The Durban Segnini Gallery presents the retrospective exhibition Carmelo Arden Quin (1938-2009), artist born in 1913 in Uruguay and Founder of the Madí Movement.
The starting point of the exhibition is the artist’s production from 1938, the year in which he moved to Buenos Aires, began his studies of Philosophy and Letters and created his first paintings with the trimmed frame. The earliest example of this period included in the exhibition is L’ceil (1938), along with Triangle Rouge (1939). As we well know, the trimmed frame ensured a self-referential work that rather than being a “window” into a fiction, it ensured that the work presented purely visual elements. It is important to remember that these explorations were influenced by works by Jean Arp and Laszlo Peri. The intention of these artists was not to represent reality but rather to present a reality in itself. Closely related to this thought, and irreverently playing with the already mentioned conflict of the window frame, Quin creates his piece Ventana No. 2 (Window No. 2, 1946) that is part of this exhibition.
As Raúl Santana recounts in the text that accompanies the exhibition, in 1936 Arden Quin sends Ateneo in Montevideo one of his works, in response to a suggestion by Torres-García. While they maintained a fluid exchange, Quin never joined the Constructive Universalism. To understand the importance of Arden Quin and the Madí movement, we must go back in time to the 1940s in Buenos Aires, more precisely, to 1943, when a group of young artists and poets began to meet in a bar called Café Plaza Once Ruby. There, they would discuss modern art, share their great interest in Russian Constructivism, Dutch Neoplasticism, the poetry of Vicente Huidobro—founder of Creationism—and some ambivalent attitude toward the work of Joaquin Torres-García. The group of friends also shared a negative view of the European avant-garde: Surrealism, Expressionism and Realism. From these common issues they developed a type of collective art that led these artists—Arden Quin, Bayley, Maldonado, Kosice, Prati and Rothfuss—to meet frequently to discuss their ideas.
A year later, in 1944, the group published the periodical Arturo. Revista de Artes Abstractas. Only one issue was ever published and became the vehicle that brought together the first concrete artists. There, the group proclaimed invention against automatism, No expression, representation and signification. Mankind will conquer the multidimensional space. Jubilation, the negation of any melancholy. Constructive will.
The different interpretations of these pronouncements published in Arturo, generated three variations of geometric abstraction: the Madí Movement, the Concrete-Invention Art Association and Perceptivism.
In an article published by Arden Quin, the artist proposes invention as an artistic level that is above figuration. This idea is closely related to Marxist dialectical materialism. For materialism, only the material world is real, and can only be known through observation and experimentation. The development of nature obey its own laws; these are explainable, verifiable and scientifically plausible to formulate. The most important idea of Materialism is the unit of matter. Every manifestation of nature is reduced to a body or object composed of atoms, protons, electrons, etc., and, therefore, the same general laws deduced from nature apply to human society and thought, since the human being is part of the material world.
As result of theoretical, aesthetic and personal disagreements, the concrete Argentine art proposal was divided under two groups. On the one hand, Carmelo Arden Quin, Gyula Kosice and Rhod Rothfuss (original nucleus of the Madí Group); and, on the other, Tomás Maldonado, Alfredo Hlito, Claudio Girola, Raúl Lozza, Lidy Prati, Enio Iommi, Juan Melé and Gregorio Vardánega. The Madí Group had a broader purpose as a movement as it was multidisciplinary in nature. It encompassed dance, music, painting, architecture and sculpture—this being the most eclectic and liberal—their union was strengthened by statements and demonstrations in the style of Dadá, rather than as result of the aesthetic or formal qualities of the works that they produced.
Meanwhile, the Art Group Concrete-Invention conformed to the plastic-visual disciplines, including the disciplines of architecture and design with which it shared the projective practice. With the division of the original group of Arthur, by 1947 came the concrete-Invention Art Association, with the separation of R. Lozza, who along with his brothers and Molenberg who founded Perceptivism.
As already stated, the original members of the Madi Group were Arden Quin, Kosice and Rothfuss. Their entrance into the Argentinean local cultural scene was achieved with a clever promotion strategy. They used to distribute pamphlets on the streets near art galleries, with the legend: “Madí destroys the painting taboo by breaking the traditional framework. The invention of the irregular Madí frame has arrived to free painting from the laws of composition that have been suffocating it for centuries and that not even the greatest revolutions in the fine arts have managed to eliminate.¹”
In this exhibition you can see a variety of works with trimmed frames, from early works to works that in their perimeter reproduce ripples like as Carre bleu (1990) and Untitled 1990) .
This new paradigm proposes “in addition to the flat form, curved, corrugated and colineal surfaces, which are the absolute invention of motion.”² Examples of the latter include Coplanar 1. Diábolo (1945), Coplanar No. 42, (2006); these works borrow their titles from mathematical concepts used to describe one or a group of points that are in the same plane. These works were a recurring subject in Quin’s explorations and there are examples from until the 1990, and even until 2007. This title refers not only to works composed by objects attached through rods, but also to the compositional elements that appear on the pictorial surface, as can be seen in the black and white work Coplanar 1 1980); Following this line, the selection is completed with examples of geometric systems made with ink on paper, at the dawn of the new millennium.
The selection is complete with frames with more complex silhouettes, and some examples that are less typical for this artist, but that are nonetheless testimony to the freedom with which he approached his entire production: Passerelle (1954), Aletoire Aletoire No. 1 and No. 2 (1981).
This exhibition is a great opportunity to reconnect with a selection of works by an artist who left a unique legacy, as he resignified the art production of Río de la Plata in the global arena and struggling along with other members of an art Madí whose attitude is characterized by a playful approach and a complete freedom from earlier habits and traditions.
1. Jorge López-Anaya, Arte Argentino, Editorial Emecé Arte, Buenos Aires, 2005.
2. Carmelo Arden Quin, “Catalog from the Retrospective Exhibition1938-2009”. Florida, 2014.