Rhod Rothfuss

Composición Madí (Madí Composition)

Rothfuss Composición Madí Mfa Houston 1500
  • Rhod Rothfuss
  • Composición Madí (Madí Composition)
  • 1946
  • Enamel on wood
  • 86.4 x 49.8 cm
  • The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Museum purchase funded by Caroline Wiess Law Accessions Endowment Fund. 2004.1658

The painting Composicíon Madí (Madí Composition) (1946) by Rhod Rothfuss takes its name from the Argentinian artistic movement that he spearheaded with Arden Quin and Gyula Kosice. The term “Madí” emerged around 1946 during a period of intellectual jostling between members of the Argentinian avant-garde in order to distinguish the artistic practice of their group from that of the geometric abstractionists around the artist Tomás Maldonado (born 1922).

A central preoccupation of the Madí group and, indeed, of Rhod Rothfuss’s painting and art theory, was the issue of the frame – or, more generally, the canvas edge. In his programmatic text El marco: un problema de la plástica actual (The Frame: A Problem of Contemporary Art), Rothfuss explained his musings on the frame in the first and only issue of the art journal Arturo, which was published in Buenos Aires in 1944. A painting should “begin and end in itself,” he declared, and “the edge of the canvas plays an active role in the work of art.” Based on these ideas, Rothfuss began to paint on shaped canvases. He took a two-pronged approach to his work with irregular frames: in the first instance he would begin with the subject matter, allowing the composition to expand outward organically and thus define the shape of the picture’s edge; in other examples, he would first determine the shape of the frame and then work from the outside inward, allowing the edge of the support to dictate the content of the painting.

Daniel Milnes

Biography of Rhod Rothfuss

  • Born 1920 in Montevideo, Uruguay
  • Died 1969 in Montevideo, Uruguay

The theorist of the “irregular frame,” Rhod Rothfuss pushed the boundaries of Constructivism in his mature style by incorporating geometric and irregular shapes in his brightly colored artworks. Born Carlos María Rothfuss, he studied art in Montevideo before moving to Buenos Aires in 1942. There he joined the group that published the single-issue magazine Arturo, including Argentinian designer Tomás Maldonado (b. 1922), Uruguayan artist Carmelo Arden Quin (1913–2010), and Slovak-born painter Gyula Kosice (1924–2016). The magazine published artworks and manifestos by artists who favored geometric abstraction over traditional figurative and symbolic painting. In an article published in Arturo, Rothfuss argued that shaped frames were necessary for self-reflexivity in painting. In 1945 he participated in the first exhibition of the Asociación Arte-Concreto-Invención (Association of Concrete Art-Invention). With Quin and Kosice he formed Madí, a splinter group that advocated for a universal Concrete art incorporating music and other forms. The group published a journal from 1947 to 1954. Rothfuss participated in the most important exhibitions of Madí art locally and internationally beginning in 1947. His work represented Argentina in the first Salon des réalités nouvelles (Exhibition of New Realities) at the Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris (Modern Art Museum of the City of Paris) in 1948.