Naum Gabo

Linear Construction No. 2


Naum Gabo 1890–1977
Plastic and nylon threads
Object: 1130 × 600 × 590 mm
Presented by the artist through the American Federation of Arts 1969

Display caption

'Linear Construction No.2' exists in over twenty versions, both standing and hanging. The light-catching nylon filament is wound around two intersecting plastic planes. The stringing gives a delicate sense of three dimensions in the complicated patterns created by the irregular lobe shapes of the transparent plastic. It was developed from Gabo's unrealised project for the lobby of the Esso Building in New York in the late 1940s. Two sculptures similar to 'Linear Construction No.2' were designed to be located on top of the two revolving lobby doors, turning slowly. It was one of Gabo's favourite works and was presented to the Tate in memory of the art historian Herbert Read.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

Naum Gabo 1890-1977

T01105 Linear Construction No.2 1970-1

Not inscribed
Plastic with nylon threads, 45 1/4 x 32 7/8 x 32 7/8 (115 x 83.5 x 83.5)
Presented by the artist through the American Federation of Arts in memory of Sir Herbert Read 1971
Exh: Naum Gabo: The Constructive Process, Tate Gallery, November 1976-January 1977 (86, repr.)
Repr: Burlington Magazine, CXII, 1970, p.343 (the original version); Burlington Magazine, CXVIII, 1976, p.878 (the remake)

This version of 'Linear Construction No.2' was preceded by a version 30.5cm high now in the Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, Massachusetts, four 38cm high in various private collections, and three 91cm high belonging to Mrs Miriam Gabo, to the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, and to the Art Institute of Chicago. (Gabo's unrealised project of 1949 for the decoration of the Esso Building in the Rockefeller Center, New York, also included two forms of this type mounted above the revolving doors on the 52nd Street side and designed to turn with the doors - see the note on T02184). Mrs Gabo's piece, which is the earliest, dates from 1949-53. All these are in colourless transparent plastic, but apart from the one at Andover, all have a black cut-out shape in the centre. The present work was made specially for presentation to the Tate in memory of Sir Herbert Read, and the artist wrote on 26 August 1969 that 'I decided to make this work, "Linear Construction 2" because I know that Herbert was very fond of that image and I myself made this piece so that it differs from all other versions of it. I made it all white, without the black inlay in the center because I felt that in order to keep the spirit of serenity as a memory of Herbert, no black should be in it'. (In saying this he must have forgotten that the Andover piece, obtained from him by exchange in 1952 and entitled 'Linear Construction, No.2, Variation No.1', also has no black middle insert). The first version, made in 1968-9, was damaged and the piece had to be entirely remade in the winter of 1970-1. It is intended to hang, but also be just supported by a base. The effect should be more or less static but with a slight suggestion of turning.

There is also another related sculpture of 1962-5 entitled 'Variation Linear No.2' in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, which is made of stainless steel wire on plastic and which stands on a base instead of hanging.

Sir Herbert Read, who was one of Gabo's oldest and dearest friends, was a great admirer and supporter of his work.

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.266, reproduced p.266

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