico City.

In the late sixties, he coordinated the Ruta de la Amistad, a sculpture project that included works by various international artists commissioned for the XIX Olympic Games in Mexico City (1968). Ten years later Goeritz joined a group of artists in the construction of the Espacio Escultórico de la Ciudad Universitaria de México (1978-1980). Some of his principles can be seen in both projects: collaboration among artists, urbanism’s synthesis, architecture and sculpture, monumentality without political commemoration, etc. The emotional architecture, which also included the religious feeling Goertiz developed in more intimate and less public works, found one of its most important achievements in Labyrinth of Jerusalem (Israel). He began working on the project in 1973 and it was finally opened in 1980. Although it is not a venue for religious worship but rather a community center, he integrated in its design the symbolism of the three great religions that coexist in the city. Throughout the eighties and until his death, he continued to create works for public spaces and received numerous awards both in Mexico and Israel.

Mathias GOERITZ

Mensaje dorado, 1960

Thin perforated gold metal on wood
31 1/2 x 31 1/2 in. (80 x 80 cm.)