Naum Gabo

Sketch for a Kinetic Construction


Not on display

Naum Gabo 1890–1977
Ink on paper
Support: 432 × 314 mm
Presented by the artist 1977

Display caption

These sketches are for works both realised and unrealised. Sketch (1917) is reminiscent of several reliefs made in the 1920s, and has been compared to Gabo's 1925 Model for 'Rotating Fountain' (on display here). Sketch (1918-19) is for a relief that would have been composed of intersecting planes protruding from a wall or reaching across a corner. Gabo's aim to make a public art that could play a role in the new society promised by the Russian Revolution is reflected by First Sketch for a Monument¿(1919) Sketch for a Kinetic Construction (1922) demonstrates his radical introduction of real movement to articulate space.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

Naum Gabo 1890-1977

T02154 Sketch for a Kinetic Construction 1922

Inscribed in cyrillic 'N. Gabo | 1922' b.r.
India ink on graph paper, overall dimensions 17 x 12 3/8 (43.1 x 33)
Presented by the artist 1977
Exh: Naum Gabo, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, April-June 1965 (t10); Kunsthalle, Mannheim, June-August 1965 (57); Wilhelm-Lehmbruck-Museum, Duisburg, August-October 1965 (57); Kunsthaus, Zurich, October-December 1965 (57); Den inre och den yttre Rymden, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, January-February 1966 (117); Naum Gabo, Tate Gallery, March-April 1966 (76); Naum Gabo, Louisiana Museum, Humlebaek, November 1970-January 1971 (29); Sonja Henies og Niels Onstads Stiftelser, Høvikodden, March-April 1971 (no catalogue); Nationalgalerie, Berlin, April-May 1971 (25); Kunstverein, Hanover, June-July 1971 (25); Musée de Peinture et de Sculpture, Grenoble, September-October 1971 (28); Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris, November-December 1971 (28); Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Galeria de Exposições Temporárias, Lisbon, January-February 1972 (27); Naum Gabo: The Constructive Process, Tate Gallery, November 1976-January 1977 (14)

Drawn on a sheet of grease-proof type graph paper. The paper was afterwards folded in half, then again, and there are three small pencil sketches inside the folded area showing different ideas for sculpture.

The main drawing, in India ink, appears to have been developed by a tracing process from two closely related undated drawings of the same size in the artist's estate which are done on the same kind of transparent squared paper. The first of these is drawn mainly in pencil, and is rather tentative and experimental, with some additional lines and corrections. He then seems to have made the second drawing by tracing the relevant lines from the first in pen and ink, but also adding several further sweeping curves in pencil. This drawing has an inscription in Russian which can be translated as follows:

1 bar equals 16 periods
its sign = [musical symbol for a semibreve]
1/2 bar = 8p.
its sign = [musical symbol for a semibreve, crossed through horizontally]
1/4 bar = 4p.
its sign = [musical symbol for a crotchet]
1/8 = 2 = [musical symbol for a quaver]
1/16 = 1 = [musical symbol for a semiquaver]

The Tate's drawing must have been traced in turn from the second and corresponds very closely to the pen and ink lines in the latter, apart from several very minor additions.

They appear to be related to a much more finished and complex pen and ink drawing of 1922 reproduced in Herbert Read and Leslie Martin, Gabo: Constructions, Sculpture, Paintings, Drawings, Engravings (London 1957), pl.16 as 'Design for Kinetic Construction', with a note that 'This construction is an oscillating rod which in movement forms a volume'. The final project would seem to involve several different moving elements, but it was never carried out and might have been mechanically impossible. The relevance of the musical references (which seem to be inaccurate) is unclear.

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, pp.237-8, reproduced p.237


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