Artist

Gego

Gertrude Louise Goldschmidt, known as ‘Gego’, (b. 1912, Hamburg, Germany; d. 1994, Caracas, Venezuela) studied engineering and architecture at the Technische Hochschule Stuttgart in Germany. In 1939, she escaped with her family from Nazi Germany, where she had witnessed the polemics of Bauhaus versus neo-classical Nazi architecture. Her family fled to London, England, where Gego was able to procure a visa to emigrate to Caracas, Venezuela. Gego began teaching at the School of Architecture and Urbanism at the Universidad Central de Venezuela in 1958, later becoming the head of the sculpture department at Escuela de Artes Plasticas Cristobal Rojas. In 1957, she started to make hanging metal structures using wire, steel and aluminium rods. Neither sculpture nor shelter, Gego refused the limitations of such terms to define her work and embraced an interdisciplinary approach between art and architecture. Her open-form structures critiqued contemporary architecture being built in Venezuela in the fifties, designed upon industrial standardisation and institutional formalism which Gego perceived as being antithetical to human nature. The Dibujos sin papel (Drawings without paper) series, in which wire metal is manipulated into rhizomatic structures, reflects an alternative approach to social architecture.

 

Gego incorporated aspects of kinetic art and geometric abstraction into her work. Both were popular in Venezuela at the time, supported by the government for their implications of modernity and technological progress. Kinetic movement is only implied in Gego’s static sculptures, and the repetition of geometric form is often disrupted. Gego’s emphasis on the line in her work is equal to the space it demarcates; the void or space for the viewer to inhabit is necessary to the installation. ‘Reticularea’ (1969) represents the culmination of Gego’s early work; a mesh web weaves an organic network that rejects arborescent organisation and linear chronology. It is instead a constellation of endless connections, which promotes multiplicity of thought towards social organisation.

 

In 1971, Betty Parsons Gallery in New York held a solo exhibition of Gego’s work. Solo exhibitions have been held at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, in 2005; Museu de Arte Contemporánea de Serralves, Porto, in 2006; Hamburger Kunsthalle and Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, touring to Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, in 2013. Her work is held in important public collections including Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Caracas; Museo de Bellas Artes de Caracas; New York Public Library; and Tate, London.

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