1 August 1912
|Died||17 September 1994
|Nationality||German and Venezuelan|
|Education||Technische Hochschule of Stuttgart, Germany|
|Known for||Sculptor, Architect, Printmaker|
|Awards||Premio Nacional de Artes Plasticas|
Gertrude Goldschmidt (1 August 1912 – 17 September 1994) also known as Gego, was a modern Venezuelan artist and sculptor. Gego's most popular works were produced in the 1960s and 1970s, during the height of popularity of Geometric abstract art and Kinetic Art. Although these genres influenced her somewhat, Gego tried to develop her own style and break from the popular art of Venezuela. Her artwork is commonly exhibited with artists like Lygia Clark, Hélio Oiticica and Mira Schendel. Dying in 1994, she left a collection of writings describing her thoughts about art which adds to her legacy as a Latin American artist.
Early years in Germany
Gego was born Gertrude Goldschmidt in Hamburg, Germany in 1912. Although she was the niece of the medieval art historian Adolf Goldschmidt, who taught at the University of Berlin, she decided to attended the Technische Hochschule of Stuttgart in 1932, where she was taught by popular masonry artist Dr.Paul Bonatz and in 1938 received a diploma in both architecture and engineering.
Because her family was Jewish, life became very difficult for them once the Nazis gained power in 1934. Her German citizenship was nullified in 1935. Four years later she moved to Venezuela, where she gained citizenship in 1952. In 1987, Professor Frithjof Trapp of the University of Hamburg led an investigation called "Exile and Emigration of Hamburg Jews," which he hoped would explain the lives of these Jews. Gego was one of the people who he hoped to investigate. After several letters to her home, Gego finally agreed to respond but the letter was never mailed and instead stayed in her collection of notes. In her testimony titled " Reflection on my origins and encounters in life" Gego describes how her family identified with German society. She also describes, in detail, her education history and her departure from Germany.
Importance of education
Being very well-educated herself, Gego knew the importance of education. Consequently, after moving to Caracas, Venezuela, Gego taught at the school of architecture of the Central University between 1958 and 1967. Additionally, between 1964 and 1977, she taught at the Neumann Institute of Design in Caracas, an institution where many other renowned artists, such as Harry Abend, her fellow European-born artist, also taught. She taught courses like "Bidimensional and Three-Dimensional Form" and "Spatial Solutions" and published two articles between 1971 and 1977.
Gego believed that with her education and experience she would be a great asset to young minds. In 1947, the Venezuelan people finally overthrew the dictatorial government. Gego knew that, after a time of crisis, students are the members of society that are the most influential. Included in her Sabiduras, a folder of her informal writings discovered upon her death, there is a letter addressed to her colleagues explaining the criteria that would be beneficial to the students of Venezuela. In it, she explains that only through experience can artists, and architects in particular, learn their medium. Images and theories about architecture would not further their artistic training. Gego's views were fueled by her belief that students were taught with too much emphasis on rationality and were becoming "ignorant of imagination".
Arriving in Venezuela during an economic boom, Gego was surrounded by artists who were enjoying a great deal of success. Modernism was the artistic fad sweeping through Latin America and artists in Venezuela participated enthusiastically. Modernism was a political tool as well. Latin American governments were trying to catch up to the advancements of the United States during the Post World War II era and Venezuela thought by encouraging the modern art movement, which incorporated ideas of the industry, science, and architecture, the country would be seen as progressive. Gego made her first sculpture in 1957. She was aware of the modern movement when she came to Caracas, but she did not want to simply co-opt the ideas of Kinetic Art, Constructivism or Geometric Abstraction. Instead, Gego wanted to create a style of her own because she was able to use so many aspects of her life in her art—for example, her German heritage. In the end, Gego saw that these new projects labeled desarrollista (developmentalist movement) were pleasing the elite and government, but she wanted an art that would relate to the local community of Venezuela.
From Kinetic Art, Gego incorporated the ideas of motion as well as the importance of experimentation and the spectator. One of her earliest works, Esfera (Sphere) (1959), consists of welded brass and painted steel of different widths that are placed at different angles to one another in order to create overlapping lines and fields. When the viewer walks around the sphere, the visual relationship between the lines changes, creating a sense of motion. Esfera echoes the work done by famous Kinetic artists like Carlos Cruz-Diez and Jesus Rafael Soto. It was not until the mid-1960s that Gego departed from the basic concept of Kinetic Art in response to her developing ideas about lines. For Gego, a line inhabited its own space, and as such, it was not a component in a larger work but instead it was a work by itself. Therefore in her artworks, she did not use line to represent an image; line is the image.
The strength or purpose of the line was enhanced by her use of different materials, such as steel, wire, lead, nylon and various metals. In addition to relating to her interest in architecture, these materials also contradicted the new modernist movement in Latin America. Gego not only used these materials to create lines in her massive sculptures but also in her series entitled Dibujos Sin Papel (Drawings without Paper). These tiny works were created from scraps of metal that were bent and weaved together in order to evoke movement, experimentation and spontaneity.
While in Los Angeles in the late 1960s, Gego composed a series of lithographs that were mostly untitled except for a ten-page booked entitled, Lines in 1966. This book is full of lithographs produced in gray and red. Variations in the thickness, length, and direction of the lines demonstrate the fundamental instability of line. By experimenting with line in a different medium, Gego emphasized that the notion of "line" retains its strength and independence regardless of its specific location or form.
Gego's idea of a series artworks that would be titled "Drawings Without Paper" reflects on her view of space. Gego considered space as its own form; as if her artwork was occupying the artwork of the room itself. Since her work is made from nets and grid-like materials, negative space is everywhere, causing the negative as well as the positive space to be appreciated. But it is the shadows created by her works that reveal the integral connection between the sculpture and the room it occupies. Gego is thus allowed to play with the idea of the stable and unstable elements of art. The stable elements of art is the sculpture itself, while the unstable elements consist of the constantly changing shadows and the slight movement in her design due to the fragility of her materials. In fact, the way her sculptures exist in space changes every time it was installed because Gego had the power to recreate the image as she wanted.
Her series of Reticuláreas is undoubtly her most popular and most talked about group of artworks. Her first series was created in 1969. Pieces of aluminum and steel were joined together to create an interweaving of nets and webs that fills the entire room when exhibited. Her use of repetition and layering in the massive structure causes the piece to seem endless. Indeed, Gego's attention to line and space creates a beautiful artwork for the viewer. Since her death, the permanent collection of Reticuláreas is in the Galería de Arte Nacional in Caracas, Venezuela.
Since her death in 1994, her children and grandchildren have taken the responsibility to preserve Gego's legacy. That same year, they founded the Fundacion Gego to organize her artwork and to promote the awareness of their relatives contribution to the art world. The Fundacion Gego gave the permission to publish Gego's personal writings and testimonies in 2005. These writings, now published, might influence other artists in her innovative and experimental mode of sculpture.
Selected exhibition history
- Solo exhibitions
- 1958 - Gego: Sculptures and Gouaches, Liberia Cruz del Sur, Caracas, May 9–24
- 1964 - Lines and interlines: Engravings and Drawings by Gego, Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas, February 2–16
- 1967 - Gego: Sculptures. 1957-1967, Biblioteca Luis Angel Arango, Bogota, June 8–30
- 1968 - On Paper: Lithographs by Gego, Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas, November
- 1969 - Reticulárea, Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas, June–July
- 1970 - Gego Drawings, The Graphic Gallery, San Francisco, May 1–17
- 1971 - Gego: Sculpture and Drawing, Betty Parsons Gallery, New York, April 13-May 1
- 1972 - Structures Double Curves, Galeria Conkright, Caracas
- 1973 - Recent Drawings, Galeria Conkright, Caracas
- 1975 - Gego: Drawings for Projects, Instituto de Diseno, Fundacion Neumann, Caracas, May 6–20
- 1977 - Gego, Museo de Artes Contemporaneo de Caracas Sofia Imber, September
- 1980 - Variations on Reticuláreas, Sala Cadafe, Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Caracas Sofia Imber, May
- 1981 - Reticulárea, Permanent Installation, Sala Gego, Galería de Arte Nacional, Caracas
- 1982 - Watercolors by Gego, Galería de Arte Nacional, Caracas, Jul 4-Aug 8
- 1984 - Gego: Drawings without Paper, Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas, June–August
- 1988 - Gego: Recent Works, Galeria Sotavento, Caracas, March
- 1994 - Gego: A Look at Her Work, Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Caracas Sofia Imber, November
- 1996 - Gego: Drawings, Engravings, Weavings, Centro Cultural Consolidado, Caracas, September–November
- 2000-01 - Gego: 1955-1990, Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas October–March
- 2002-03 - Questioning the Line: Gego, a Selection, 1955-1990, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
- 2005 - Gego: Between Transparency and the Invisible, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, June 26-September 25
- 2007 - Gego: Between Transparency and the Invisible, The Drawing Center, New York, April 21- July 21
- 2012 - Gego: Origin and Encounter, Mastering the Space, Americas Society, New York, September 29 - December 8
- 2014 - Gego: Line as Object, Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, July 21- October 19
- Vibration in Black, 1957, Painted Aluminum, Fundacion Gego, Caracas
- Split, 1959, Stainless Steel, Dorothea and Leo Rabkin, New York
- Untitled, 1962–1970, Ink on Cardboard, Fundacion Gego, Caracas
- Autobiography of Line, Chinese Ink on Japanese paper, folded and bound, carboard cover book, Fundacion Gego, Caracas
- Tamarind Series, 1966, Lithograph on Cardboard, Fundacion Gego, Caracas
- Cornice 1, 1967, (Installation in 6 pieces), each piece: Painted stainless steel and bronze wire construction, Colección D.O.P., Paris
- Square Reticulárea, 1971–1976, Steel rods, assembled lead, Fundacion Gego, Caracas
- Reticulárea, 1971–1976, Steel wire, nylon, leader sleeves, Fundacion Cisneros, Caracas
- Drawing Without Paper Series, 1976–1989, Stainless steel, steel rods, crystal beads, painted iron, metal chains, copper wire, Various owners
- Trunk, 1977, Steel wire, metal rods, leader sleeves, Fundacion Gego, Caracas
- Reticulárea Circular (gato o rosa), 1981, Watercolor on Arches, Fundaciòn D.O.P., Madrid
- Stream Reticulárea, 1988, Steel wires of different thickness, Banco Mercantil, Caracas
- Cornice 2 (Drawing without paper N°88/37), 1988, Metallic pieces, stainless steel, nylon, lead, Fundacion Cisneros, Caracas
- Kalenberg, Angel. “Gego”. Encyclopedia of Latin American & Caribbean Art. Ed. Jane Turner. 1 vol. New York: New York, 2000. ISBN 978-0-19-531075-7.
- Amor, Monica. Another Geometry: Gego's Reticulárea, 1969-1982," October, Issue 113 (2005): 101-130, 25.
- Rottner, Nadja. Gego 1957-1988 Thinking the Line. Hatje Cantz, Germany: 2006, p. 59. ISBN 978-3-7757-1787-8.
- Gego, Sabiduras and Other Texts by Gego, ed. Maria E. Huizi (Caracas: The Museum of Fine Arts, 1995). ISBN 978-0-300-11163-7.
- Lygia Clark, Gego, Mathias Goeritz, Helio Oiticica, Mira Schendel, The Experimental Exercise of Freedom, ed. Susan Martin (Germany: Cantz, 1999). ISBN 978-0-914357-64-3.
- Gego, Questioning the Line: Gego in Context, ed. Mari Carmen Ramirez (Houston: University of Texas Press, 2003). ISBN 0-89090-119-8.
- Latin American and Caribbean Art: MOMA at El Museo, ed. Fatima Becht (Madrid: Turner, 2004). ISBN 978-0-87070-460-4.
- Cotter, Holland (April 27, 2007). "Off the Page and in the Air, Drawing Transformed". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-08-01.
- "Past Exhibitions: Gego, Between Transparency and the Invisible". The Drawing Center. 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-01.
- http://fundaciongego.com/ Gego Foundation