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Epilogue | Volf Roitman

Artist Volf Roitman was quiet, intense man of diverse interests

HOLIDAY — Even in the art world, Volf Roitman was an original. He exhibited his work in more than 150 shows around the world and designed the wildly colored exterior of the MADI Art Museum and Gallery in Dallas. He wrote novels and avant garde plays, which were performed in New York and Paris.

Mr. Roitman, a leading voice for a half-century of the MADI art movement, known for its bold use of color and irregular geometric shapes, died April 25. Since the 1980s, Mr. Roitman, 79, spent part of his time in the Pasco County community of Holiday.

A quiet, intense man who wore colorful silk shirts and a long red and blue scarf, Mr. Roitman knew that his diverse interests made him unusual.

In a brief autobiographical sketch, he touches on some of his endeavors as a poet and architect, painter and playwright, film distributor and owner of a Paris arts house. "Due to these sea changes of interest," he writes, "I have often been referred to by journalists and curators as a Renaissance man, and by my friends and family as a person whose profession it is necessary to verify on a regular basis."

He was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, the son of Russian-Romanian immigrants, but grew up in Buenos Aires. His father, a furrier, didn't mind his son's penchant for acting in experimental plays or editing a cult poetry magazine, but didn't want him making a career out of it. By age 20, Mr. Roitman had obtained an architectural license.

He moved to Paris, where he met fellow Uruguayan artist Carmelo Arden Quin, founder of the MADI art movement. The pair collaborated in the early 1950s opening the MADI Research and Study Center in Paris, and would exhibit together for decades to come.

There is no single explanation for MADI, or even an accepted notion of the origin of its name. For Mr. Roitman, it meant moving sculptures of brightly colored and imperfect shapes.

"He liked the fact that it was irregular," said his wife, Shelley. "Maybe this geometric work gave him some order, not only to the world but to his own mind."

He seduced her with plays and novels. They married in 1967 and lived in the south of France. They owned a Paris film company in the 1970s, then moved to Barcelona. Mr. Roitman emerged as a visual artist, making paper sculptures he later replaced with finely shaved steel.

"It was his whole life," said Don Ortbring, 65, a Homosassa metal sculptor who for the last decade has fabricated artwork, including robots, using Mr. Roitman's designs. "If he didn't have that, he wouldn't have anything."

In 2003, the MADI Art Museum opened in Dallas, featuring Mr. Roitman's exuberant abstract shapes hung on the exterior walls. He called the work his most important undertaking.

A recent stroke prevented Mr. Roitman from seeing three retrospective exhibits of his work this year. But you still can. The Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art in Tarpon Springs opens its eight-week exhibit, Volf Roitman — From MADI to the Ludic Revolution, at 7 p.m. May 15 at 600 Klosterman Road.

Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or ameacham@sptimes.com.

>>Biography

Volf Roitman

Born: Dec. 30, 1930.

Died: April 25, 2010.

Survivors: Wife Shelley; daughter Scarlett Roitman; stepchildren Lorenne, Katia and Laurence Rio; three grandchildren; five stepgrandchildren; and numerous other extended family members.

Artist Volf Roitman was quiet, intense man of diverse interests 05/01/10 [Last modified: Saturday, May 1, 2010 8:54pm]
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