On January of 1961, Gunther Gerzso (1915-2000) finished Avila Negra, the painting that completed the cycle known as the Greek Period. Privately, he referred to it as Abschied, the German word for farewell, because he was intentionally saying goodbye to the most romantic group of paintings that he would create in his entire life. Since artists' work is constantly evolving and transforming, they cannot tell when a painting conveying a particular emotional content or style will be the last in a series. But Gerzso knew. He was tired of feeling vulnerable, the feeling that had imbued the Greek works produced during the previous two years; that was not him.
Initially, Gerzso had been drawn to Surrealism, attracted by its disquieting emotional content, which he soon learned had deep roots in psychoanalysis. Then, as he read Freud, both in James Strachey's English translation and in the original German, he saw himself described in Freud's drive theory. Thereafter, he believed that applied psychoanalysis was the only way to interpret the emotional content of his work. Gerzso had never questioned that his interest in Surrealism had been its focus on destruction; dissonance was where he lived. He just did not know what it meant, and it would be some 20 years before he noticed.
The Greek paintings were more than a successful experiment: they were ravishing and heartfelt. He also proved to himself that he could live internally in harmony, which was not his preference. This explains his clear cut shift from harmony to disharmony with merely one painting, and why a painting done just a year and a half later is so different from the other Greek works. Quietly, Gerzso had introduced the blade and the destructive intent that would became his trademark for the next eight years, in works that warned of or foretold terrible events from which there is no escape.
As it often happens, some works from a particular stage are never finished and remain in the studio. Gerzso did not like painting over these and starting fresh. On the contrary, he liked the challenge of finishing them, "making them well." When works from a particular year recall others done earlier, it is because they integrate present and past with other elements, as suggested by the double title in this case. Muro Gris also called Paisaje de Grecia, painted in August 1962, is among the Greek works that Gerzso finished after Avila Negra, with the intention of returning to a dissonant state of mind. The crushed pumice stone or marble powder texture, as well as the simple composition are direct references to the Greek Period works.
Had Muro Gris/Paisaje de Grecia been executed earlier, Gerzso would not have added the band of blue--the wall--on the bottom of the painting, and the spectator would have had visual access to the infinite landscape. In this painting, however, Gerzso added the broken wall to suggest tension within the painting. Under this tension, the wall has cracked, split in unequal halves, forming a damaged structure that separates the spectator from the landscape--which a careful look reveals is also split--and prevents entry.
Salomon Grimberg, Dallas, Texas, March 29, 2008.