Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art

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    In this interview, Gyula Kosice recounts his meeting with French poet and art critic Jean Cassou. Cassou received Kosice in his office at the Musée National d'Art Moderne in Paris. Kosice opens the dialogue by emphasizing how important it was in Latin America to observe the personality, function, and orientation of the museum. Cassou—who had served as director of the institution since 1947—responded to Kosice by tracing his career from his membership in the resistance during the Second World War, underscoring the priority he placed on political-artistic freedom and how this influenced his work at the museum.

    Kosice observed the focus and concern for the common good that Cassou brought to exhibitions and the acquisition of works. During his meeting, Kosice also noticed Cassou’s interest in articulating the aesthetics and orientation of museums, as well as the importance he placed on their educational and cultural missions. Lastly, Kosice asks for Cassou’s opinion on the direction of art, to which the critic responded by stating that it was undoubtedly moving toward abstraction in its many expressions and that it was necessary for man to “make the art of the time his own, to express it, and commit to it.”

    Annotations

    Gyula Kosice (1924–-2016) was a writer, poet, painter, and sculptor who is considered one of the most influential artists of the avant-garde in Latin America. Among other accomplishments, in 1944, Kosice contributed to the launch of Arturo magazine and in that same year he also played a key role in the Arte Concreto-Invención movement in Argentina. In 1946, Kosice, along with other artists, founded the Arte Madí movement [see in the ICAA digital archive “Se reconocerá por Arte Madí...],” by Gyula Kosice (doc. no. 732008)].

    In 1957, the French government awarded Kosice a grant that allowed him to travel across a great part of Europe and the United States, where he presented multiple group and solo exhibitions. These travels provided the artist with opportunities to converse with numerous art critics, and delve into the work of artists, writers, and poets of the European avant-garde. Throughout 1959, Kosice wrote about these experiences in the Buenos Aires newspaper La Nación. These articles were later published by Ediciones Losange under the title Geocultura de la Europa de Hoy [The Geoculture of Europe Today].

    The book includes the interviews that Gyula Kosice had with important personalities within European intellectual and artistic circles such as Jean Arp (doc. no. 1318752), Max Bill (doc. no. 1316654), André Bloc (doc. no. 1316654), Sonia Delaunay (doc. no. 1316736), Cesar Domela (doc. no. 1316751), Lucio Fontana (doc. no. 1316828), Emile Gilioli (doc. no. 1317009), Auguste Herbin (doc. no. 1316751), Richard Mortensen (doc. no. 1317455), Bruno Munari (doc. no. 1318737), Antoine Pevsner (doc. no. 1318871), Denise Rene (doc. no. 1318905), Nicolas Shoffer (doc. no. 1318905), Michel Seuphor (doc. no. 1318922), and Georges Vantongerloo (doc. no. 1318939). Kosice had also planned to interview Jean Paul Sartre, André Breton, Albert Camus, and Pablo Picasso, but these conversations did not take place.

    In Geocultura de la Europa de Hoy, Kosice used the interviews to evaluate the state of the arts in the Europe of that era, just as Louis Aragon had done the year before. In 1958, Aragon had published in Les Lettres françaises—of which he was editora series of conversations with some of the aforementioned artists under the title “Qu’est-ce que l’avant-garde en 1958?” [What is the avant-garde in 1958?] That same year philosopher and writer Michel Butor (1926–2016) would touch on the same theme in his essay “‘Geographie intelectualle’ du monde,” published in Le Figaro littéraire. These texts, including those by Gyula Kosice, demonstrated the need to re-evaluate the mission of the avant-garde movement in Europe and Latin America, given the rise and incorporation of new art trends, principally within the United States, such as Abstract Expressionism and action painting.