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This document relates the response of artist Tomás Maldonado to the survey regarding abstract or non-figurative art, in which he considers the term “abstract” to be both appropriate and inappropriate; it is appropriate when it is used to identify an artwork with a descriptive theme that is not very perceptible. Nevertheless, Maldonado considers it is unsuitable when used for objective and presentational proposals like in Concrete art, which has dialectically exceeded abstraction.
Sur [South] was one of the principal Argentinean literary magazines, founded and financed by Victoria Ocampo (1890-1979). It was published from 1931 to 1988, although with fluctuating regularity. Its initial group of contributors included Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) and Norah Borges (1901-1998), Guillermo de Torre (1900-1971), Oliverio Girondo (1891-1967), Leopoldo Marechal (1900-1970), Adolfo Bioy Casares (1914-1999), and Silvina Ocampo (1903-1994), among many others. The survey was based on the following questions: 1) Do you believe the term abstract art, used until today with a more general connotation, is really inappropriate and imprecise, and that from now on it should be replaced by the term non-figurative art, without intent to include within this common nomenclature those other terms which might serve to designate other, more specific trends? 2) In the contrary case, what name would you suggest that would be recommendable for its exactitude and possibility of being readily accepted? 3) In your opinion, what is the future of non-figurative art in relation to representative art? Local respondents included Cayetano Córdoba Iturburu (1899-1977), Manuel Mujica Láinez (1910-1984), Gyula Kosice (1924–2016), Juan Del Prete (1897-1987), and Tomás Maldonado (1922). Foreign respondents included Mathias Goeritz (1915-1990), Hans Platschek (1923-2000), Vicente Martín (1911-1998), Ricardo Gullón (1908-1991), Eduardo Westerdhal (1902-1983), and Ángel Ferrant (1890-1961). The links to foreign artists should not only be ascribed to the friendship between Ferrant and Guillermo de Torre, but also to the cultural activities they had undertaken at the Escuela de Altamira en Santillana del Mar [Altamira School at Santillana del Mar, Spain].
Tomás Maldonado is a painter, designer, and intellectual who was born in Buenos Aires in 1922. In 1945 he became a founding member of the movement known as Asociación de Arte Concreto — Invención [Concrete Art and Invention Association], and in 1954, he settled in Germany, where he became a professor at the Hochschule für Gestaltung [School of Advanced Studies in Form],in Ulm, an institution he later directed.
The call for this survey was sent out after the publication of the open letters exchanged between Julio E. Payró and Guillermo de Torre, published in no. 202 of the magazine Sur, in August 1951. At the same time, the controversy continued the debates begun by the presentation of León Degand’s exhibition Arte Abstracto, del arte figurativo al arte abstracto [Abstract Art, from Figurative Art to Abstract Art], mounted in Buenos Aires in July 1949, and also by the exhibition introduction written by Guillermo de Torre for the Joaquín Torres-García exhibition in April 1951.
This article was selected because it documents the artist’s position concerning the open debate on abstraction, as well as Payró’s and de Torre’s interest in deepening the discussions on these issues.