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Gyula Kosice and Movimiento de Arte Madí: Surpassing the European Avant-Garde

Apr 12

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4/12/2016 9:20 AM  RssIcon

This month we celebrate the 92nd birthday of the sculptor and poet Gyula Kosice [Ferdinand Falk] (b. Kosice, Slovakia, April 26, 1924), the leading force of the Movimiento de Arte Madí, one of the revolutionary avant-garde movements that emerged in Buenos Aires in the mid-1940s – the others were the Asociación Arte Concreto-Invención (AACI), and Perceptismo. Kosice co-founded Madí with the Uruguayan visual artists Rhod Rothfuss [Carlos María Rothfuss] (1920–69) and Carmelo Arden Quin [Carmelo Heriberto Alves] (1913–2010) in 1946. He invented the group’s name, which he changed to “Madinemsor” after Arden Quin left in 1947. Among the members of Madí were Martín Blaszko (1920-2011), Diyi Laañ (1927-2007), Esteban Eitler (1913-60), and Juan Bay (1892-78).

Although inspired by the Bauhaus, De Stijl, and Constructivism, Kosice and the Madí artists intended to surpass their European predecessors and reinterpreted their models often in radical ways. Like AACI and Perceptismo, Madí started from the theories that Kosice, Rothfuss, and Arden Quin had launched in the magazine Arturo in 1944: They rejected illusionism and attempted to replace the predominant realisms with a kind of concrete art based on pure “invention.” However, each movement developed particular positions. In comparison to AACI, which remained more faithful to concretist principles, the Madí artists were more experimental, departing from rationalism to include mobile and ludic elements in their work. They considered that even concrete art had not freed itself from “taboos” and “vices” of ancient art — like conventional rectangular frames or regular and “static” forms — and criticized AACI’s focus on visual aspects and formulaic approaches to art-making. We invite you to read a pamphlet where the Madí artists call for “actual invention,” published in August 1946 on the occasion of their first official exhibition. Understanding Madí would not be possible without reading their seminal manifesto, which they published in 1947 in the first issue of their magazine Arte Madí Universal, which Kosice directed. ­In this text, the multidisciplinary collective outlines an ambitious program in which each field of artistic creation would collaborate to create a new aesthetic “continuum.” The manifesto set the stage for artistic innovations that include remarkably early kinetic and participatory art: Their objects, which frequently blurred the boundaries between painting and sculpture, often had articulated elements that the spectator could manipulate. The Madí artists also famously rejected the conventional frames and utilized irregularly shaped canvases following Rhod Rothfuss’ proposal of 1944.

Madí art drew great international attention beginning with the 1948 Salón des Réalités Nouvelles in Paris, in great part due to Kosice’s efforts. He promoted their art to an international audience through several publications, exhibitions, and exchanges with other movements. For example, during a 1954 trip to the Sao Paolo Biennial, Kosice gave lectures at the Pró-Arte V Curso Internacional de Férias at Teresópolis, where he met Sergio Camargo and other Brazilian concretists. In 1951 Arte Madí Universal began to promote the work of the Italian Movimiento Arte Concreta (MAC) and in 1952 Kosice started an exchange with the Italian magazine and gallery Numero. In 1958, during an exhibition at the gallery Denise René, the Madí group came into contact with the Paris-based kinetic artists, among them Carlos Cruz-Diez. The group’s Argentine representatives Martha Boto (1925-2004) and Gregorio Vardanega (1923-2007) began to use Plexiglas, a material that Kosice had been employing since the 1940s. A forerunner of kinetic and participatory art, Kosice strongly inflected the development of modern and contemporary art in Latin America and beyond.

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