GROUP SHOW
SURREAL SURROUNDINGS

KÖNIG MEXICO CITY
6 FEBRUARY – 4 MARCH 2024

PUBLIC OPENING
WITH LIVE PERFORMANCE BY AYAKO ROKKAKU 
6 & 7 FEBRUARY 2024 | 11 AM  – 6 PM (CST)

We are pleased to announce the opening of KÖNIG MEXICO CITY, the fourth location of KÖNIG GALERIE and the first on the American continent. Situated in the heart of La Condesa, the gallery comprises various exhibition spaces across two floors, including a garden, and in addition to its rotating exhibition program, the new venue will also host artist residencies. KÖNIG MEXICO CITY’s inaugural exhibition, SURREAL SURROUNDINGS, is dedicated to the Surrealist heritage of Mexico, a country that had a lasting influence on Surrealism and, by extension, modern art, and builds on this tradition with its continued relevance for contemporary artists today. The spiritual power of Mexico – its nature, along with its volcanos and rich Aztec History – attracted European Surrealists like Leonora Carrington, Remedios Varo, José and Kati Horna, Gordon Onslow-Ford, Esteban Francés, Wolfgang Paalen, and Alice Rahon, who followed in the footsteps of Surrealism’s founding figure, André Breton. In Mexico, these European émigrés mingled with local artists like Frida Kahlo, Lola Álvarez Bravo, and Gunther Gerzso, who were already incorporating dreamlike imagery into their canvases. A highlight of the opening will be a live painting performance by the Japanese artist, Ayako Rokkaku, one of KÖNIG GALERIE’s leading painters, whose painting performances take place over a few days, inviting visitors to the gallery to witness live the realization of a single work.

Live painting performance by Ayako Rokkaku during the exhibition opening © Images by Sebastian Braggaar

The Surrealists held to the belief that one could express the truest mechanisms of thought via the unconscious. Initially, the most important aspect of the unconscious mind was desire, which they felt was central to humanity: the authentic voice of the inner self and the key to understanding human nature. Dreams, childhood, madness, non-Western art, and chance operations became central to discovering the irrational in the art of the Surrealists. In Breton’s 1924 foundational text for the movement, “Surrealist Manifesto," the French poet called for a new kind of art and literature powered by unconscious feelings and dreams, realms refreshingly far removed from the harrowing realities of World War I and its aftermath – astonishing parallels to the realities of our present. Given these important historical connections, SURREAL SURROUNDINGS brings together artists from around the world to pay tribute to Mexico’s Surrealist legacy and unique contemporary art scene.

Manuel Forte, DEVIL IN THE FRIDGE, 2023 © Image by Santiago Grieve Torres

The first-generation Surrealist, Max Ernst, created many works where the snake appears as a symbol for original sin, referring both to Adam and Eve and the eternal nightmares that followed. In Christianity, the Book of Genesis is paradigmatic for establishing humanity’s relationship with the deceiving and evil serpent from the Garden of Eden. In this exhibition, the Hungarian sculptor Zsófia Keresztes replaces snakes with worms, which resemble their biblical predecessors. She creates sculptural works and installations out of a combination of materials that straddle identities, both virtual and real. These are often finished in pastel hues of light blue, beige, coral, and pink, adding to their appropriation of actual and imagined bodies. In recognition of her capacity to transform sites and contexts into imagined worlds of part-objects and bodily attachments, Keresztes was chosen to represent her native Hungary at the 2022 Venice Biennale.

Exhibition opening at KÖNIG MEXICO CITY © Image by Sebastian Braggaar

The Danish artist Jeppe Hein fractures, inverts, and expands perspectives in his artworks. The bench in the exhibition overturns reality, while Hein references the reflective properties of thought and dreams in his speech bubbles. Presenting a confluence of art, architecture, and technical invention, Hein's practice often employs mirrored surfaces, like those seen in the speech bubbles, which engage and unwittingly include the viewer. From his investigations of architecture, communication, and social behavior in the urban space, a series of bench designs was born under the shared title, Modified Social Bench. The bench designs borrow their basic form from the ubiquitous park or garden bench but are altered to various degrees to make the act of sitting a conscious physical endeavor. With their modifications, the benches transform their surroundings into places of activity rather than sites of mere rest and solitude.

© Image by Santiago Grieve Torres/h6>

Similarly, Surreal spaces are created by German artist Andreas Schmitten, who invents works that often traffic in optical illusions. For example, sculptures that at first glance look like porcelain are in fact made of bronze and sprayed white, creating environments that look like a futuristic dream. Anselm Reyle approaches his foil and stripe paintings as well as sculptures with the inclusion of found objects, which have been removed from their original function, altered visually, and recontextualized. Remnants of consumer society, discarded materials, symbols of urbanity, and industrial change play a central role in Reyle’s oeuvre.

Monira Al Qadiri crafts luminescent recreations of oil drills, which she coats in pearloid colors and then mounts on the wall as sculpture. A series of 3D-printed sculptures coated with iridescent automotive paint similarly embodies the unnerving potency of oil drilling and its attendant culture. Removed from their industrial context, these sculptures hang magically on the wall and become futuristic objects in their own right. Al Qadiri’s interpretation of the Gulf’s so-called “petro-culture” is manifested through speculative scenarios that take inspiration from science fiction, Arab soap operas, Gulf War-era pictures of burning Kuwaiti oil fields, traditional melancholic music, pearl diving, and the aforementioned machinery of oil drilling. She has looked to the symbolic aspects of oil, creating supernatural works that relish in the magical transcendence of the Gulf landscape – notably, its vast interior deserts and oyster beds that feed the ancient practice of pearl diving in the Persian Gulf – in tandem with the mechanisms that aid oil extraction. 

The German artist Karl-Horst Hödicke is known for his practice of executing paintings of everyday subjects in an immediate and inherently expressive style of his own. For this exhibition, three of his kitchen paintings are included, which make use of surrealist perspectives. Hödicke, a pioneer of German Neo-Expressionism and New Figuration, along with Georg Baselitz, Jörg Immendorf, and A.R. Penck, was also one of the main protagonists of the New Savages or “Junge Wilde” movement in 1978, which arose in the German-speaking world in opposition to established minimal and conceptual strategies.

Emily Weiner, END TO END, 2023 and SALVATOR LUNAE, 2023 © Image by Santiago Grieve Torres

The mystical and esoteric aspects of spirituality were of special interest to a group of female Surrealists whose work blossomed in Mexico under the autonomy they enjoyed in their new home. Varo, Carrington, and Horna became something of a trio in 1940s Mexico City; they all made work inspired by pre-Columbian mythology, tarot, alchemy, astrology, and the occult. Diego Rivera made Paris his temporary home between 1909 and 1921, where the celebrated muralist amassed an impressive collection of Aztec artifacts, which he consistently incorporated into his work. Rivera and his friend’s enthusiasm for pre-Columbian art reflected the turn-of-the-century Mexicanidad movement, which saw Mexican artists celebrating their indigenous roots in a rejection of colonial influence.

© Image by Santiago Grieve Torres

KÖNIG MEXICO CITY celebrates its arrival by honoring the transatlantic exchange of art and artists that this vital metropolitan hub has played host to over the last century of cutting-edge artistic practice and continues to do so today. SURREAL SURROUNDINGS pays tribute to the important points of confluence and contact that converged in the Mexican capital while also gesturing to the city’s continued relevance for contemporary art in the ever-changing present. We are delighted to open our doors with this unique group show, an homage to Mexico City as well as a glimpse of what is to come.

EXHIBITED WORKS

Big strawberry in space

Manuel Wroblewski

Big strawberry in space

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Salvator Lunae

Emily Weiner

Salvator Lunae

neben der Waschmaschine

Karl Horst Hödicke

neben der Waschmaschine

Chili in space

Manuel Wroblewski

Chili in space

Spectral Pearl Button

Monira Al Qadiri

Spectral Pearl Button

Sold
End to End

Emily Weiner

End to End

Representatives

Andreas Schmitten

Representatives

Untitled

Anselm Reyle

Untitled

Spectral Pearl Star

Monira Al Qadiri

Spectral Pearl Star

Spectral Pearl Octo Penta

Monira Al Qadiri

Spectral Pearl Octo Penta

Brussels sprouts in space

Manuel Wroblewski

Brussels sprouts in space

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Untitled

Bjarne Melgaard

Untitled

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Untitled

Bjarne Melgaard

Untitled

2 Pots, not so old

Johanna Dumet

2 Pots, not so old

Transtemporal Geography

Rachel Garrard

Transtemporal Geography

I can wait

Kris Martin

I can wait

Geranium Lake

Erin Frost

Geranium Lake

The Tarot Card

Robert Janitz

The Tarot Card

Sold
Araña Nalgona

Mauricio Villarreal

Araña Nalgona

HOT SPOT fire

Xenia Hausner

HOT SPOT fire

Soft Alliance III.

Zsófia Keresztes

Soft Alliance III.

State of Being

Chiharu Shiota

State of Being

Linsen

Karl Horst Hödicke

Linsen

Grey Fire

Johannes Wohnseifer

Grey Fire

o.T. (Abtropfsieb)

Karl Horst Hödicke

o.T. (Abtropfsieb)

Untitled

Anselm Reyle

Untitled

Pink Valentino

Johanna Dumet

Pink Valentino

Knot 2

Michael Sailstorfer

Knot 2

Chaos Theory

Zhivago Duncan

Chaos Theory

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