"Science reassures, art disturbs" wrote Georges Braque in the notebook of aphorisms that he gathered shortly after being trepanned during World War I, when, unable to make art, he reflected on what had made him dedicate himself to painting when he was still a boy. "There is a mystery that draws one into wanting to understand what one does," explained Gunther Gerzso, who greatly admired Braque and was influenced by him not only technically but also in his way of thinking. Gerzso had a fairly clear idea of his motivations for making art and what he was saying about himself, but what puzzled him to the end was why, despite knowing himself well, he kept discovering in his work events that he could not decipher. What makes a secret is that someone knows the concealed information; what makes a mystery is that no one knows what lies behind it.
During a career that lasted over sixty years, Gerzso remained obsessed with confronting the mystery of his work in an attempt to learn more about himself, and about what we are about; he never succeeded. In the process, he became one of Mexico's most enigmatic painters of the 20th Century, leaving behind a body of work without parallel: ravishing to look at, disquieting to experience. Works of his come up for sale with certain regularity, allowing the viewer to discover his ever familiar iconography, but it is a rare opportunity to see, side by side, three examples from the decade in which the iconography for which he is recognized show the process followed by his art as his sense of self developed. One was produced at the start of the decade, one in the middle, and one as it closed.
Personaje Muro Verde, 1965 (Lot 16) was produced on the pivotal year in which the sense of fragmentation that had shaped his personality at an early age was beginning to awake in him a desire to heal. Ruinous fragments began to evolve into blades, which in turn would become perfectly well integrated smooth walls. Originally, Personaje Muro Verde was part of his well-known Muro Verde, 1961. When Gerzso finished it, he noticed that something kept it from being affectively right and while living with it, it came to him that he had painted two separate compositions, which, stuck together kept each other from having its individual identity. Cutting the masonite on which they were painted, the siamese works were separated so each could have its independent life. Suddenly, each projected a new power. Each had the Gerzso characteristic of bringing together a threatening form pointing toward a vulnerable one. Pleased with the results, he gave both to his friend and patron Jacques Gelman, the original owner of both works, who understood better than to hang them side by side or even together. Gelman received Muro Verde, in 1961, fresh off the easel, and the second, Personaje Muro Verde, four years later, in 1965, thus the later date. The second Gerzso painting in the sale, also originally in the Gelman collection, is Rojo-Amarillo-Verde, 1966, (Lot 17) painted three years following Gerzso's breakdown, when his work began to take on a frankly immediate, if not an overtly aggressive presence. The particularly beautiful color applied with translucent glazes that gives it a stained-glass effect momentarily belies the disturbing element given by the figure-ground-reversal shape at the bottom of the top blue band. In this work, Gerzso is pulling himself together by the force of power that, until six years later had been dormant within him and was being stirred as anger. The work hung in Natasha Gelman's bedroom, opposite her bed. Closing the decade is Verde-Azul-Amarillo, 1970, (Lot 18) an exquisite work that Gerzso created on the year in which he ended his psychiatric treatment as he had arrived at an internal sense of quietude and balance that he had not known before and which he craved. In this work, he no longer projects ruinous structures that have been abandoned, damaged, injured, or neglected. Instead, we are confronted with a freshly built structure shaped by balance and harmony.
Salomon Grimberg, Dallas, Texas, September 2007.