From July to October four of the Henry Moore Institute's galleries are dedicated to the work of Gego (1912-94), an artist who faithfully explored the possibilities of the line as an object. Gego was born Gertrud Goldschmidt in Hamburg, 1912, and emigrated to Caracas in 1939 immediately after finishing her architectural studies in Stuttgart. In Venezuela she began working as an artist in the 1950s, and became a citizen in 1952.
For five decades Gego expanded the line into planes, volumes and expansive nets to reflect on the nature of perception. Gego. Line as Object investigates the artist's unrivalled engagement with the problems of form and space, using light, shadow, scale and gravity in a constant process of discovery. This first UK solo presentation of Gego underlines her visionary approach to sculpture, a terminology that she refused to use for her own work. In one of her notebooks she exclaimed: 'Sculpture, three-dimensional forms of solid material. Never what I do!' Sculpture is concerned with weight, scale, gravity, light, space and encounter: terms embodied by Gego's study of the line as object. Here at the Henry Moore Institute, a centre for the study of sculpture, her work is claimed for sculpture. Gego's sculptures or, as she preferred to call them, bichos directly address the phenomenological encounter with sculpture.
The selection of works in Gego. Line as Object span a thirty-four year period. It begins in 1957, when Gego explicitly began to address sculptural thinking with the work 'Vibration in Black'. This torso-sized continuous form of painted black aluminium hangs from the ceiling, gently responding to air movement and spreading its volume through shadows. The latest works are from 1991, when Gego concentrated on her 'Tedejuras': interlaced paper strips that combined reproductions of her own works with pages from magazines and gold cigarette wrappings. Between these two points Gego made large-scale nets, columns and spheres that filled gallery spaces, as well as watercolours, ink drawings, prints and lithographs exploring the line in space, hand-sized sculptures made from material found in her studio and sculptures that stretched between the buildings in her home city of Caracas.
Gego was interested in the limitless possibilities of growth of the line. The Gego Foundation in Caracas, where research for this exhibition was conducted, holds the artist's book collection that includes an annotated copy of D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson's On Growth and Form (1917), a book that has lodged itself within the consciousness of twentieth-century sculpture and that is the subject of our concurrent Gallery 4 exhibition.
Gego: Line as Object is a collaboration between the Henry Moore Institute, Hamburger Kunsthalle and Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, and is funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation, and research in Caracas has been assisted by Fundación Cisneros. The presentation at the Henry Moore Institute is supported by the artEDU Foundation. A fully illustrated catalogue is available in our bookshop.