In 1945 Tomás Maldonado founded Arte Concreto Invencion, a Buenos Aires-based avant-garde group devoted to the promotion and theorization of geometric abstraction. Marxist in orientation, the group rejected romantic or metaphysical approaches to artistic creation, turning to the example of the Soviet avant-garde, directing formal experimentation toward social and political ends. The group’s “Invencionista Manifesto” (1946), written mostly by Maldonado, declared, “The artistic age of representational fiction is coming to an end. Scientific aesthetics will replace the age-old speculative, idealist aesthetics,” concluding with the imperative “Don’t Search or Find: Invent.” One of the main strategies of the concrete artists was to use irregular geometric forms, especially on shaped canvases or frames, to assert the material reality of the painting and its support, undermine conventional figure-ground relationships, and eliminate any suggestion of pictorial space. However, following a 1948 trip to Europe, where Maldonado met such artists as Max Bill (1908–1994), founder of the concrete art movement, and saw suprematist and neo-plasticist works up close, he returned to the rectangular canvas, emphasizing a rigorous analysis of form and color relationships.
Throughout the 1940s, Maldonado created such works as Trayectoria de una anecdota (1949), which were devoid of all external references, focusing instead on the work’s formal properties: flat planes of muted colors in irregular but precisely defined forms, organized asymmetrically on a diagonal axis to create an overall dynamic tension.
Artist, industrial designer, and semiologist Tomás Maldonado attended the Academia Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Academy of Fine Arts) in Buenos Aires. In 1944 he co-founded the Asociación Arte Concreto-Invención. The group’s Manifesto Invencionista (1946), co-written by Maldonado, elaborates his theory supporting rationality and objectivity over expressionism. Maldonado’s early paintings were characterized by geometric abstraction that played with visual perception. On the invitation of Swiss Concrete artist Max Bill, in 1954 Maldonado accepted a teaching position at the Hochschule für Gestaltung (College of Design) in Ulm, Germany, where he remained until 1967, eventually becoming its director. Maldonado moved the legendary institution away from its Bauhaus principles, pioneering a streamlined approach for mass-production design that is echoed in today’s technological products. Maldonado moved to Italy in 1967, where he achieved renown for his collaborations with Ettore Sottsass for Olivetti, and for his corporate design work for the Gruppo Rinascente. His landmark text, written in 1970, La speranza progettuale, was translated into English in 1972 as Design, Nature, and Revolution: Toward a Critical Ecology. Maldonado urged designers to think about the problems of environmental destruction and social transformation in their work. He is professor of environmental design at the Polytechnic University of Milan.