The Oldie

Exhibition­s Huon Mallalieu

Naum Gabo Tate St Ives, 25th January to 3rd May


This is the first extensive presentati­on of Naum Gabo’s sculptures, paintings, drawings and architectu­ral designs in the UK for over 30 years. It draws on the complement­ary collection­s of Tate and the Berlinisch­e Galerie in Berlin.

The sculptor Naum Gabo (1890-1977) changed his surname to differenti­ate himself from his elder brother Antoine Pevsner, also a sculptor as well as a modernist painter. He was born in Russia and lived through world wars. a revolution, civil war, varied exiles and periods of artistic ferment.

All this makes what an authority, Caroline Collier, has called ‘his perception of space, time and movement’ and ‘the calmness at the still centre of even his smallest works’ all the more remarkable.

This exhibition is being held to commemorat­e the centenary of the Realistic Manifesto, the artistic credo declared in Moscow by Gabo and

Pevsner. Their fundamenta­l aim was that modern art should draw from the modern age to be authentic. They adopted the term Constructi­vism, defined as the combinatio­n of the particular material qualities of an object with its spatial presence. That calmness in Gabo’s work may be explained by Pevsner’s statement, which applies to them both: ‘Art must be inspiratio­n controlled by mathematic­s. I have a need for peace, symphony, orchestrat­ion.’

There is a surprising amount of imaginatio­n and emotion in Gabo’s sculptures, and his early training as an engineer gives them strength and conviction. True to Constructi­vist principles, he used many materials, including early plastics, fishing line,

bronze, sheets of Perspex and boulders. He was also a pioneer kinetic artist, using motors to animate the sculpture. Some of his static pieces seem to dance, so delicate can they appear. Even people who find modern sculpture intimidati­ng will be charmed by the Constructi­vist Ballet table-top toy he made for his daughter.

After studying in Munich and spending time in Scandinavi­a and Paris, Gabo returned to Russia between 1917 and 1922, before emigrating to Germany and then, from 1936 to 1949, England. His final destinatio­n was America. In London, he became friends with Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson, and he moved with them to Cornwall and St Ives.

Gabo’s influence on Hepworth was marked, as can be seen in her Orpheus (Maquette 1), recently donated to the Hepworth Wakefield gallery. In writing about her own practice, she echoes his thoughts: ‘Full sculptural expression is spatial – it is the three-dimensiona­l realisatio­n of an idea, either by mass or by space… But for the imaginativ­e idea to be fully and freely projected into stone, wood or any plastic substance, a complete sensibilit­y to material – an understand­ing of its inherent quality and character – is required.’

 ??  ?? Barbara Hepworth, Naum Gabo, Henry Moore and Margaret Read with Gabo’s Linear Constructi­on No 2, London, 1970
Barbara Hepworth, Naum Gabo, Henry Moore and Margaret Read with Gabo’s Linear Constructi­on No 2, London, 1970
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