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Otto Dix at Munal for Mexico-Germany Dual Year

In constant search of "objectivity," Dix makes little attempts to romanticize war or reduce the brutality behind a veil of virtue and heroism

"People Among Ruins," oil on wood by Otto Dix, photo: The News/Andrea Penman-Lomeli
12 months ago

To celebrate Mexico-Germany Dual Year, the National Museum of Art (Munal) is showcasing the art of Otto Dix, one of the most prominent German artists of the 20th century.

The exhibition, curated by Mannheim Art Gallery director Ulrike Lorenz, contains over 160 pieces, including paintings, prints, watercolors and drawings, some of which have never been shown to the public. This retrospective marks the first time Mexico has ever shown such a temporally diverse selection of Dix’s work at once and is undoubtedly one of the most important exhibits to be on display in the city this year.

The exhibit is divided into seven themes which reflect different eras in Dix’s life, offering a complete panorama of his styles and movements. Curator Lorenz emphasized Dix’s ability to capture and reflect sensibilities of particular time periods in German history. He volunteered for the German Army during the First World War and this event would definitively and forever mark him as an artist, centering the dehumanization of war in his art. Many cite his participation as the reason for his overwhelmingly dark and morose style.

As the “mirror of an epoch in his critical realism,” as Lorenz stated, Dix’s artistic language was a reflection and criticism of German society. He is perhaps the most important artist for generating images of The Republic of Weimar in German popular imagination.

Curator Lorenz and translator give context to Otto Dix's work. photo: The News/Andrea Penman-Lomeli

Curator Lorenz and translator give context to Otto Dix’s work. Photo: The News/Andrea Penman-Lomeli

Along with George Grosz and Max Beckman, his work was central to the New Objectivity (“Neue Sachlichkeit”) movement, a German movement that arose during the 1920s as a reaction to expressionism. The movement tried to reflect German reality with sobriety and rejected the self-reflection and self-importance of the expressionists. In constant search of “objectivity,” Dix makes little attempts to romanticize war or reduce the brutality behind a veil of virtue and heroism; Dix puts the physical and psychological effects of war at the forefront of his work.

Dix was also greatly influenced by philosopher Nietzsche. He explores the dialectic of Eros and Thanatos (Freud’s life and death drives) in his work and overlays these ideas on German society. He explored Christian and mythical subjects while also being a testimony to his society.

In the last few decades of his life, the works are more fantastical, slightly moving away from the harsh realism of the earlier years, though no less critical and satirical of German society.

His works were gathered from collections all over the world including: the Kunstammlung Gera Collection in Germany, University of Kansas’s Spencer Museum of Art, the International Relations Institute of Germany, the National Gallery of Canada, the Leopold-Hoesch-Museum in Germany and the Otto Dix Foundation in Liechtenstein.

As part of the Mexico-Germany Dual Year, this exhibit gives Mexico a window into a particular historical moment via Dix’s work. “His art has a brutality that impacts us, but also wakes us up,” said Lorenz.

The exhibit opens at 7 p.m. in Munal on Oct. 11.
The museum is located in the Historic Center on Tacuba 8.
It is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and entrance is 60 pesos.

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