Gego (Gertrud Goldschmidt)

Horizontal Square Reticularia 71/10


Not on display

Gego (Gertrud Goldschmidt) 1912–1994
Original title
Reticularia Cuadrada horizontal 71/10
Steel rods and metal joints
Object: 705 x 1400 x 705 mm
Purchased with assistance from Tate International Council, the Tate Americas Foundation, and the Latin American Acquisitions Committee 2014


Horizontal Square Reticularea 71/10 1971 is a floor-based sculpture comprised of thin steel rods and metal joints. The steel rods have been assembled to form a roughly rectangular net that is itself composed of a number of cube or partial-cube forms. The cube forms are not all closed on all sides and some of their edges are missing, therefore the sculpture forms an imperfect grid, based on a play of positive and negative space. This ‘incomplete’ structure, as well as the relative thinness of the rods and the scale of the cubes cause the rods to bend. As such the sculpture demonstrates an irregular geometry, subject to distortion and movement. Gego’s deliberate manipulations of ‘pure’ geometry in Horizontal Square Reticularea 71/10 introduce elements of kineticism, organicism and irregularity into the basic form of the grid that are characteristic of Gego’s work. This work was shown in Gego’s solo exhibition Gego Esculturas at the Galeria Conkright in Caracas in 1971 and was included in the exhibition Gego: Defying Structures at the Museu Serralves, Porto, and MACBA, Barcelona, in 2006.

Horizontal Square Reticularea 71/10 comes from a small series of Square Reticulareas that date from the early 1970s. Gego developed these in dialogue with her environmental-scale installation Reticularea, which she made in 1969. Art historian Monica Amor has compared the Square Reticulareas with the earlier environmental work, stating that ‘the triangular module of the first Reticularea was substituted by a grid which seemed on the verge of constant deformation as the flexible connections made with leader sleeves and thin rods of steel allow for unexpected folding and distortions’. She goes on to say that this can in itself be seen as an ‘exploration of the vulnerability of geometric and architectural forms’. (Monica Amor, ‘Nature Unbound: Gego’s Chorros and Related Proposals of the Seventies’, in Bois, Brett, Amor and Peruga 2006, p.28.) The art historian Iris Peruga has also described the genesis of these works as based on a potentially infinitely expanding pattern of squares or cubes and in so doing has stressed the way in which they address the body of the viewer and form a potential continuity with other works displayed alongside them:

After Gego decided to stop making environmental Reticulareas, she continued to give the name Reticularea to all of her works that were based on the idea of the mesh or net, even though they remained individual non-environmental pieces and their modules were not triangular but square. Given their ability to grow and combine, these works can be considered potential environmental works, in fact, they were frequently shown in groups, inviting the spectator to walk among them. In this light, these works (meshes or nets) offer a different perceptual experience from the previous individual pieces, which functioned as independent and individualized objects, distanced from the spectator.
(Iris Peruga, ‘Gego: The Prodigious Game of Creating’, in Amor, Auerbach, Peruga and others 2003, p.386.)

These aspects of organicism and destabilised geometry as well as Gego’s concentration on a phenomenological interaction between the artwork and the body of the viewer have been read as instances of how Gego’s work, like that of Brazilian artists Hélio Oiticica and Lygia Clark, disrupted the ordered geometry of early twentieth-century European modernism and its Latin American manifestation, concrete art. In contrast, the art historian Yves-Alain Bois has taken issue with the reading of the Square Reticulareas as deconstructions of the grid, ‘resolutely rebelling against the rationality of modernism’, and instead describes them as ‘simple distortions of the grid akin to basic exercises in topology’. (Yves-Alain Bois, ‘From the Spider’s Web’, in Bois, Brett, Amor and Peruga 2006, pp.47–8.) Topology is a mathematical discipline that emerged from geometry and concerns itself with the study of three-dimensional space and the properties of objects during a process of deformation or transformation, such as stretching or bending.

In addition to sculpture and installation Gego also made artist’s books and the large-scale public commission Quadrilaterals (Cuadriláteros) 1983 for the La Hoyada underground station in her adopted hometown of Caracas in Venezuela.

Further reading
Monica Amor, Ruth Auerbach, Iris Peruga and others, Gego Obra Completa 1955–1990, Fundacion Cisneros, Caracas 2003.
Yves-Alain Bois, Guy Brett, Monica Amor and Iris Peruga, Gego: Defying Structures, Museu Serralves, Porto 2006, reproduced p.131.

Tanya Barson
May 2012

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Display caption

Gego’s work often relates to a tradition in modern art of using grids and geometric forms. The ‘Reticularea’ series was based on the idea of the mesh or net. These wire sculptures were composed of repeated geometric forms that were articulated and thus flexible. This grid-like form is comprised of incomplete cubes and asymmetrical polygons and its flexibility allows for distortions. As a potentially infinitely expanding pattern it is also a potential environment for the body of the viewer.

Gallery label, October 2016

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