We are grateful to the Fundación Gego for their assistance in cataloguing this work.
"There is no danger for me to get stuck," Gego once reflected, "because with each line I draw, hundreds more wait to be drawn." Trained as an architect in her native Germany, Gertrude Goldschmidt (known professionally as Gego) arrived in Venezuela in 1939. She kept a low profile over the following decade as she acclimated to a new setting, but by the mid-1950s--with the support of the Lithuanian designer Gerd Leufert, who became her lifelong companion--she embarked on new experiments in line and space. Finding important points of reference in the work of Bauhaus artists, in particular Paul Klee, and in the geometric abstractions of Venezuela's emerging Cinéticos--Alejandro Otero, Carlos Cruz-Diez and Jesús Rafael Soto--Gego gradually evolved a new practice in two and three dimensions that broke with the technical determinacy of her earlier work.
"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 explained. "I discovered that sometimes the in-between lines [are] as important as the line by itself." That quality of "in-betweenness" characterizes Gego's body of work across different media, from the drawings and watercolors to the suspended lines of the Dibujos sin papel and the spatialized and sometimes room-sized grids of the Reticuláreas. Conceived independently of her sculptures, the drawings explore effects of transparency and density through what begin as seemingly minimal marks in ink and pencil onto a neutral ground. The structuring geometries of the grid are perceptually transformed in her practice, embodied with a nuanced materiality that reverberates from the slightest waverings of the line and the volumes that open up organically on the page.
In the present work, the subtle distensions of the networked lines suggest a gravitational energy relayed from the single vertical line that begins at the top of the paper. The suppleness and elasticity of the grid as it accommodates the pressures of the implied volume recall her three-dimensional work, in which synergies of line and movement suggest continual visual and spatial metamorphosis. The vitality of Gego's lines radiates from their points of convergence, Guy Brett has remarked, noting that she "devotes a great deal of attention--as well as a great deal of emotional delicacy--to the nodal points. Sometimes they echo the joints of the metal works, other times they are purely graphic, and occasionally they do something that only a drawing can do: the lines meet without meeting, creating a tiny void, a 'virtual' contact. An empty place that concentrates energy." From point to line to space, the drawings probe the expressive indeterminacies of geometry, as Gego herself suggested in one of her meditative "sabidurías," or "words of wisdom":
Line as human
means to express
the relation between
that is entirely abstract
in the sense: of not
Line as medium
the relation between points in space,
human descriptive thought.
Line as object to play with.
Abby McEwen, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland, College Park
1) Gego, "Testimony 4," in María Elena Huizi and Josefina Manrique, eds., Sabidurías and Other Texts by Gego (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005), 171.
3) Guy Brett, "Gego's Force Fields," in Mari Carmen Ramírez and Theresa Papanikolas, eds., Questioning the Line: Gego in Context (Houston: The Museum of Fine Arts, 2003), 179.
4) Gego, "Sabiduría 4," in Sabidurías and Other Texts by Gego, 33.