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Madrid exhibition

Geometric Abstraction in Latin America

11 February to 15 May 2011

Constructivist Construction with Geometric Forms
Joaquín Torres–García:
Constructivist Construction with Geometric Forms – 1943.
Oil on card board


In 1930  Joaquín Torres–García and Michael Seuphor form the Cercle et Carré group in Paris and publish a periodical of the same name, the first issue of which is released on March 15, 1930. In April, Torres–García organizes an exhibition with Latin American artists Diego Rivera, Germán Cueto, and Juan del Prete, among others, at the Galerie Zak in Paris. In February of 1931 Georges Vantongerloo and Auguste Herbin co–found the Abstraction–Création movement in Paris. The group organizes an annual exhibition up until 1936. In 1932 the first of five Abstraction-Création: Art non figuratif yearbooks is published.

On April, 14, 1934, after living in Europe for over four decades, Joaquín Torres–García and his family embark at Cadiz for Montevideo, where they arrive 16 days later. On June 5, a retrospective exhibition featuring over 200 works executed by Joaquín Torres-García between 1989 and 1934 opens at the Amigos del Arte center in Montevideo. In August, Joaquín Torres-García publishes his Manifiesto 1 [cat. 12] in response to an article by Norberto Berdía in which the artist was accused of “theorizing” and “taking refuge in abstract forms to escape reality.” In 1935 Torres–García establishes the Asociación de Arte Constructivo (AAC) in Montevideo, and  he launches the quarterly magazine Círculo y Cuadrado, which stems from the periodical created in Paris in 1930. In 1937 the architects Carlos Raúl Villanueva and Luis Malaussena design the Venezuelan Pavilion for the Paris World Fair, a project that earns them a special mention.

In 1942 the Manifiesto de los Cuatro Jóvenes, signed by Jorge Brito, Tomás Maldonado, Claudio Girola, and Alfredo Hlito, is published in Buenos Aires. The following year the last issue of Círculo y Cuadrado is printed. In 1944 Buenos Aires publisher Poseidón releases Universalismo constructivo (Constructive Universalism), a collection of 150 lectures delivered by Joaquín Torres–García since his return to Uruguay from 1934 to 1943.

In 1945 Tomás Maldonado, Alfredo Hlito, Lidy Prati, Rafael Lozza, Manuel Espinosa, Edgar Bayley, Antonio Caraduje, Raúl Lozza, Alberto Molenberg, Óscar Núñez, and Jorge Souza, among others, form the Asociación Arte Concreto-Invención (AACI) in Buenos Aires. In 1946 the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles is founded in Paris, intending to replace the Abstraction-Création association. Initial committee members included Jean Arp, Gilbert Besançon, Sonia Delaunay, Jean Dewasne, Albert Gleizes, Jean Gorin, and Antoine Pevsner. Latin American artists were strongly represented at later editions of the salon. The Manifiesto Invencionista is published in the first issue of Arte Concreto-Invención magazine, printed in August.

In 1947 The Manifiesto Invencionista is published along with an article by Carlos Drummond de Andrade in the newspaper Correio da Manhã in Brazil.Raúl Lozza leaves the Asociación Arte Concreto–Invención and founds Perceptismo. The Madí movement disbands. The first issue of the annual magazine Réalités Nouvelles is published. In 1948 an exhibition of the Argentine Asociación Arte Concreto-Invención opens at the Taller Libre de Arte in Caracas. The second issue of Réalités Nouvelles magazine includes reproductions of works by, among others, Manuel Espinosa, Gyula Kosice, Alberto Molenberg, Juan Melé, Rhod Rothfuss, Tomás Maldonado, Lidy Prati, and Juan del Prete, which led to the first major display of Argentine and Uruguayan art at the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles, held at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Paris. 

In 1949 the exhibition Del arte figurativo al arte abstracto. El arte abstracto en Francia, curated by Léon Degand, opens in Buenos Aires. Presented previously at the Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo (MAM–SP), the exhibition showcases works by Alexander Calder, Victor Vasarely, Francis Picabia, Fernand Léger, Wassily Kandinsky, and other European artists.
The Asociación Arte Concreto–Invención disbands. On August 8, Joaquín Torres-García dies at the age of 75 in Montevideo. The Manifesto Perceptista is published in the catalogue of the first exhibition of perceptist art held at the Galería Van Riel in Buenos Aires on October 31. 

In 1950 Alejandro Otero returns to Paris and creates Los Disidentes magazine together with other artists. The publication gives rise to the group Los Disidentes, proponents of abstract art.
Jesús Rafael Soto is awarded a grant by the Venezuelan government and on September 16 he travels to Paris, where he settles permanently. On October 20, 1951, the I Bienal Internacional de Arte de São Paulo opens, the first large–scale exhibition of modern art held outside the artistic and cultural centers of Europe and the United States. In 1952 in São Paulo, Augusto de Campos, Haroldo de Campos, and Décio Pignatari found the concrete poetry movement Noigandres and the magazine of the same name. In September, the painters Luis Martínez Pedro, Sandu Darie, and Mario Carreño launch the magazine Noticias de Arte in Havana. On December 9, the MAM–SP hosts an exhibition that marks the official start of concrete art in Brazil.

In 1953, with the aim of superimposing geometric elements, Jesús Rafael Soto uses Plexiglas in his work for the first time. By varying the angle’s position he gives the finished work a dynamic effect. On February 20, the first Exposición de Arte Abstracto is organized by the MAM–RJ at Quitandinha Hotel, bringing together a varied group of artists such as Abraham Palatnik, Lygia Clark, Lygia Pape, and Ivan Serpa. In 1954 the Grupo Frente hold their first exhibition at Galería do Ibeu in Rio de Janeiro. The original group is formed by Lygia Clark, Lygia Pape, João José da Silva Costa, Décio Vieira, Aluísio Carvão, Carlos Val, and leader Ivan Serpa; some of whom later go on to form the Grupo Neoconcreto. In March, the Aula Magana Hall at the University Campus in Caracas is inaugurated. A number of the works from the “Integration of the Arts” project, exhibited the previous year at the Musée national d’art moderne in Paris, are put on display at the university.

In 1955 Alexandre Wollner designs the poster for the III Bienal de São Paulo. Carlos Cruz–Diez moves to Masnou (Barcelona) for one year. In 1957 the Culture and Fine Arts Section of the Ministry of Education publishes Polémica sobre arte abstracto (The Controversy over Abstract Art) in Caracas. The book originated from the controversy surrounding a discussion between Alejandro Otero and the art citric Miguel Otero Silva in the pages of El Nacional and El Universal regarding the awards handed out at the 18th Annual Official Salon of Venezuelan Art. Together with Pedro de Oraá, Loló Soldevilla founds the Galería de Arte Color–Luz in Havana, a meeting point for Cuban geometric painters. In 1958 Alejandro Otero is awarded the National Prize for Painting for his work Coloritmo no. 35 (Colorhythm  no. 35), the first official recognition of abstract art in Venezuela. Conversación con nuestros pintores abstractos (Conversation with our Abstract Painters) by Juan Marinello is published in Havana. An attack on Cuban abstract artists, the book describes abstraction as an art of “superficial elements.” The group Diez Pintores Concretos is founded at the Color–Luz gallery in Havana.

From Fbruary 17-25, 1959, the Extraordinary International Congress of Art Critics is held in Brasília, Rio de Janeiro, and São Paulo with the aim of discussing the construction of Brasília as part of the “Integration of the Arts” project. On March 22, the newspaper O Journal do Brasil publishes the Manifiesto Neoconcreto in Rio de Janeiro. Signed by Ferreira Gullar, Amilcar de Castro, Franz Weissmann, Lygia Clark, Reynaldo Jardim, Lygia Pape, and Theon Spanudis, the declaration marks the beginning of the neo–concrete movement. Following the Cuban revolution’s rise to power, Clara Porset is assigned to set up the first Cuban School of Design. She also designs furniture for the National School of Art, the School of Modern Dance, and the School of Fine Arts in Havana.

In 1960 Jesús Soto receives the National Award for Painting in Venezuela.The capital of Brazil is moved from Rio de Janeiro to Brasília, which is officially inaugurated on April 21.

In 1966 the photographer Gaspar Gasparian dies in São Paulo. Mathias Goeritz organizes an exhibition on international concrete poetry, with the Noigandres group taking center stage. The show is on view from March to May at the university gallery of the Universidad Autónoma de México (UNAM).In 1967 Carlos Raúl Villanueva designs the Venezuela Pavilion at the Montreal World Fair.

In 1970 two major projects by Oscar Niemeyer are concluded in Brasília: the Itamaraty Palace and the Metropolitan Cathedral. In 1971 Carlos Cruz–Diez receives the Fine Arts National Award; the prize includes a retrospective exhibition and the publication of a monograph. In August, 1973 rhe first stage of the Museo de Arte Moderno Jesús Soto is inaugurated in Ciudad Bolívar on August 25. The museum, the last building designed by the architect Carlos Raúl Villanueva, opens with an exhibition showcasing works by Jean Arp, César Paternosto, Eusebio Sempere, Julio Le Parc, Sonia Delaunay, Gianni Colombo, and Günther Uecker.

(Extracted from  Notes for a Chronology of Geometric Abstraction in Latin America (1930-1973), by Osbel Suárez, exhibition catalogue)