Gyula Kosice

70 years with art

By Rodrigo Alonso | November 14, 2012

Like every day for the past seventy years, Gyula Kosice begins his work in his studio, which he currently shares with a museum that reflects his extensive artistic trajectory.

Gyula Kosice

His imagination and his energy have not decreased since that moment when, not having yet reached the age of twenty, he set out on the road that would position him as one of the most important referents of avant-garde art in Argentina.

Kosice collaborated in 1944 with the only issue of Arturo magazine, the publication that marked the beginning of the concrete artists’ movement in Buenos Aires. His contribution had the tone of a manifesto and it included a premonitory phrase − “Man is not to end his days on Earth” − which anticipates the future development of a city suspended in the sky, his now famous Hydro-spatial City.

Together with other artists, Kosice detached himself from the original nucleus of Arturo magazine in order to form a movement of his own: Madí Art, which fostered experimentation in all the areas of aesthetic production, from sculpture to music, from poetry to theater and dance. Through a series of manifestos, madí works became increasingly characterized by their constant investigation, their search for dynamism, sensory plurality and ludic reception, by the incorporation of new materials and by their permanently innovative nature.

In the field of sculpture, Kosice had already incorporated articulated movement in Royi, a piece dating from the same year that Arturo was published. In the mid-1940s, he decided to model light, and he did so using neon tubes, neon having been until then a material reserved industrial use. This enabled him to transcend the surface of the wall when he applied it on planar surfaces, and he even explored three-dimensionality in spite of its fragility.

The search for continual movement led him to work with engines. Already in 1948, he executed a small mobile piece, Una gota de agua acunada a toda velocidad (A waterdrop rocked at full speed), which incorporated a mechanic battery-powered mechanism that subjected an acrylic container holding water to a pendular dynamics.

The challenge of modeling light was followed by that of giving shape to water, another fluid and immaterial element. During the 1950s, Kosice developed different possibilities: fountains of bubbling water, constant liquid flows, water jets propelled by pumps, objects inhabited by water volumes that could be manipulated at will. Water always appeared accompanied by air, the complement that made its displacements possible. In 1962, this production was accompanied by a new manifesto, La arquitectura del agua en la escultura (The architecture of water in sculpture), where he also highlighted the poetic values of that element, “basic component and source of energy [that plays a fundamental role] in motive force and electrification on Earth”.

Kosice’s work of these years converged with the developments of Kinetic Art, which took on a leading role during the 1960s. But his approach was completely different from that of his colleagues. Not only because it preceded theirs, but also because the sense of his work was based on different goals. Kosice was less concerned with perception or technological investigation and more interested in endowing his works with a poetic and inventive character. In his production, this utopian dimension which was the light that guided early twentieth century avant-garde artists persisted. In his writings, he often stated that he was animated by the seduction of the absolute, but there was also a penchant for the marvelous and the impossible. Modeling light and water are projects that exceed the human skills, as is the will to produce rain. However, coinciding with his solo show at the Instituto Torcuato Di Tella (1968), Kosice produced a shower on Florida Street that disconcerted passers-by and onlookers.

That same year, his works were exhibited at the Documenta IV, the controversial German show that inaugurated its radical panorama of contemporary art in the midst of political demonstrations and protests. The exhibit emphasized the visibility of a career that was already rapidly growing in Europe, the United States and Latin America. Parallel to this, he developed an important career as curator of international exhibitions. In 1961, he organized the Argentine representation at the 6th Sao Paulo Biennial, where Alicia Penalba obtained the First Prize for Sculpture. The following year, he was responsible for the country’s representation at the 31st Venice Biennial, where Antonioi Berni was awarded First Prize for Engraving and Drawing. In 1963 he selected the artists that participated in the International Biennial of Young Artists in Paris, where he featured Carlos Alonso, Rómulo Macció, Rogelio Polesello and Antonio Seguí, among others.

In that same decade, one of his most ambitious projects, the Hydro-spatial City , somehow announced from the pages of Arturo magazine, began to take shape. Inspired by the scientific theories that foresee the possibility of obtaining energy from the fission of water molecules, Kosice imagined an urban ambit indefinitely suspended in the air and supported by the mentioned energy source. The city was composed of inhabitable modules meeting specific, although not habitual, aims. The artist believes that a never-before-seen city should promote activities that are different from the ones we are used to. Thus, and drawing upon his constant poetic illumination, he designed a “place for the hydro-cosmic commotion and for contact with the hydro-urban traffic,” “a rear-view mirror reflecting the past,” “a sensible water mattress that identifies illusion,” “a hydro-creative space out of orbit,” or a “place to establish sentimental, corporeal, copulative, sexual and erotic coordinates in sublimated levitation.” The model in acrylic of the Hydro-spatial City was presented at Bonino Gallery in Buenos Aires in 1971, and it has since then toured major exhibitions, museums and biennials, projecting in time and space the irrepressible imagination of its creator.

By that time Kosice had already gained recognition from the local and the international art circuits. In the years that followed, the retrospective exhibitions of his works, from his madí inventions to his recent hydro-sculptures multiplied. However, he carried on with his work and research, taking up new formal and conceptual challenges. He created monuments to be set up in public places, true urban interventions that incorporate the surrounding nature by means of reflective surfaces, or towers with jet-impelled water flows that transfer onto everyday spaces his most representative creations, they themselves contributing a natural element. At the same time, he investigated new materials, procedures and technological resources. He utilized programmed lights that slowly varied the chromatic scales of his pieces, and later he incorporated LED lighting, which allowed him to exploit the possibilities of light variations even further. In the 1990s he embarked on digital and interactive projects, and formed part of a new research group, TEVAT (Tiempo, Espacio, Vida, Arte, Tecnología) (Time, Space, Life, Art, Technology), together with the semiologist José García Mayoraz and the poet and digital artist Ladislao Gyori.

It is practically impossible to justly summarize the relevance of the production of his tireless spirit. Perhaps one of the best signs is his museum, which grows day after day through the incorporation of new creations derived from his constant curiosity and imagination. Here, surrounded by impressive sculptures in acrylic, pulsating waters, lights in continuous transformation, suspended elements, mobile mechanisms and works from the early days of the Madí movement that still arouse surprise and admiration, the importance of these first seventy years with art, which promise to extend with the same inventive energy, gains strength.