Gego (Gertrud Goldschmidt)



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Not on display
Gego (Gertrud Goldschmidt) 1912–1994
Ink on paper
Support: 655 x 505 mm
Presented by the Tate Americas Foundation, courtesy of the Latin American Acquisitions Committee 2019
On long term loan


Reticularea 1969 is a unique drawing in ink on paper composed of linear, irregular and uneven triangular modules with selected parts rendered more emphatically in a darker or bold line. The triangles are smaller and more compressed towards the top right corner of the drawing and spread out across the entire surface of the paper, becoming larger and wider towards the centre of the image. The composition of this drawing presents a working in two dimensions of the linear forms that characterise Gego’s sculptural practice, and, as signalled by its title, relates to her best-known work: the Reticularea environment of 1969 and the related body of sculptures that bear the same title and are also based on the form of a net or mesh (see, for example, Horizontal Square Reticularia 71/10 1971, Tate T14115). The sculptures in this series employ a thicker metal element at certain points in the same way as – and with a similar rhythm to – the use of bold line in this drawing. Thus, the drawing relates to Gego’s sculptural work in its investigation of the form and permutations of the net, of line and of the play of positive and negative space. Although the drawing has the same date and title as the environmental work and its related series, it is not a preparatory study for these. Gego’s drawing proceeds as a parallel practice to her sculpture and her works on paper are therefore artworks in their own right.

The drawing is from a key moment in Gego’s career, when she developed the distinctive language for which she is best known. It demonstrates particularly well the irregularity of the shapes and geometry she employed and her exploration of organicism through line. In place of Euclidean geometry (and perhaps reflecting the understanding that an implication of Einstein’s work on general relativity is that physical space is non-Euclidean) Gego subjects the forms in her work to distortion and movement. Such deliberate manipulations of ‘pure’ geometry introduce elements of kineticism that are also characteristic of Gego’s works, the structures of which are constantly undergoing deformation, folding and distortion (see Monica Amor, ‘Nature Unbound: Gego’s Chorros and Related Proposals of the Seventies’, in Museu Serralves 2006, p.28). The historian Iris Peruga has described the ways in which Gego’s works are most often based on a potentially infinitely expanding pattern, and her drawings are a good example of this: ‘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 … Given their ability to grow and combine, these works can be considered potential environmental works’ (Iris Peruga, ‘Gego: The Prodigious Game of Creating’, in Fundación Cisneros 2003, p.386).

The aspects of organicism and destabilised geometry found in Gego’s work (combined with a concentration on a phenomenological interaction with the body of the viewer) have been read as signs of how she disrupted the ordered geometry of early twentieth-century European modernism, and of Latin American manifestations of concrete art, in a manner that has often provoked comparison with the work of Brazilian artists Helio Oiticica (1937–1980) and Lygia Clark (1920–1988). The historian Yve-Alain Bois, however, has described Gego’s work as ‘simple distortions of the grid akin to basic exercises in topology’ (Yve-Alain Bois, ‘From the Spider’s Web’, in Museu Serralves 2006, pp.47–8). Topology is a mathematical discipline which 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.

Further reading
Monica Amor, Ruth Auerbach, Luis Perez Oramas, Iris Peruga and others, Gego: Obra Completa 1955–1990, Fundación Cisneros, Caracas 2003.
Yve-Alain Bois, Guy Brett, Monica Amor and Iris Peruga, Gego: Defying Structures, exhibition catalogue, Museu Serralves, Porto 2006.

Tanya Barson
May 2015

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