Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art

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    Synopsis

    The Swiss artist Max Bill provides his definition of concrete art in this article, which was published in the Revista Arte Madí Universal (Buenos Aires), no. 7-8 (June 1954). According to Bill, the term “concrete” applies to an art that does not seek inspiration from nature, an art that is based on “the precision and perfection” of the human spirit. Bill explains that concrete works of art rely entirely on elements such as color, space, light, and movement to adhere to principles of clarity and rigor. According to the author, concrete art reclaims the objectivity and autonomy of its visual language, eschewing any representation of the observed world. One of the advantages of concrete art is its ability to create a universal language, along the lines of those created in the fields of music and science.

    Annotations

    The painter Leo Van Doesburg formulated the term “Concrete art” in the 1930s. Artists affiliated with the concrete movement saw it as a distinct alternative to figurative art and abstract art and claimed that the objectivity and autonomy of its visual language was derived from the fact that it had no referential basis in observed reality. In 1936 the Swiss artists Max Bill and Jean Arp took up where Van Doesburg had left off, publishing a number of works and organizing important exhibitions devoted to painting, sculpture, and applied arts. Max Bill’s art is an almost cerebral art, a rational art that was comparable to the work produced by many constructive or concrete artists. From the very early days of his career he focused on a purely visual approach, breaking with established representational styles.

    In the author’s opinion, the idea was to create art that can be measured, that means something that can be understood by any viewer, with figures that can be adapted to any situation and that, all together, contributed to the development of a universal language as in the fields of science and music. Bill believed that the principles of concrete art could be applied to other spheres or fields, such as typography, architecture, and design. Latin American countries were actively involved in this aesthetic revolution, and several Latin American artists played important roles in the development of constructivism in Europe and its introduction to Latin America.

    The Movimiento de Arte Madí — founded in 1946 by the Czech artist Gyula Kosice (1924–2016), the German visual artist Martín Blaszko (1920–2011), and the Uruguayan visual artists Rhod Rothfuss [Carlos María Rothfuss] (1920–69) and Carmelo Arden Quin (Carmelo Heriberto Alves; 1913–2010) — was part of a broad cultural revolution that spawned a remarkable and productive merging of the visual arts and other artistic disciplines in Argentina. Kosice, Arden Quin, Rothfuss, and the Argentinean poet Edgar Bayley (1919–90) started that revolution in 1944 with the publication of Arturo, a magazine that, though published only once, would alter the course of Latin American art. The artists involved in Arturo denounced the anachronism of the realist trend that dominated art in Argentina. They sought to turn away from expression and illusion in art and replace them with a sort of concrete art based on the principle of “invention” or pure creation. Disagreements over theoretical ideas ultimately split this group into different movements: the Asociación Arte Concreto-Invención (AACI) (1945), the Movimiento de Arte Madí (1946), and Perceptismo (1949). [For information about each group’s program, see their founding manifestos in the ICAA digital archive: the Manifiesto Invencionista (doc. no. 731641), the Manifiesto Madí, mentioned above (doc. no.732008); and the Manifiesto Perceptista (doc. no. 731656)].