Naum Gabo

Two Cubes (Demonstrating the Stereometric Method)

1930

Artist
Naum Gabo 1890–1977
Medium
Painted wood
Dimensions
Object: 305 x 305 x 305 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by the artist 1977
Reference
T02166

Not on display

Display caption

Gabo used this work to illustrate his essay ‘Sculpture: Carving and Construction in Space’ in the anthology Circle. The two cubes show two ways of defining space in sculpture – one uses solid mass while the other expresses the form’s ‘inner space’. The latter was the key concept behind Gabo’s constructions; he sought to make the space occupied by an object visible without enclosing it. ‘Inner space’ was an example of what Gabo called the ‘Constructive idea’, where the boundaries between the object and the artist’s perceptions of that object were dissolved, so that ‘art becomes reality’.

Gallery label, April 2012

Catalogue entry

Naum Gabo 1890-1977

T02166 Two Cubes demonstrating the Stereometric Method 1930

Not inscribed
Painted plywood, each 12 x 12 x 12 (30.5 x 30.5 x 30.5)
Presented by the artist 1977
Exh: Gabo: konstruktive Plastik, Kestner-Gesellschaft, Hanover, November 1930 (2a); Naum Gabo: The Constructive Process, Tate Gallery, November 1976-January 1977 (5) as 'Two Cubes (demonstrating stereometric method)'

The artist confirmed in a letter of 17 August 1977 from Mrs Miriam Gabo that these two plywood cubes were made for his exhibition at the Kestner-Gesellschaft, Hanover, in November 1930, as demonstrations of the stereometric method of construction. One is in the form of a conventional cube, but the other has two horizontal squares of plywood at top and bottom with two diagonally intersecting vertical planes in between, so that it is open on all four sides. The catalogue for the Hanover exhibition lists under no.2:

Models to illustrate the new stereometric form in comparison with the old massive sculptured form.
(a) Pair for comparison: massive cube. - constructed cube (diagonal crossed planes).
(b) Pair for comparison: massive column. - constructed column (double T-form).
These two cubes were exhibited as no.2a.

The Kestner-Gesellschaft exhibition included a small introductory section to illustrate the origins of Constructivism, including examples of Cubism (a drawing by Picasso), Futurism (a drawing by Corona) and Suprematism (a painting by Malevich). These explanatory models were followed by a drawing of the same forms and by the sculpture 'Constructed Head' 1915 as 'The first application of the stereometric method in sculpture'. Gabo also gave a lecture at the time of the exhibition on 'The Rational and Irrational in Art', followed by a discussion..

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, p.242, reproduced p.242