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Gyula Kosice and the Rise of the Argentine Avant-Garde

Mar 31

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3/31/2016 9:07 AM  RssIcon

This week we highlight the work of sculptor and poet Gyula Kosice [Ferdinand Falk] (b. Kosice, Slovakia, April 26, 1924), who turns 92 this month. Kosice, a champion of Argentine avant-garde art, immigrated with his family to Argentina when he was four, most likely escaping the political unrest during the aftermath of WWI. When he was sixteen, he selected as his artistic name Gyula, the first name of the Hungarian inventor Gyula Takátsy (1914–80) — which presaged his lifelong passion for invention — and Kosice, the name of his birthplace. He studied drawing and sculpture in independent academies and at the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes in Buenos Aires.

Kosice’s role in the takeoff of autonomous and original avant-garde movements in Buenos Aires during the 1940s was central. He co-edited Arturo in 1944, a magazine that changed the course of Latin American art, together with the Uruguayan visual artists Rhod Rothfuss [Carlos María Rothfuss] (1920–69) and Carmelo Arden Quin [Carmelo Heriberto Alves] (1913–2010) and the Argentine poet Edgar Bayley (1919–90). Kosice and the artists that gathered around Arturo triggered an artistic revolution in Argentina that yielded a productive encounter between the visual arts and other fields such as literature, architecture, and music. Inspired by European Neoplasticism, Constructivism, and Réalités Nouvelles, they challenged the status quo of Argentine art, which was dominated by realism. They sought to replace representational and expressive art with a kind of concrete art — geometric abstraction devoid of symbolic meaning — that was based on “invention.” They co-founded the Movimiento Arte Concreto-Invención and exhibited together in October and December, 1945. However, despite their shared adoption of concrete art, the Arturo group soon embraced divergent tendencies due to theoretical differences: in November 1945, Tomás Maldonado (b. 1922) founded the Asociación Arte Concreto-Invención (AACI) which gathered students from the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes; in 1946, Kosice, Arden Quin and Rothfuss initiated the influential Movimiento de Arte Madí; and in 1947, Raúl Lozza left the AACI to found Perceptismo.

While the AACI artists remained loyal to the principles of orthodox concrete art, developing a materialist and rationalist aesthetic focused on visual aspects, the Madí artists were more experimental, departing from rationalism to introduce ludic elements and movement. We invite you to take a look at their paintings, in which they rejected the conventional rectangular frame and utilized irregularly shaped canvases, studied the articulation of liberated planes of color, and employed flat, concave, or convex surfaces. The Madí artists frequently blurred the limits between painting and sculpture and pioneered participatory art by creating objects that could be transformed by the viewer. Through their international exhibitions, their exchange with other avant-garde groups, and their published writings, Kosice and the Madí artists contributed greatly to the advancement of non-figurative art in Argentina and abroad.

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