DE LA TORRE, Alfonso: UNIVERSO (AND UNIVERSALISM) MADÍ [TOWARDS A POETIC CONQUEST OF SPACE ]. Published in the catalogue: UNIVERSO MADÍ. Madrid-Caracas: Odalys Gallery. February-April 2019, pp. 67-79
Buenos Aires: “Arturo”, nº 1, Summer 1944
INVENT: To find or discover by force of ingenuity or meditation, or by mere chance, a new or unknown thing. / When an artist or poet finds, imagines or creates his or her work. /
INVENTION: The action of inventing. / Something that has been invented. / DISCOVERY
INVENTION versus AUTOMATISM
Buenos Aires: “Arturo”, nº 1, Summer 1944
UNIVERSO (AND UNIVERSALISM) MADÍ
[ TOWARDS A POETIC CONQUEST OF SPACE ]
ALFONSO DE LA TORRE
Few movements in the history of art have made it to present day with the vibrancy and intensity with which universo MADÍ arrives and survives among us. While the material use that other movements have made of artistic techniques has made its way to us—see the use of collage and assemblagewithin cubism, or shapes and options, the normative possibilities—, it is also true that the ideology that originated them has not endured, let alone the vindication of the original movements, and it is not common to find the names of such groups mentioned explicitly. It would now be difficult, without expressing amazement or doubt, to find a young artist who declares him or herself a novo-cubist or post-futurist, a new ultraist or part of the DADA world, or even to find a revisitation of groups that were born in these times and had an ideology that history seem to have buried. After all, the ultimate art carries an avant-garde ideology, and being up to date—vertigo seems forced these days—implies the proclamation of unsuspected discoveries, brand new uses, or radical artistic statements.
However, certain values founded by MADÍ, a group officially born in 1946 with a significant contribution from the Uruguayan artistic ideas, have endured. The manual aspect of its productions; the ludic relation to space; the advocacy for meditated invention as opposed to impulse; or even the separation from other representative movements from the twentieth century, such as realism or symbolism —a “freed” image at last, some will write—. What’s more: the rejection of expressionism or automatism (it should be noted that in many of his writings there is ludus,along with a certain irrational atmosphere), that will also make them keep their distances from surrealism, which they will describe as cumbersome[i]and old[ii]. They will call it an an imaginative and cerebral process, teasing with the contradiction of the term[iii], which will be frequent during its development: its character usually fond of contradiction and of the enjoyment in the presentation of opposites. They were extremely suggestive during their uninhibited journey through history, rejecting rules, while constantly exhaling models to assemble; vindicating the extreme invention, while alluding to past personalities such as Gropius, Kandinsky, Mondrian or Pevsner[iv].
Joaquín Torres-García, América invertida, 1943. Ink drawing on paper. 22 x 16 cm. Fundación Joaquín Torres-García, Montevideo.
Buenos Aires: “Arturo”, nº 1, Summer 1944
Of course, thinking about these times inevitably brings an image to memory: that almost Dadaist Joaquín Torres García’s proclamation, his known inverted map of America (“América Invertida”, 1943)[v]that seems to state: let the north be the south. The artist claimed with the piece his desire for Latin American independence in the world, which is therefore a desire to create an identity of the continent. It is well known that this artist was a visionary, with proposals that blurred the boundaries between paint and sculpture, objects vspaintings, painting vs object, to make the value of form prevail. He was an advocate for the removal of the barriers imposed by frames, praising a free artistic world, without boundaries, that would diffuse the opposition of rivals. In some of these artworks now exhibited, I’m thinking about how in Jean Charasse’s, István Ézsiás’s, Bolívar Gaudín’s, Isabelle Prade’s or Helen Vergouven’s work, for instance, one can see the extent to which the lessons of the Uruguayan artist, that reference that swings between painting and object, have expanded. Looking now at how history has evolved, I think that Uruguayan artist, capable of thinking in an altered world, acted as a North, a magnetic pole of some kind. A painted ship in the sea of setbacks that cruises towards “Arturo” magazine, and therefrom to the fragmented and energetic extension of MADÍ. The immediate arrival of MADÍ to Paris influenced GRAV (Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visuel) onthe globalization of shaped canvas and their vindication in North America: universo MADÍ. Indeed, the artists of America already present in the universe and a star in the deep sky of that summer of 1944: “Arturo.”
“Arturo” was a magazine with a strong literary component; it is enough to glance over that unique issue, edited only once, to find more than ten poems and some of the most notable poets for their connections with the modern world, such as Vicente Huidobro. One can also find poets such as Murilo Mendes, of a deep surreal lineage and capable of lyricism close to that of Brazilian modernism, concretism or cubism. Or inventionists, such as Edgar Maldonado Bayley, who said to be embroiled in a battle for the invention of new realities. The artists’ lyrics seem to be first transplanted to verse, capable of practicing diverse art forms, both plastic and lyric arts. Torres-García, Gyula Kosice, and Carmelo Arden Quin. He insisted in what seemed to be a literary zeal, addressing a reflection grouped in the content index, below the epigraph: “Con respecto a una futura creación literaria”, publishing the long, illustrated poem “Divertimento” (1935-1943). Just as it happened in surrealism, poetry and plastic arts went side by side; only then can the proclamation of “Arturo” be understood: “When an artist or poet finds, imagines, or creates his or her work.”
But poetry seemed to serve as a sweetener for its strong magazine-manifesto component of deep programmatic essence, from an opening that tempted the expression of dialectical materialism; and yes, also adorned by drawings and poems. Some of these writings-manifestos were essential to the evolution of the MADÍ dispersion, I’m talking about the well-known Rothfuss text, declaratory of the abolition of the frame, and therefore condemnatory of the quadrangulation of the artistic object. It was a proclamation that, for the first time in the history of art, questioned the serenity of the pictorial plane that covered the rigorous and noble museum walls to that date. It had not been frequent to propose the abolition of the so-called “frame,” and declare the supremacy of the plastic form, whatever that form was, over the quadrangular form.
In those truly pragmatic writings of the magazine, one could read how important it was for the artists the value given to the pure image, that vindication of form mentioned earlier, but in addition to a sum of values whose narrative was relentless and remains alive today. It is enough to contemplate the examples recounted in the work of artists from “Universo MADÍ.” The use of the term “universo” [universe] in our title evokes the Torres García legacy about that possibility of “universalism,” knowing that the term “universo” was also used frequently in his publications; MADÍ magazine was “universal” as well, and radiated a wish for extending into wholeness.
The artists exhibited in “Universo Madí” share their singular presentation of their artworks, as well as the debate on the quadrangulation of the frame, whose fracture is crucial to the journey of the plastic artwork in the plane on which it is sustained. It is an essential subject, as nearly all artists in the exhibit address it. It is the case of the work of these artists: Elisabetta Cornolò, Franco Cortese, Marian Drugda, Lorena Faccio, Reale Frangi, Joël Froment, Luis Guevara Moreno, István Haász, Sakae Hasegawa, Antonia Lambelé, Jaildo Marinho, Emilio Monferran, Gianfranco Nicolato, Balázs Pataki, Lorenzo Piemonti, the aforementioned Isabelle Prade, Marek Radke, Armando Ramaglia, Renée Rohr, Albert Rubens, Carolina San Martin, Gloria Stafforini, János Szász Saxon, and Enrique Tommaseo.MADÍ’s inclusion of new materials would leave its trail in the transparent artwork and pieces in Plexiglas by Saverio Cecere, Yumiko Kimura, Isabele Prade, Armando Ramaglia, Inés Silva, or Piergiorgio Zangara. Or in the presence of other peculiar mediums to conceive their creations, such as the pieces made out of folded metallic surfaces by Sakae Hasegawa or Marian Drugda. Or the PVC used by artists like Giancarlo Caporicci and the aforementioned Herrera. Reference is made to the beautiful crystals from André Van Lier, and the steel with which artists like Jean François Coadou,Roland De Jong Orlando, or Helen Vergouwen build their pieces.
It is a well-known fact that Plexiglas and new materials have been the subject of investigation in the twentieth century, and it gained significant value during “Le Mouvement” (1995), an exhibit referenced in Denise René. Gyula Kosice, for example, used it back in 1946 in his “Espacio objetivo.” It should herein be noted the work of Naum Gabo, as well as that of Lazslo Moholy-Nagy, Francisco Sobrino, Jesús Rafael Soto, or Georges Vantongerloo with this material[vi]. In the twentieth century, plastic and new materials were added as a new components of art, with artists valuing in Plexiglas the new possibilities that the industry and the advertising formats had already embraced: particularly its flexibility and lightness, the aerial space, the manipulative and now accessible properties for creators, a material that also embeds lighting effects. In general, these new materials were manipulable, modular, transportable, lightweight, and capable of creating an illusion of volume; and thinking in plastic by-products, they were compact in low lighting, but aerial, and changing when illuminated. They also allowed one to play with movement. The articulated forms, through which one can change the positions of paintings and sculptures, are frequent—Some call will them articulaciones discontinuas (discontinuous joints)—But, ultimately, it was about a constant ambition of le mouvement,and the visionary Rothfuss was particularly persistent in this regard.
Many of the now exhibited forms are built by referencing pure geometric shapes. In a world that often praises curves, the circle and curved interior divisions are essential elements in the revitalization of plastic forms for MADÍ and the artists of the time, like Horacio Cazeneuve, Aníbal J. Biedma, or María Bresler, who, in turn, vindicate artists who love the circle or curved lines: Max Bill, Calder, Delaunay, Domela, Herbin, Nicholson, or Vantongerloo. This will be a thoroughly analyzed subject in the work of artists like Octavio Herrera, Mitsuoko Mori, Judith Nem’s, or the aforementioned Piergiorgio Zangara. In addition, the triangle and the mysterious events that take place around and inside of it constitute a topic of concern for artists such as Dominique Binet, Gaël Bourmaud, Joël Froment, Eef De Graaf, Jaildo Marinho, Torsten Ridell, and Yessika Zambrano. In an analysis of its decomposition, almost transforming into scripture, the triangular shapes become signs: it is the transfer of the triangle cooperating with the cut-out and piercing performed by Roger Bensasson.
Bensasson’s cut-out and piercing sometimes even made forms free-standing, and aspects like the extension of the aesthetic tension of the composition, or the idea of being the dimensional space in depth, are to be noted; the artists exploring the pictorial plane seem to reference this reflection, offering what appears to be a search for a lost dimension, extended into the cut-out space: the hole, the alleged nothingness, can also be incorporated into artwork, as furthered by artists such as Armando Ramaglia or János Szász Saxon. In any case, it is well-known (greetings to Fontana) that the matter of crossing to the other side of the plane, represented in Spain by Millares, was inherent to those times. Regarding informalists and geometricians, it is enough to remember the term “lost dimension” coined by Millares, a searcher for infinite mystery holes: “I do not acknowledge the third fictitious, optical dimension, but I do acknowledge an authentic material dimension. It is what I call ‘lost dimension’, because its background is real and, consequently, does not break the mural frontality[vii].”
In MADÍ, the creation of a multidimensional space through the use of perspectives and dynamics is also frequent, a synthetic telosthat gives life to forms. Such are the cases of creators like Roberto Borberg or Saverio Cecere. Other reflections have an impact on the exhibited artists, such as questions about the plane, the composition through their dynamic encounter, the advocacy of the painting-object, and the superposition as an essential creative form, something for which Rothfuss was a permanent theoretical advocate[viii]— either by the presence of square or rectangular planes, examples of which are Carlos Evangelista, Lorena Faccio, Reale Frangi, Carolina San Martín, or Gloria Stafforini. In some cases, the monochromatic invasion emphasized these questions, as seen in the work of artists like Joël Froment, István Haász, Renee Rohr, or Albert Rubens.
It seems logical that the presence of sculptures whose forms can be found in some kind of intermediate realm between the vertical and the horizontal, or even with an appearance of a solar crawl, resulted from this debate with the visual plane, as found in the work of Jean François Coadou, which seem to travel with the patina of time. Or a certain organization-oriented atmosphere, sinuous or fractured in the wall, as seen in the beautiful Roland de Jong Orlando’s sculpture-paintings, hisradicularesand his Off the wall, the title of one his pieces. Forms suspended, resembling mysterious objects, as found in certain pieces by Torsten Ridell, constrained to the use black and white. Or as clusters of bubbling forms, as seen inVincenzo Mascia’s pieces, which seem to stem from a deep place in space. Some of Dominique Binet’s and Philippe Vacher’s pieces are to be deemed pre-sculptural embossments, with the latter transforming immediately into free-standing pieces and showing the many possibilities of the act of seeing according to the position of the viewer.They constitute the previous transformation into sculpture itself, drawn from those MADÍ’s multidimensional postulates. There are other examples in “Universo MADÍ”:Giancarlo Caporicci, the aforementioned André Van Lier, or Helen Vergouwen.
There are notes shared between MADÍ’s records and its now exhibited universe, we can mention the irreverent atmosphere in many of their work, and the frequent possibility of different positions or visual play with the piece, or the creative power that enables the encounter of poetry and art. Despite the abundance of descriptive titles about the forms or visual elements comprising the compositions, they can’t escape the poetical terms in their titles. I’m thinking of “Ballade or et argent” by Sakae Hasegawa; “Ming” by Antonia Lambelé; “Vieil arbre” by Isabelle Prade; “Blue song” by Renee Rohr, or “Ilusión” by Enrique Tommaseo.At the same time, there are explicit tributes to painting, one of them to El Lissitzky (István Ézsiás), contained in MADÍ’s own recognition of shapes, as it happens with the names of qualified MADÍ pieces by Giancarlo Caporicci, Franco Cortese, János Szász Saxon, and Piergiorgio Zangara.
I believe that many other characteristics unite most of the artists in this exhibit. Thus came to be the multidimensional conception (“conquest”, some will write) of the real world, which in my opinion was also influenced by the attention given to microphotographs of nature’s structures, and to the discovery of another mysterious world inside our own (a filo-surrealist whim?) But also the sentiment of difference, of such significance in critical times; the non-orthodox orthodoxy of the constructive aspects; the early notion about art integration and collaboration with other creative fields that received an extraordinary amount of attention: music, architecture, theater, or dance (even without music)[ix], among others, or, in conclusion, the almost obsessive, but always free analysis of geometric shapes. With more to say, let this narrative be enough.
Photomontage for Madí, Ramos Mejía, Argentina
Silver gelatin printing
23 9/16 x 19 7/16″ (59.8 x 49.4 cm)
Courtesy of Galería Jorge Mara
Circling back to history, MADÍ’s historical artists would originally recognize the successes of the so-called Arte Concreto (Concrete Art). Not in vain would several artists exhibit in 1945 under that epigraph, emerging one of the first flow of artists, one of the trends we mentioned: “Arte Concreto-Invención.”[x]Trends and more trends, one followed the other, some people would immediately come to reject this: it lacked universality and often stood in deep contradictions[xi]. Somehow, MADÍ proclaimed idealism; in their ideas, there was a wish for essentializing their proposals, sharing something that had been typically associated with the avant-garde movement: rejection—so vanguardist—of the movements that preceded them, and the radical separation from certain proposals around them. But MADÍ’s artists brought hope on new technological changes, the recomienzo (new beginning) cited by Arden Quin in “Arturo” Magazine[xii], one of which manifested itself through the attention given to architecture, even to the old masters who advocated for the integration of arts and hope in the presumable technological trend that concerns us today. This proposal seems logical in Galería Odalys, a space characterized by the analysis and vindication of the integration of arts, in which MADÍ had also a leading role.
In the proclaimed search for essential reality, it was necessary to freely open the gates: “What would it be about?” It would be about opening the gates, letting everything in. Everything, except reason. Everything is welcome, in the name of madness, in the name of free, uncontrolled, bold, aggressive expression.”[xiii]Futurists seemed to share a fondness of contradiction, being necessary to reflect on how their initial proclamations, settled on the aforementioned legacy of Torres-García, had those pre-manifestos in “Arturo” magazine[xiv]. The writings in which the ulterior MADÍ’s doctrine, signed by Arden Quin, Edgar Bayley, and Gyula Kosice with textual collaboration from Torres-García[xv], was introduced; adding the reflection on the frame by Rhod Rothfuss[xvi], which proved to be essential later on. In the usual vindication of MADÍ’s elements and history, perhaps one of the most prominent voices is today’s frequently absent voice of Rothfuss, mainly due to the essential nature of the aforementioned article, but also to his role, which I fail to see sufficiently highlighted by history.
After reading the complex historiography of the time, its proclamations, contradictions and trends, as well as its discussions, one ends up thinking that perhaps the only common certainty was the one published in “Arturo”, which is always mentioned as the undisputed start and drive of this history, for the movement and the mentioned trends were difficult to apprehend from this point onwards, and the various paths, sometimes convergent, made this movement expansive and unapprehendable; however, a fact worthy of noting is that the fragmentation was energetic, not dispersive. I also believed that the art of the twentieth century would be difficult to understand without its existence, and that MADÍ’s ghost, as mentioned earlier, would linger in the art that would grow in Paris after its arrival in the sixties. I’m thinking, for example, about the CRAV (later on named GRAV), some of whose members arrive precisely from a Latin American context and present themselves in a gallery named “Latinoamérica” in Brussels, advocating for their separation from the prophetical or sacred character of the artist, and underscoring their wish to tackle a plural work, or a collective proposal[xvii]. For GRAV, art was not so much an individualized act—sacred, as they would put it— as it was a continuous experimentation proposal implemented in space; that rings a bell. A dar-a-ver[xviii], the artwork that unites and multiplies, would preserve the identity and would not conclude per se, generating an entropic[xix]and open space that somehow, someway, would demand the presence of an observer. Which surprisingly does not eliminate the miraculous air of artistic creation.
Having arrived at this point, those of us who write about art cannot stop thinking about how the proclamations in “Arturo” addressed the processes of collective impulses of the arts. Like some postulates related to the attempt of modernism or the old school proclamations from William Morris, Arts and Crafts, or the German Kunstgerwebeschuleand Werkbund.A utopia of total art, the long-awaited Gesamtkunstwerkor the Bauhaus, whose central ideal-ideology-utopia was indeed to achieve, from that organized artistic community, a balance between daily living and the beautiful surroundings. GRAV, circa 1960, offered the consideration of the possibility of an open piece that would penetrate the unity and identity of consciousness, just as MADÍ did. That was a sequence: It is well-known that MADÍ-GRAV-1968, GRAV’s last official termination date, would mark the agitation of the arts in the late sixties with the arrival of other collective processes, such as situationism and artists with a deep sociopolitical reflection component. We will talk later about the love for lyrics in MADÍ, which also addresses that same subject.
At the same time, GRAV contemplates—as it also happened to MADÍ—its collaboration with other arts like cinema or theater, on scenography and dance, in public spaces. It is important to highlight that unrest about the elevation of forms, which once created seem to wonder about its existence as a possibility of transformation of reality. These questions were not only reflected in its work, but also in its words. Many of these questions from both groups are to be associated with what we might call the possibilities of the act of seeing, as if compromising the very artistic activity and the totality of notions or concepts considered essential in arts: the created artwork, the viewer, the contemplation, the critical activity, the reproduction of the artistic work, the creators, the history of art and the critical reflection, perception, or techniques. The collective impulse deriving from individuality.
We have mentioned GRAV, but some of MADÍ’s theories and creations, certain ulterior group trends also allow us to understand the shaped canvas, that would arrive in North America in the sixties and conclude with very familiar names like Frank Stella, certified in that mythic exhibit in 1964, “The Shaped Canvas”, in the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum[xx], where Lawrence Alloway selected pieces by Paul Feeley, Sven Lukin, Richard Smith, the aforementioned Frank Stella, and Neil Williams. I’m including certain early pieces by our fellow countrymen Jordi Teixidor and José María Yturralde.
The twentieth century has been a time of contradictions, even within the artistic world. That magazine, “Arturo”, was an early and contradictory issue, advocating for the separation from the informal, but with a shapeless-surreal cover and back cover whose typography evoked its admiration for lyrics. The artists and poets compiled in “Arturo”, who later on became practitioners in MADÍ’s world, were typophiles, which fits with the love for lyrics showed by Dadaists, but also by the surrealists they rejected, remembering their vindication of Mallarmé, well edited in Argentina[xxi]. With a love for lyrics from their very beginning, even the typographic aspects would be later honored in the beautiful back cover of MADÍ’s fifth issue (X/1951) with a photograph of a page created with the types of prints and many blocks of text from its publications that started to acquire angulations, trapezoidal and cut-out shapes, reminiscent of the non-quadrangulation of its plastic forms.
The Argentinian context then became particularly beneficial to the extension of the limits of arts, I’m thinking on the succession of events of the time, some as unique as the “Manifiesto blanco” (White Manifesto”) by Lucio Fontana in 1946—the same year in which MADÍ was officially born[xxii]—, so vindicated by them (him, and specially his luminous pieces, his ambiente spaziale), and in his proclamations to stablish a separation from classic painting and the intention to overcome the limits imposed on artwork. At the same time, it established a necessity to integrate all the physical elements (color, sound, movement, and space) in an ideal and material unit, as expressed in these early words from MADÍ in Buenos Aires, 1946: “We follow the example of Mallarmé and Marinetti, and the example of his ‘words in freedom.'”[xxiii]. This helps us understand that love for lyrics, for the curved journey and the different typographies, fondness for the poetized prose (prosa sondable, in the words of Kosice in MADÍ’s third issue from October 1949) or the poetry in prose, as well as the generation of names, some of them related with the group itself. How appealing was for MADÍ that movement of freedom—that expressed itself in lyrics, our essential form: the word—of establishing relations with the world, a delicious journey through the noun and verb. Remember Guillaume Apollinaire creating his poems of cubist artillery among the trenches and dead bodies of the first European war; pieces flying in the air and words exploding. Of course, the horror of the world deserved its distortion, as we have written before, the never-ending journey through the word coincides with global critical periods. So the very name of the group generated a myriad of capricious adjectives: etapas premádicas, madistas, madigrafías, madimetrías, madíes, ormádicos appeared from the Kosice magazine’s (X/1947) first issue. They would continue to create and recreate words in subsequent publications, and somehow the photomontage with Grete Stern group’s name was a reminder of this. It resembled the unsettling installation of corporeal letters in a facade, as if someone mysterious and hidden were plotting a mysterious idea, while looking at the big city in the background. It was Stern’s point of view from his studio in Ramos Mejía, Buenos Aires. MADÍ artists would then becomefiloletristas (lovers of lyrics), a movement that would ultimately have its utmost expression at the time in lyricism and in the explosion of lyrics that would take place circa 1968.
Torres García had returned to Uruguay in 1934, and the publications on Mondrian, Kandinsky, or Moholy-Nagy were circulating thanks to that photographer of sueños (dreams), Grete Stern[xxiv], cooperating in a context that would come to influence the artists of new generations. If we were to mention later certain names from literary avant-garde, we can now include isolated, yet extremely fertile experiences in Argentina, such as Esteban Lisa’s, Juan del Prete’s, Xul Solar’s, or Emilio Pettoruti’s.
August 3-6, 1946. First MADÍ exhibit, driven by the Instituto Francés de Estudios Superiores de Buenos Aires. Photomontage in MADÍ magazine, Nº 1, October 1947
XII-1946. MADÍ exhibit in Montevideo’s AIAPE (Asociación de Intelectuales, Artistas, Periodistas y Escritores).MADÍ magazine, Nº 1, October, 1947
Following the publication of the unique magazine, it seemed as if the group’s energy had been fragmented in different proposals, which is not to say that each one of them, separately, lacked energy. A stream of publications, magazines, and documents also occurred during this time[xxv], and constituted a complex space for debate that permanently served as a driver from a certain appropriation and re-appropriation of proclamations; however, they represented before this an unending source of images of the artists.
in December of 1945, following the exhibit of the artists of “Arturo” hosted in Enrique Pichon Rivière’s home in October of that year, another exhibit took place in Grete Stern’s home, which included “Audición de música y danzas elementaristas”, expressing that desire for connecting arts together[xxvi]. In 1946, the Van Riel gallery, driven by the Instituto Francés, showcased the first official MADÍ showing[xxvii]. In early October 1947, the first magazine by the same name, MADÍ, was first published, extending for eight yearly issues (except in 1953) up until 1964 (with a double issue), directed by Kosice, with Arden Quin kindly stepping aside. The magazine carries the subtitle “Nemsor Nº 0 del Movimiento MADÍ universal.” “MADÍ (Nemsorismo)” included the so called “Manifiesto de la Escuela.” It would then be definitely called “Arte Madí Universal.” In this respect, it would be difficult to mention the existence of a single Manifesto, for after the pre-manifesto proclamations in “Arturo”, MADÍ magazine was a constant ideological stream of MADÍ’s theories, with insurrectional and sententious artists. For-this, but also against-this-and-that, their doing was of a continuous hypermanifestism; they never stopped expressing their ideas on what art should be in all its possibilities. It was true, inventing seemed to be more important than creating. What I mean is that the path of invention was beautiful; the path of the idea as a final elevation of the artistic project. A stream of words, with profusion, proclamations, manifestos, and declarations that appear to be constantly building and rebuilding, which demands addressing manifestations, artists’ articles, their public expression, or reading every issue of MADÍ magazine, along with its illustrations, news, and book reviews, in order to try to fully comprehend what happened, for they’re not only words or statements, but also explicit tributes to the sources that support some of its admirations, which change and grow over time. Perhaps they are in constant renewal—it occurs to me—as they come into contact with the novelties they used to witness in Paris, at which many of them arrived early on. And not only with regard to painting, the manifestism—¿how about Madífestism?— as mentioned before, encompassed all artistic disciplines, and had the corresponding manifesting section in every magazine or article.
Be that as it may, we find Arden Quinn, who had been one of its biggest promoters, away from the magazine. One can see that there was an immediate split with many of the founding artists. As we wrote before, in spite of the disrupted air of the movement—that disruption in different directions—we know that it did not cause a dilution of the initial energy, I believe it spread very energetically in different directions instead.
MADÍ is a term under discussion[xxviii]. Carmelo Arden Quin has stated in different occasions that the upper case letters come from letters in his name. Some of them have insisted that MADÍ represents the initial letters of “Materialismo dialéctico” (Dialectical materialism); let us not forget that the first line of “Arturo” would redound it: “The ideological superstructures are contingent on society’s material conditions. Art, an ideological superstructure, is born and evolves on the basis of society’s ideological movements, That is what historical materialism reveals about art.”[xxix]Madí que bien resistes, it would be an ironical game, being in Madrid with one of its possible meanings vindicated in this case by Kosice. It could also evoke neologism, a verb not devoid of ludus, not very different from others in history, such as DADA, and strongly rooted on the poetical values vindicated in the beginning. It is also known that by the time MADÍ was established, the world was filled with words and anti-words, not without purpose the surreal manifesto had come to Argentina, the martinferrista or the anthropophagus manifesto in Brazil, and the isolated actions of other artists. I’m thinking about the ultraist Borges or the liquidatory literature of the self by Oliverio Girondo “Espantapájaros” (1932) and “Interlunio” (1937) or Macedonio Fernández and his “Una novela que comienza” (1941), museum of the eternal novel.
Proclamations of a truly energetic art: that’s how I interpret that some of its visual forms were deemed “superstructures!”; like that, in exclamatory form, as if it explained the something-more in creations, such that the answer would be left howling in the wind, as it did in Dylan. Its first ideology would linger on until present day, having permeated in the spirit of numerous artists since then in many different countries, considering that extraordinary impulse in Latin America. The group that would emerge from the kryptonite of “Arturo” also had the virtue of guiding some of these creators to Paris around 1948, almost immediately after its creation. This came to no surprise, considering that in “Arturo” magazine, Arden Quin would four years later prophetically state: “No one with a dialectical materialism way of thinking has stopped in School of Paris to see that she has been the emotional and ideological result of a complete transformation of the world.”[xxx]So the journey had already packed its bags with the magazine.
Moreover, Paris was at the time a very favorable space for Hispanic artists, who were received with hospitality, just as so many foreign artists were after the post-war. I’m thinking now in a personality to whom I regularly refer: Bernard Dorival[xxxi], so other creators found a time of hispanists connected to the world of art, such as Jean Sarrailh or Jean Cassou[xxxii],
Although “Arturo” magazine appeared with a proclamation that seemed to go face-on against informalist abstraction and its important free signs components: “invention versus Automatism”, the real success of MADÍ and the many groups fragmented around the fifties was to embed its proposals in the heart of abstraction, something for which Kosice had advocated earlier[xxxiii], and to integrate itself into the languages of the time—the envolée lyriqueor the art autre—in which context such language was well understood. This explains the integration of its approaches, almost as soon as they arrived, into the new realities[xxxiv]of so many utopian dreamers of a better, prettier world, in which being suspended in reality and even having access to another dimension had a privileged position. A utopia, as we said, realités nouvelles, a romantic term, promissory and vindicating of the abstract and international[xxxv]. Art in Paris was capable of making art autrecompatible with the geometric and constructive proposals, as made evident by the driving force of galleries such a Denise René. Let us not forget that some of the artists from MADÍ were investigating the sculpture movement, I’m thinking about the sculptures with rotational movements by Rhod Rothfuss or Rodolfo Ian Uricchio, , which fit with the artists investigations that would later lead to the mythic exhibit “Le Mouvement” (1955), chez Denise René[xxxvi].
Palais des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris, IIISalon des Réalités Nouvelles, Paris, July 23 – August 30, 1948
In 1948, Carmelo Arden Quin[xxxvii]is already in Paris and a mere three years later he founds the Centre de Recherches et d’Études Madistes, one the extensions of Paris MADÍs, the Madistes, which incorporated French artists[xxxviii]. After a few years, the presence of universo MADÍ in Paris is extraordinary; consider its presence in the III Salon des Réalités Nouvelles (1948), thoroughly illustrated in the second issue of MADÍ magazine[xxxix]. I think its formalization is also due to the group’s presence in Colette Alendy (1950), Suzanne Michel (1951), and Denise René galleries (1958), as well as to the openness of the group’s diffusion media to international art. The 5thissue of the magazine included reflections by authors such as André Bloc, Sonia Delaunay, Lucio Fontana, Ben Nicholson, or the Italian artists from the Movimento Arte Concreta (MAC). It is especially worth emphasizing the admiration, which was reflected on the magazine; expressed by the luminous actions by Fontana in the “IX Triennale di Milano” (1951), which was constantly mentioned. Few mentions to Spanish culture: the 5th issue (X/1951) included Gómez de la Serna, José Julio, Guillermo de Torre, or Westerdahl, on the occasion of an exhibit in Havana of the aforementioned José Julio, one of the few illustrations. It is also worth mentioning Alberto Sartoris, another collaborator in “Gaceta de arte” and “LADAC”. The presence of Arden Quin in Paris, in conversation with Kosice, meant the opening to other names, something specially visible in the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles.
Having arrived at this point, it is fair to emphasize, as we near the conclusion, the relevance and endurance of MADÍ’s concepts, a movement that despite having been born in the 1940’s, still shows ongoing growth. This is evidenced by the fact that the concepts from the artists who furthered the fertile movement are still being addressed or adopted by new artists of recent generations all over the world… I’m sorry, Universe. Well, yes, Universo Madí.
[i]TORRES-GARCÍA. Joaquín. Regarding a future literary creation.Buenos Aires: “Arturo”, nº 1, Summer 1944, p. 36.
[ii]The latter was mentioned in MADÍ’s magazine second issue (X/1948).
[iv]Ibid., mentions to Max Bill, Herbin, Kupka, or Magnelli, also reproduced in the third and other issues (X/1949), will follow in subsequent issues. It looked like Parisian influence.
[v]“América invertida” (1943), a small drawing that illustrates the ideology established by Torres García in Montevideo: Taller Torres-García or Escuela del Sur. Joaquín Torres-García, América invertida, 1943. Ink drawing on paper. 22 x 16 cm. Fundación Joaquín Torres-García. His proclamation rejecting the international cultural tendencies, something that seems to be obvious in the ideology of “Arturo”, was particularly interesting. Another Joaquín Torres-García’s inverted plane was reproduced in “Círculo y Cuadrado” nº1, Montevideo, May 1936.
[vi]Naum Gabo started using plastic and cellulose by-products back in the 20’s—remember his well-known “Model for ‘column'” [1920-1921, Tate Gallery]—. His spirals, columns and linear works, something that made him an artistic sibling with Antoine Pevsner, are an example of this. Or Moholy-Nagy and his “Leda and the Swan” (1946), and some cloisonnés from Arman, such as his famous “Venus of the shaving brushes” (c.1968) from the Tate.
[vii]Manolo Millares, quoted in: DE LA TORRE, Alfonso. Manolo Millares. Un mundo deliciosamente extrañoLondon: Waddington Custot Gallery, 2016.
[viii]I’m referring to an article of this author, “Un aspecto de la superposición”(An aspect of superposition), in MADÍ’s second issue (X/1948).
[ix]MADí’s first issue (X/1947) will include an explicit reference to its presence in several disciplines.
[x]As stated later on, in October of 1945 some of the artists mentioned in “Arturo” held an exhibition under the name Arte Concreto — Invención,in Enrique Pichón Rivière’s home. That year, in December, another exhibit was held in Grete Stern’s home named Movimiento de Arte Concreto — Invención, under the titleSegunda muestra: Arte Concreto en Buenos Aires. The term “invención” was also present in Stern’s photomontage. With the following artists: Elisabeth Steiner, Raymundo Rasas Pet, Arden Quin, Rothfuss, Alejandro Havas, Ricardo Humbert, Grete Stern, Valdo Wellington, Dieudoné Costes, Sylwan-Joffe Lemme, Edgard Bayley, Gyula Kosice, Karen Haba, Rodolfo Arizaga, Esteban Eitler, Lily Saslavsky, Darío Soria, Martín Fuchs, Germán Erhardt, Simón Zlótnik, Alejandro Barletta, and Renate Schottelius.
[xi]It is thus acknowledged in MADÍ’s first issue (X/1947)
[xii]We are living in a period of dissertation, in economy, arts, and other ideologies; a restarting period; a primitive period; although governed by scientific rules and structures, in opposition to the instinctive material primitivism of history formation. ARDEN QUIN, Carmelo. The ideological superstructures are contingent on society’s material conditions.Buenos Aires: “Arturo.” Op. cit., p. 26.
[xiii]TORRES-GARCÍA. Joaquín. Regarding a future literary creation.Ibid. p.45.
[xiv]In a single issue in the summer of 1944, whose “Summary” was signed by Carmelo Arden Quin, Edgar Bayley, and Gyula Kosice. The cover and back cover, of a contradictory surreal mood, were from Tomás Maldonado. It included poems by Vicente Huidobro, Edgar Bayley, Murilo Mendes, Torres-García, Ardén Quin, and Gyula Kosice. Reproductions by: Tomás Maldonado, Rhod Rothfuss, Vieira Da Silva, Augusto Torres, Lidy Maldonado, Torres-García, Kandinsky, and Piet Mondrian. It is my belief that some of these reproductions almost constitute the “ideology” of the publication. The magazine identified itself as an “Abstract Art” publication, and had planned to publish “four issues a year, at the end of each season.” Ibid. in that issue’s summary.
[xv]“BY ADVOCATING FOR AN IMAGE FREE OF THE NEED FOR REFERENCING ALREADY EXISTING OBJECTS AND PROJECTING IT ONTO THE FUTURE, THE UNKNOWN ACQUIRES A NEW MEANING; WE BECOME FAMILIAR WITH OUR FARTHEST AND MOST DIFFERENT INNER SELVES. DEATH. WE REPLACE THE IMAGE OF COMPROMISE WITH THE MULTIDIMENSIONAL CONCEPT OR A SENSE OF ETERNITY.” BAYLEY, Edgar. DURANTE MUCHO TIEMPO. Ibid. pp. 29-30 (use of upper case preserved from source).
[xvi]Carlos María Rothfuss (Montevideo, 1920-1969). The article cited: ROTHFUSS, Rhod. EL MARCO: UN PROBLEMA DE PLÁSTICA ACTUAL. Ibid. pp. 59-60 (use of upper case preserved from source).
[xvii]Galerie Latinoamerica, Demarco, García Miranda, García Rossi, Le Parc, Morellet, Moyano, Servanes, Sobrino, Stein, Yvaral,Brussels, May 27 – June 30, 1960. Excluding Vera Molnár, these artists would sign the “Acte de Fondation” of the Centre de Recherche de l’Art Visuel in July of that year. In January 1961, on the occasion of their exhibit in the Museum of Art in Stockholm, García Miranda, García Rossi, Le Parc, Morellet, Moyano, Sobrino, Stein, and Yvaral.would confirm the final composition.
[xviii]Galerie Creuze-Salle Balzac, Donner à voir 3,Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visuel, Paris, May 7-29, 1963
[xix]We used this term from: ARNHEIM, Rudolf. Entropy and art: an essay on disorder and order. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971. In it, this author describes how by reviewing the complexity of reality, another harmony can be distilled.
[xx]Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, The Shaped Canvas, New York, December 9, 1964 – January 3, 1965
[xxi]MALLARMÉ, Stéphane. Un golpe de dados (A stroke of dice):Agustín O. Larrauri’s version. Cordoba (Argentina): Editorial Mediterránea, 1943.
[xxii]On August 3, 1946, driven by the Instituto Francés de Estudios Superiores de Buenos Aires, MADÍ’s first exhibit was inaugurated, serving as presentation for Carmelo Arden Quin’s movement manifesto.
[xxiii]ARDEN QUIN, Carmelo. El Móvil.AAVV. Geometrical Abstraction. Latin American Art from the Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Collection. Yale: Yale University Press, 2001, pp. 142-144. Speech given X/8/1945 during the exhibit in Pichon-Rivière’s home.
[xxiv]Grete Stern (Elberfeld, 1904 — Buenos Aires, 1999) was a former student of the Bauhaus and lived in Buenos Aires since 1936.
[xxv]“Among these magazines of programmatic nature, Arte MADÍ Universal enters a wider group made up of “Arturo”, “Invención #1 and Invención #2” (1945), “Arte Concreto-Invención” (August 1946); “Boletín de la Asociación Arte Concreto-Invención” (December 1946); (1947-1954), “Perceptismo. Teórico y Polémico” (October, 1950- July, 1953), and “Nueva visión” (between 1951 and 1957). Magazines that (…) served as key spaces for the processing, distortion, and re-appropriation of debates around abstraction, and were hence privileged supports for the exchange and circulation of images.” YOLIS, Malena. I Jornadas Internacionales de Estudios sobre Revistas Culturales Latinoamericanas FICCIONES METROPOLITANAS Revistas y redes internacionales en la modernidad artística latinoamericana Centro de Estudios Espigas– IIPC-UNSAM, Buenos Aires, May 8-9, 2017.
[xxvi]In the first exhibit, the group had the name “Art Concret Invention” and pieces by Kosice, Rothfuss, and Arden Quin, among others were showcased. In Stern’s exhibit, the group was called, in Spanish, “Movimiento de Arte Concreto-Invención.” ALCAIDE, Carmen. El arte concreto en Argentina Invencionismo – Madí – Perceptismo. Madrid: “Arte, Individuo y Sociedad”, Service of Publications. Universidad Complutense, 1997, p. 233: “The ‘experimental’ condition is what drives the divisions in “Arturo” group in 1945-46. On one side, the Asociación de Arte Concreto-Invención; on the other, the Madí movement. A detachment from the former was still to come: Perceptism, in 1947 From the very beginning, geometric art takes on the variants that would distinguished it (the artists had adopted the “concrete” art denomination, coined by Van Doesburg in 1930 and used by Arp, Kandinsky, and Max Bill as well).”
[xxvii]In August 1946, supported by the Instituto Francés de Estudios Superiores, the Van Riel gallery opened the first MADÍ art exhibit with pieces by Arden Quin, Gyula Kosice, Valdo Wellington, Rhod Rothfuss, Diyi Laañ, Martín Blaszko, Esteban Eitler, Raymundo Rasas Pet, and Alejandro Havas, among others.
[xxviii]“Ils (Arden Quin et Kosice) ont fait de l’histoire de Madí l’objet d’une perpétuelle recréation. L’ayant transformée en une fiction dont ils sont les auteurs et les personnages, Arden Quin et Kosice en revendiquent la propriété comme un écrivain celle de son récit. Si au début Madí ne veut rien dire, par la suite Arden Quin et Kosice multiplient les versions. D’après le témoignage du critique Juan Jacobo Bajarlia, dès 1947, Arden Quin présente Madí comme un anagramme de son nom. Dans les années 50, il l’interprètera comme « l’union des deux premières syllabes de matérialisme dialectique». On trouve une quatrième version, non signée : «le nom Madí n’est pas un sigle, bien que ses initiales correspondent à mouvement artistique d’invention. «Pour faire bonne mesure, Kosice qui soutenait l’avoir trouvé par hasard en ouvrant le dictionnaire a donné une cinquième version. Madí est la déformation du slogan des républicains, «Madrid, Madrid, no pasarán».” MAISTRE, Agnès. Qué es el movimiento Madí ?.En Madí L’art sud-américain. Grenoble-Paris: Musée de Grenoble-Réunions des Musées Nationaux, «reConnaître» collection, 2002, p. 32. Along these lines: “Gyula Kosice took the name from the republican motto “¡Madrí, Madrí, no pasarán!” [sic], although the literature of the 60’s curiously claimed that it was an acronym of the first syllables of “materialismo dialéctico.” WENNER, Liana. Algunas cosas sobre Madí.In Arte Madí. Buenos Aires: Ediciones Biblioteca Nacional, 2014, p. 11.
[xxix]ARDEN QUIN, Carmelo. The ideological superstructures are contingent on society’s material conditions.Buenos Aires: “Arturo.” Op. cit., p. 25
[xxx]Ibid. pp. 25-27: “Thus the invention becomes rigorous, not in aesthetic supports, but in aesthetic means. This naturally first implies the imagination surfacing in all its contradictions; and then consciousness organizing it and purging it from any representative naturalist image (even in dreams) and from any symbol (even subconsciously). No expression (primitivism), no representation (realism), no symbolism (decadence). INVENTION. Of anything; of any action, form, myth; by mere play; by mere sense of creation: eternity. FUNCTION.” Ibid., p. 27.
[xxxi]Bernard Dorival (Paris, 1914-Thiais, 2003) was known in Spain thanks to his great endeavor of Los pintores célebres, published in our country in 1963 by Gustavo Gili in three volumes, and translated by Juan-Eduardo Cirlot . A curator of the Musée d’Art Moderne in occupied France, along with Jean Cassou, one of the most relevant personalities for Hispanic artists living in Paris. Dorival was extraordinarily sensitive to the arrival of these artists who, as it happened to other artists from numerous other nationalities, arrived at post-war Paris: Dans tous les pays du monde, des milliers des jeunes étrangers, sensibles à la culture française, en ont connu, pendant cinq ans, la faim, la soif, la nostalgie. Aussi, dès la Libération, le Gouvernement français a-t-il offert des bourses de séjour à quelque-uns de ces étudiants, afin qu’ils pussent se rendre parmi nous, pour y apprendre à mieux connaître notre civilisation (…).” DORIVAL, Bernard. Lago Rivera et José Guerrero. Paris: Galerie Clément Altarriba, 1946.
[xxxii]As art critics, we have alluded in several occasions the diaspora of Hispanic artists, symbolized by the presence of the many Spanish artists in the Colegio de España in Cité Universitaire.
[xxxiii]“THE ABSTRACT ART encapsulated as a relation of a whole, would ensure the HARMONY MULTIDIMENSIONALITY, WITHOUT THE NEED OF PSYCHIC ADAPTATIONS.” KOSICE, Gyula. The free acclimatization to the so-called schools does not break the mold of the old contemplativesBuenos Aires: “Arturo.” Op. cit., pp. 35-36 (use of upper case preserved from source).
[xxxiv]I’m referring to “Salon des Realités Nouvelles”, celebrated in Paris since 1946, heir of “Abstraction-Création” (1931). The first of them took place in Palais des Beaux Arts de la Ville in Paris between July 19 and August 18, 1946. In its cover, the catalogue declared its intentions: “Art abstrait / Concret / Constructivisme / Non figuratif.” The exhibit entailed the recovery of a eponymous exhibit in the Galerie Charpentier (1939).MADÍ’s participation took place in the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles, set up in Palais des Beaux-Arts de la Ville in Paris from July 23 until August 20, 1948.
[xxxv]This matter has been addressed in other publications of this gallery. Vid.: DE LA TORRE, Alfonso. Interactive-Réalités Nouvelles. Common treasures (Reflections around the Interactive exhibit). Caracas-Madrid: Galería Odalys, 2016, pp. 5-21
[xxxvi]Galerie Denise René, Le mouvement, Paris, April 6-30, 1955
[xxxvii]Rivera, Uruguay, 1913 – Savigny-sur-Orge, 2010. “As a consequence of so much turmoil and activity, the original Madí group was fragmented: Kosice founded the movement Madinemsor, were most of the founding artists continued to perform. In the other fragment, Carmelo Arden Quin and Martín Blaszko remained.” WENNER, Liana. Algunas cosas sobre Madí.Op. cit. p. 12.
[xxxviii]With the presence of Roger Neyrat, Roger Desserprit, Guy Lerein, Georges Sallaz, Pierre Alexandre, Marcelle Saint-Omer, Wolf Roitman, and the Venezuelans Omar Carreño, Luis Guevara, and Rubén Núñez.
[xxxix]The participants of the exhibit, according to the aforementioned issue of MADÍ magazine, were Aníbal J. Biedma, María Bresler, Juan P. Delmonte, Kósice, Diyi Laañ, LoEn rin-Kaldor, Ricardo Pereyra, Rhod Rothfuss, and Rodolfo Ian Uricchio.