Solo show­case for Latin flair

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE -

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

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