What's Da MADI?

MADI is one art form even Sister Wendy can't wax on about. No one knows what it is, or really why it is what it is. According to artist Volf Roitman, it's a large, black wood circle mounted on a wall with a square mounted inside that opens up then breaks into red, light blue and lime green triangles as well as a slim, curved yellow piece that looks like a banana. At least that's how MADI art manifested itself through him in 1999. But in his new "What Is MADI? II," one of more than 200 works featured at Dallas' new MADI Art Museum and Gallery, MADI is asymmetric, aluminum and diamond-shaped. So what is MADI?

MADI--some speculate it means "movement, abstraction, dimension and invention," but no one is positive what the letters stand for--isn't simply art as sculpture. It's a movement that delves beyond painting and sculpture into free-form poetry, theater, books, music and dance. Dallas' museum is the only permanent one in the world dedicated exclusively to the nonrepresentational art form, according to Roitman, the museum's artistic and visual director. Born in Argentina in the 1940s, the MADI movement now consists of about 70 sculptors, painters, architects, musicians and poets around the globe. It's the longest-running, continually active art movement in the world, devotees say. Artist Carmelo Arden Quin conceived of MADI, a combination of Futurism, Cubism and Constructivism with a little of his own artistic philosophy mixed in, as a reaction to the dictatorship of Juan Peron. Arden Quin wanted artists to express themselves in abstract forms and terms Peron's regime wouldn't be able to censor or twist into government propaganda.

MADI art is colorful and sometimes three-dimensional with moving parts. It can even take the form of a building, as is the case with the new Kilgore Law Center, home to the MADI Art Museum and Gallery. What was once a two-story, 16,564-square-foot storefront building designed and built during the 1970s is now one of Roitman's works of art. Roitman used lasers on brightly colored metal panels to create abstract pieces with cutout geometric shapes floating on colorful, free-form backgrounds. These panels were then hooked onto metal studs affixed to the building's exterior. The result: a building that moves away from what Roitman calls the "dismal grayness gnawing at the walls of our cities."

Bill Masterson, head of Kilgore & Kilgore law firm, says "the purpose of MADI art is to have a piece of art that is intrinsically beautiful...[MADI pieces] are uniformly upbeat and cheerful." Masterson and his wife, Dorothy, began collecting MADI art more than 10 years ago after becoming familiar with Roitman's work. Roitman, who was born in Uruguay, raised in Buenos Aires and later went to Paris to develop his art, resides in Florida, except for when summering in Ireland. In addition to featuring Roitman's work, the MADI Art Museum and Gallery's permanent collection and the Mastersons' displayed personal collection feature work by Arden Quin as well as a smattering of other internationally known MADI artists, all of whom are still alive.

Contrary to many modern art movements that emphasize representation and symbolism, MADI focuses on the objects themselves, rather than underlying meanings. For example, Roitman's often-playful mobiles, sculptures and paper collages, among other geometric creations, are what they are--chill out on the intellectual analysis. Herein lies the answer to the question, "What is MADI?" MADI is MADI.