Mathias Goeritz


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German painter, sculptor, architect, designer, teacher, writer, and controversialist, active in Mexico for most of his career. He was born in Danzig and studied philosophy and history of art in Berlin. From 1936 to 1938 he lived in Paris, where he studied painting, then returned to Berlin and gained a PhD in history of art in 1939. The following year he fled Germany and settled in Spanish Morocco. At the end of the Second World War he moved to Spain, living successively in Granada, Madrid, and finally Santillana, where in 1948 he helped to found an avant-garde group called the School of Altamira, which was devoted to creative freedom. In 1949 he moved to Mexico, where he had been invited to become professor of visual education and design in the School of Architecture at the University of Guadalajara. He remained in this post until 1954, when he settled permanently in Mexico City to teach at the National School of Architecture.

Goeritz played an important role in introducing modern ideas to Mexican art and he was attacked by some nationalists for infecting the country with ‘European decadence’: in response to his foundation of a short-lived museum of experimental art (‘El Eco’) in Mexico City (1951–3), Rivera and Siqueiros wrote an open letter in which they described him as ‘a faker without the slightest talent or preparation for being an artist, which he professes to be’. His work was varied in range and style, but he is probably best known for his collaboration with architects in large-scale projects, particularly for his Five Towers (1957–8) at Satellite City, near Mexico City, carried out in partnership with the architect Luis Barragan. This group of five immense painted concrete towers, rising to heights of between 120 and 190 feet (35 and 58 metres), has been hailed as an early example of Minimal art, but Goeritz was very different in his intentions from the Minimalists. He championed human values in art and denounced what he considered the frivolity or vacuity of much contemporary painting and sculpture. For example, when Jean Tinguely demonstrated his self-destroying Homage to New York at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1960, Goeritz distributed pamphlets outside the museum calling for a stop to ‘aesthetic so-called “profound” jokes’ and a return to timeless ‘static’ values.

From A Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Art.

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