Solo showcase for Latin flair
GEGO: LINE AS OBJECT
Henry Moore Institute, Leeds
THE A R T o f S o u t h America is very much in vogue. And following on from last year’s exhibition introducing a London audience to the work of Mira Schendel, a Brazilian artist of Jewish heritage, the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds has organised the first solo exhibition of the Venezuelan artist Gego, who died in 1994. Born Gertrude Goldschmidt into a wealthy German-Jewish banking family in 1912, Gego came up with her nickname as a child, using the first two letters of her first name and surname (her sister Hanna was known as Hago).
Gego took architecture and engineering at university, studies that prevented her from fleeing with the rest of her family to England in early 1939. Through a family friend, she was instead granted a visa to Venezuela, and a few months later, she locked up her family home, threw the key in the Alster River and, not speaking a word of Spanish, set off alone for a new life across the Atlantic.
Although the Henry Moore Institute is dedicated to research on sculpture, Gego did not consider her works sculptures. In her view, a sculpture was “three-dimensionalformsof solidmaterial. Never what I do.” It is certainly true that her work cannot be described as solid. Her favoured material was stainless steel wire, light and delicate, joined together to make ever more complex shapes. These are suspended from the ceiling, some floating in mid-air, others cascading down to the ground. From a distance they appear almost transparent, but as they move ever so slightly, they cast shadows around them, bringing new layers to each work.
Many of the pieces are based on modular grids that remind one of molecular diagrams, but in others, the wires are severed, disturbing the order and appearing damaged. Alas, the institute was unable to transport Gego’s room installation from Caracas but photos show how this work envelops the audience like a huge spider’s web.
A group of works titled Drawings without Paper float just in front of the walls, with strong light causing the “drawings” to be cast in shadow. These were made with leftovers from her larger sculptures and cheap materials from everyday life such as telephone cables, screws and buttons.
Also on show are a number of her drawings, not preparatory works for her sculptures — she did not operate in that way. Instead they are works of art in their own right depending once more on the subtle lines which dominate her three-dimensional pieces. With a fine pencil or brush she sketched modular grids, every so often interrupting their order, and also introduced colour into these works.
There are also 15 of Gego’s works on showattheRoyalAcademyinLondonas part of an exhibition of modern art from South America. But for a more complete understanding of this fascinating artist, it is well worth an excursion to Leeds.
Gego: Line as Object runs until October 19