The German-born artist Gertrude Goldschmidt, known professionally as Gego, arrived in Venezuela in August 1939, an emigré from her native country and a newly-degreed architect and engineer. Something of a late bloomer, she began her artistic practice in earnest in the mid-1950s, moving into the vanguard of the Venezuelan art world, led at the time by the pioneering geometric abstraction of Alejandro Otero and Jesús Rafael Soto. Familiar with the Constructivist principles taught at the Bauhaus and with the work of artists such as Joseph Albers and Paul Klee, Gego began to evolve a sculptural practice that set the architectonic sensibility of her early training in dialogue with the neo-Constructivist and kinetic experiments of her Venezuelan contemporaries. In her iconic three-dimensional works, from the early series Líneas paralelas to the environmental Reticuláreas, Gego cumulatively advanced an organic, emancipatory idea of sculpture that suggestively illuminates the layered conceptual and material dimensions of space.
"Gego began her career inscribing parallels on paper," curator Iris Peruga has noted, and between approximately 1957 and 1971 the artist explored the spatial relationships created by parallel lines and their effects of transparency in both two and three dimensions. As Peruga explains, "All these early works represent, above all, different attempts to build volumes from a plane, as well as an interest in transposing to three-dimensional space shapes that are in theory only two-dimensional." Gego began the series Líneas paralelas, to which the present work belongs, in the late 1960s, and their evocation of virtual space--beyond the linearity of the splaying stainless steel wires--suggests a remarkable acuity of feeling for the spaciousness of sculptural forms. "These works have an almost immaterial aspect, resembling ascending streams of water or light depending on the illumination," Peruga has remarked, and the dynamic play of shadows and light in the present example casts its minimalist lines in a softly shimmering glow.(1) The auratic presence of the sculpture is felt in the tensile energy of the lines shooting upward and, at its base, outward into the ambient space; just off-axis, Gego's lines have what Alfred H. Barr, Jr. once termed a "parallactic charm," a fitting description of the moving visual metamorphosis of her art.
"I use the lines to define spaces, to define space itself," Gego once explained of her work. "The intercrossing of the lines sets up a reorganization of the space, a continual struggle against balance. Although the structure seems static to all appearances, one can observe intense movement in the lineal bodies because of the conflicts and contrasts of form."(2) That equilibrated poetics of motion forms the basis of all of her work, and in the present Untitled, No. 17, the relational balance of the lines sets up perceptual vibrations that inflect the surrounding space in all directions. Indeed, the synergy of the lines ultimately dissolved one's experience of reality itself, as Gego reflected in one of her meditative "sabiduras," or "words of wisdom":
Relations of lines
neither from the reality of seeing
nor from the reality
Image that dissolves reality(3)
1) I. Peruga, "Gego: The Prodigious Game of Creating," in Gego, 1955-1990: Una selección, Caracas, Museo de Bellas Artes, 2002, 72.
2) Gego, quoted in M. L. Cárdenas, "A Conversation with Gego," in Gego 1957-1968: Thinking the Line, New York: Distributed Art Publishers, 2006, 225-26.
3) Gego, "Sabiduras," in Sabiduras and Other Texts by Gego, New Haven, Yale University Press, 2005, 33.