Monday, April 30, 2007

through the wires

Reticulárea, 1975

In last Friday's New York Times, Holland Cotter reviewed the Drawing Center's new show of work by the German expatriate artist Gego (nee Gertrude Goldschmidt). Born in 1912 and trained in architecture and engineering, she moved to Venezuela in 1939 to escape the Nazis (she was Jewish). In the early fifties, she developed her signature approach: dense abstract patterns of (mostly monochrome) lineson paper and in hanging wire structures. These patterns range from careful stripes and tight geometric patterns to the wild tangles characteristic of her later years. She died in 1994.

“Gego, Between Transparency and the Invisible” was curated by Mari Carmen Ramirez for the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, where it was originally shown. According to the press release, the show emphasizes:
the critical role that drawing played in the artist's oeuvre. On view
will be nearly 60 artworks which include ink drawings,
three-dimensional structures, watercolors, artist books,
and tejeduras
(The tejeduras are woven from strips of found printed paper.)

My first
and so far my onlyin the flesh encounter with her work took place at Harvard's Fogg Museum about six years ago. She had a few of her wire pieces in the show "Geometric Abstraction: Latin American Art from the Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Collection". I have only the faintest memory of them now, but I recall they intrigued me at the time. So I ought to get down to NYC before the show closes (on July 21) and reacquaint myself.

The review does a decent job of describing the work and hinting at its appeal. Of particular interest is the artist's refusal to see her three-dimensional work as sculpture. Cotter quotes this snippet from the artist's notebook: “Sculpture: three-dimensional forms of solid material. NEVER what I do!”. Although this reflects my own idiosyncracies, I'll say that I largely prefer the kind of thing she did. Her "drawing without paper" is reminiscent of work by different artists: Eva Hesse, Alan Saret, Sarah Sze, Sheila Pepe and Larry Kagan among others. Such work interacts with its settings in an exciting way and sets the eye to wandering about. Shadows can become an integral part of the work.

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