Gyula Kosice. Röyi, 1944
Rodrigo Alonso

Gyula Kosice considered Röyi a programmatic work, the work that defined the direction of his future aesthetic investigation.

The static is contrary to nature and has never balanced or completed an epoch. For a work or an invented organism, there are no organized resistances.
Gyula Kosice1  1 Gyula Kosice. Invención. Author’s edition, Buenos Aires, 1945.

Gyula Kosice arrived in Argentina from his native Czechoslovakia in 1928 when he was only three years old.2  2 His original name is Eduardo Fallik. According to the artist, his admiration for Leonardo Da Vinci led him to adopt as his surname Kosice, after the city of his birth, when he chose an artistic identity.  Initially seduced by poetry, he came to the world of visual arts through his fascination with Leonardo Da Vinci, and with the intellectual discussions that ignited the spirits of the most innovative artists of the time. He did not formally study art, but faithfully adopted the ideas of the European artistic avant-garde—especially Russian constructivism and neoplasticism—and he was self-taught when he first started making sculpture.

Röyi (1944) is his first important work. It appeared in the midst of the debates about the death of representational arts in the work of a group of young artists, who would very soon bring forth the first movements of concrete art in the country: the Movimiento Arte Concreto-Invención (1945), Arte Madí (1946), and Perceptismo (1947).

Kosice was one of the founders of Arte Madí, and, without a doubt, its chief advocate.3  3 The makeup of the group varied over the years. Among the principle artists-founders are: Carmelo Arden Quin, Roth Rothfus, Edgar Bayley, and Diyi Laañ (Kosice’s wife).  The manifesto presented at the group’s first exhibition decrees that: “Madí sculpture, three dimensional, no color. Total form, solids with range, with articulated movements, rotation, translocation, etc.”4  4 “Manifesto Madí,” unsigned text published in the Revista Madí, No. 0, Buenos Aires, 1947.

These characteristics are already present in Röyi. Here, a group of eight elements of turned wood, with seven points of articulation, permits a variety of movements that determine the absence of a defined form for the sculpture. The artist also proposed that the public be responsible for transforming the general configuration of the work. In this sense, Röyi anticipated the development of the kinetic and participatory art that bloomed in Argentina from the 1960s onwards.

Gyula Kosice, Röyi, 1944/1952. Daros Latinamerica Collection, Zürich

The artist recalled the thought processes that led him to the creation of Röyi:

The need to overcome the static character of the traditional work of art was an unavoidable premise for me. The introduction of movement—which already existed at the level of representation in the works of the Futurists and the first Duchamp—had finally materialized in abstract art, in some devices by Gabo, Moholy-Nagy and even Duchamp, but in every case it was a unique, fixed movement, foreseen by the artist and produced by a mechanical means […] As well as its kinetic character, two fundamental elements appear in Röyi: chance and the participation of the viewer in the configuration of the work. It virtually lacked a definite form, and was able to assume a multiplicity of forms, which converted the viewer into an active subject in that chain of transformations.5  5 Gyula Kosice, “Capítulo,” in Autobiografía, Asuntos Impresos, Buenos Aires, 2015.

Röyi was shown for the first time in the inaugural exhibition of Arte Madí, at the Instituto Francés de Estudios Superiores de Buenos Aires in August, 1946. Nevertheless, it had appeared a year before reproduced on the cover of the first number of the Invención magazine, edited by Gyula Kosice, along with his poems and theoretical texts. The leading role in the publication makes clear the importance of that sculpture for its author, who practically considered it a programmatic work, the work that defined the direction of his future aesthetic investigation.

Gyula Kosice and Röyi, inaugural exhibition of Arte Madí, Instituto Francés de Estudios Superiores de Buenos Aires, 1946

Kosice believed that invention played a fundamental role in artistic production. He did not believe that this could be developed from formal sources, following more or less pre-established norms of creation, but that it should derive from the pure spontaneous act of creation, which does not obey rules. This led him to experiment with new materials and procedures. In 1946 he made his first work with tubes of neon gas, and in 1948 he constructed a small kinetic device operated by a motor that mobilizes an acrylic box filled with water and air (Una gota de agua acunada a toda velocidad, A drop cradled at full speed). Later he created the hydro-sculptures, works that shape water by way of transparent plastic structures, lights, water pumps, and air pumps; in relation to these, he wrote the manifesto La arquitectura del agua en la escultura (The Architecture of Water in Sculpture, 1959).

Gyula Kosice, Una gota de agua acunada a toda velocidad, 1948. Museo Kosice, Buenos Aires

Röyi is the genesis of these investigations and of many others that the artist undertook during his life. At the same time, it is a unique work. Kosice did not ever create a similar piece: its singularity is still radical. His most innovative proposals remained latent for almost twenty years, until the explosion of kinetic and participatory practices of the sixties. His pioneering geometry still surprises us today.

Rodrigo Alonso, 2017 Rodrigo Alonso is a freelance Curator and Professor of Contemporary Art at the Universidad Nacional de las Artes, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

(Translated by Noel Smith)