A key episode in Latin American art history took place in 1944, in the corner of a quaint leather accessories workshop in Buenos Aires. Here, Gyula Kosice played with remnants from his brothers’ leather bag manufacturing: metal bands, scraps of wood, springs, and corks. Feeling that sculpture “needed mobility,” he manipulated these disparate objects “seeing what I came up with.”1 The artist thus arrived at the idea of “mobile sculptures”—artworks in permanent flux that audiences can touch and alter. This relentless search for change and experimentation shaped Kosice’s career.

Born to a Hungarian family in Slovakia (then part of Czechoslovakia), Kosice arrived in Buenos Aires in 1928. By the early 1940s, he was a prominent member of the group of artists who, in 1944, published Arturo—a magazine that, despite publishing a single issue, played a crucial role in spreading avant-garde ideas and paving the way for abstract art in Argentina. There, Uruguayan artist Rhod Rothfuss posited the idea of marcos recortados (cutout frames): canvases with compositions that exceed the conventional square frame, creating “something that begins and ends in itself. Without interruption.”2 In 1945, Rothfuss, Kosice, and other artists released the magazine Invención, with one of its issues dedicated to Kosice.3 The cover image displayed a maquette of Röyi (1944), a sculpture made of eight pieces of lathed wood hinged together by iron joints, allowing the spectator to rearrange it at will. Like Rothfuss, Kosice sought to develop an art that could flow freely, “without interruption.”

Escultura móvil articulada (Mobile Articulated Sculpture, 1948) materialized Kosice’s ideas of the time. Constructed from the very metal bands leather workers use to reinforce handbags and connected by pins, this lightweight sculpture hung from the ceiling. Unlike Röyi, which is characterized by its solid base and vertical form, this piece took shape mainly through audience participation, thus resembling the hand-arranged floating sculptures of Alexander Calder. With this type of work, Kosice noted, “I was seeking not only a transfer to the spectator but also a liaison, a way to create a dialogue between the participant and the creator.”4

Releasing human creativity was at the core of Kosice’s vision. This belief is echoed in his later sculptures, which were crafted using neon lights and fluorescent tubes, a relatively new technology used in advertising. He extended his artistic endeavors to designing sculptures, monuments, and environments that incorporated flowing and evaporating water. However, it was his most ambitious project, the Ciudad hidroespacial (Hydrospatial City), that truly crystallized his fascination with technology. Created in 1947, this structure consisted of a group of platforms with various room-like environments designed to remain suspended high in the sky by harnessing the energy from cloud water through electrolysis.5 This visionary city of water remains an inspiration to future generations.

Kosice unveiled various versions of his city, first in 1971 and last in 2003. His plans included rooms with playful names such as the “Storage for Spatial Intentions and Energetic Propulsions” and the “Argentine Platform of Friendship and Gauchada” (a colloquial expression meaning “favors”).6 Within these settings, visitors would have the freedom to engage in unstructured play and invention. Perhaps the artist was attempting to recreate and share the liberty he had once enjoyed in the corner of his brother’s leather workshop, when he realized that art could flow as freely as water.

Horacio Ramos, Mellon-Marron Fellow, Cisneros Institute, 2024

  1. “Gyula Kosice in conversation with Gabriel Pérez Barreiro,” in Gyula Kosice et al, Gyula Kosice: in conversation with = en conversación con Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro (New York: Fundación Cisneros/Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, 2012): 37.

  2. Rhod Rothfuss, “El marco: Un problema de plástica actual,” Arturo (Buenos Aires, 1944).

  3. The group quickly dissolved, giving rise between 1945 and 1947 to the groups Asociación Arte Concreto-Invención (AACI, Concrete-Invention Art Association), Arte Madi (Art Madi), and Perceptismo (Perceptism).

  4. María Esther Vásquez, “El arte en nuestra época,” La Nación, September 9, 1973, 2-9.

  5. See the manifesto and plans in Gyula Kosice, “La Ciudad Hidroespacial: Manifesto” [1972], in Kosice: Obras 1944/1990 (Buenos Aires: Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, 1991): 70-77.

  6. See the plans in “Gyula Kosice in conversation with Gabriel Pérez Barreiro,” 153, 156.

Works

2 works online

Exhibitions

Publication

  • Sur moderno: Journeys of Abstraction—The Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Gift Exhibition catalogue, Hardcover, 240 pages
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