“There is no danger for me to get stuck,” Gego once reflected, “because with each line I draw, hundreds more wait to be drawn.”1The German-born artist Gertrude Goldschmidt, known professionally as Gego, arrived in Venezuela in August 1939. Trained as an architect and engineer, she renewed her artistic practice 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. Adapting the constructivist principles that she had earlier studied at the Bauhaus, she embarked on new experiments with line, probing the architectonics of space in between two and three dimensions. Her practice encompassed breakthroughs in sculpture, from the vertically cascading Chorros and Troncos to the modular webs of the Reticuláreas, as well as prolific drawings that probed the (im)materiality of line, texture, and transparency.
“I discovered the charm of the line in and of itself—the line in space as well as the line drawn on a surface, and the nothing between the lines and the sparkling when they cross, when they are interrupted, when they are of different colors or different types,” Gego observed. “I discovered that sometimes the in-between lines [are] as important as the line by itself.” 2 Beginning around 1957, her early drawings explored relationships between planes of parallel lines and their intimations of volume through layers and striations of space. They evolved into the triangular topology of grids and meshes first seen in the “reticular drawings,” among them the present work, in 1969. Their emergence marked a key inflection point in Gego’s practice during this crucial year, the revelations of which she later recounted:
Escape from the scheme of intercrossing parallel or quasi-
Beginning of drawings with clearly interwoven lines
forming flat or modulated nets.
Highlighting of crossover points.
To give these meshes real reality in space
with articulated intersections to control modulation,
the fields between the lines had to be triangular.
These reticular drawings anticipated her Dibujos sin papel and the first Reticulárea, installed at the Museo de Bellas Artes de Caracas in June 1969. A paradigmatic series, the Reticuláreas adapted the idea of the mesh into room-sized tessellations of netted, stainless-steel wire that triangulated, web-like and luminous, around the viewer. Environmental and experiential, they structured space in marvelously parallactic ways, their warping, linear volumes the embodiment of sculpture’s radical, emancipatory potential.
Gego’s apprehension of this reticular construction had taken shape in contemporary ink drawings, in which the liberation of line led progressively into real space. “Early this year,” curator Lourdes Blanco wrote in 1969, “her line took on paper an entirely different character: it became radial, it traced triangles, hexagons. The step into spaces was made with linear elements such as florist and stainless steel wire—clipped to manageable lengths—with which she could draw freely in space, delineating volume without confining it.”4 The tensile lines of the present drawing describe a plastic, prismatic space, its shallow depth articulated by a number of painted nodes dispersed asymmetrically, seemingly at random, across the page. Primary-colored and tactile, these marks suggest the joints of the Reticulárea, crafted by hand with wires and tubes; comparably, here, they register the graphic touch of the artist and orient an airy lattice of undulating, interstitial space.
“I use the lines to define spaces, to define space itself,” Gego elaborated. “In the case of the drawings, the treatment of the line is more important and the varying qualities of the lines become more patent. . . . The crisscrossing of lines proposes a reorganization of space, a permanent rupture of the equilibrium. Although in appearance the structure is static, an intense movement of the linear bodies is observed through the tension and contrasts of shapes.”5 Her reticular drawings make visible the liminal, and conceptually infinite, spaces cultivated by and through these lines, subtly shaping transparency and volume across the continuous surface of the paper. For Gego, the synergy of lines ultimately dissolved reality itself, as she wrote in one of her sagacious “sabiduras” (words of wisdom):
Relations of lines
neither from the reality of seeing
nor from the reality
Image that dissolves reality.6
Abby McEwen, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland, College Park