Why Dallas is the Geometric City

Dallas Geometric City

There’s a universal pull in Dallas among artists working with geometric designs and continuing to explore a movement known as MADI.

Out-of-the-frame Artist Carmelo Arden Quin spent time in Dallas, and even created a few Dallas designs. Some of these currently reside in the Museum of Geometric and MADI Art (Geometric MADI) on Carlisle Street in Uptown.

One of the museum’s founders, Dorothy Masterson, isn’t sure how much Arden Quin took to the city itself, but thanks to the museum, Dallas remains a repository of his work.

MADI Movement work at the MALBA in Buenos Aires

The reflective museum building with colorful accents stands out. It wasn’t until returning from a trip to Buenos Aires that I stepped inside, however.

It feels like something an artistic universe may revolve around.

Dorothy and Bill Masterson began collecting MADI art after getting to know Arden Quin and some of the other artists working in the style on trips to Paris.

According to Masterson, the MADI movement has some roots in Russia. She showed us a painting by Lyubov Popova. Unhappy with the political climate there, a few artists relocated to Paris.

Most references, however, say MADI has its roots in Argentina- the Paris years came later. When you visit museums in the U.S. today and come upon MADI art, they are included with art from the Americas. Austin’s Blanton Museum is one example.

Some MADI Art at the Blanton in Austin

MADI art moves. Sometimes it moves people to express some rather strong opinions. Among them, the certainty that it’s not art. And what a dangerous statement to make.

It also seems most artists continuing the legacy of MADI today are working in Europe, but that doesn’t limit the ongoing affection for it in Central and South American countries.

Dorothy Masterson likes to say MADI art comes off of the wall and out of the frame. If MADI is an acronym at all, it might stand for Movement, Abstraction (or Asymmetry), Dimension and Invention.

Geometric work on display in Mexico City

Since the couple has been collecting art and operating the museum in Dallas, the city has become somewhat of a center for the movement. The frame of influence here is wider than just MADI, however. Many local artists working in geometric forms are included. The museum holds a biennial which attracts submissions from throughout the world.

A local artist with a show currently on display at the museum, Ricardo Paniagua, is known regionally for his geometrically-inspired public sculptures and murals. If you’ve encountered the self-trained artist at any of the local art openings, you may agree he’s an out-of-the-frame kind of person.

Another artist connects geometric art with the city of Dallas is the late Kazuya Sakai. Not explicitly associated with the MADI movement, some of Sakai’s work fully embraces the geometric. It’s well-known in his native Buenos Aires and in his former home of Mexico. Sakai also spent time in Japan and New York and his final years teaching at the University of Texas at Dallas. He died one year before the Geometric MADI came on the scene.

When we asked Masterson if the art had influenced Dallas or the artists in Dallas, she did say many of the people who come into the museum are artists, and many already like this kind of work. The museum may have inspired some to create more geometric art.

“And certainly if they want their art in the museum, this is what they have to do.”

Today there are artists in all corners of the world working in MADI, and many of them have had their work shown at the Dallas museum. Some of it is part of the permanent displays in the galleries, hallways and even bathrooms at the Geometric MADI.

MADI may have begun in Buenos Aires, and continue around the world, but it’s Dallas and the Geometric MADI that holds it together. It’s unfortunate the city’s main museum, the Dallas Museum of Art, doesn’t currently display MADI work (no Sakai either). Maybe some can be incorporated in the future.

Even then you have to wonder if the city can remain central to the movement if it one day found itself without the passion behind this mightly little museum.

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