The Henry Moore Institute currently hosts an exhibition of Gego’s work. ‘Line as Object’ is an impressive display of some 40 pieces of the artist’s work, spanning four galleries. This vast display is presented in collaboration with the Hamburger Kunsthalle and Kunstmuseum Stuttgart and is the first UK show dedicated entirely to Gego’s work. This dynamic and interactive exhibition consists of a large collection of both sculptures and drawings produced over a thirty-four-year period.
Born Gertrud Goldschmitt in Hamburg 1912, Gego was an architectural studies graduate and visionary artist who produced works that explore the concept of the line as object. Such architectural study, teaching, and interest in the use of and interaction with space is evident at many points within this show. Her pieces demonstrate an extensive engagement with line, light, and form. The exhibition presents Gego’s playful work that at once reveals attention to the aforementioned while communicating her extensive concern with symmetry and meticulous attention to detail. Her sculptures become intricately created webs and nets, fascinating in their dynamism and energy. What stands out with Gego’s work is the notion of never-ending possibility – of work in progress, drawings that could extend, expand, forever outwards or inwards.
The pieces give off a kinetic energy as we interact with them – they are three-dimensional, angular pieces embedded with their own vitality. Their gentle motion while suspended in mid-air is affecting – line becomes limitless poetry. The way in which several pieces are attached by wire to the gallery ceiling allows the works to move by themselves, giving them a life of their own. This creates a relationship between the viewer, gallery space, and sculpture itself. Their suspension also creates a precarious balance in which the pieces appear fascinatingly weightless.
‘Line as Object’ is exceedingly interesting in that there is an intricate relationship between the sculptures and the rooms they occupy. This owes to Gego’s belief that space is its own form. The artworks are, in this sense, occupying the artwork of the room itself. The sculptural pieces ensure that the viewer appreciates all space – both occupied and blank – while relating with the spaces and gaps within the pieces themselves.
The pyramid and sphere mirages such as ‘Trunk No. 5” and more famous ‘Reticulárea’ demonstrate a delicate balance of wire and metal clasps – the structures are both strong and authoritative through their symmetry and balance. Gego’s concept of creating “drawings without paper” is reflected in such pieces and their installation within the gallery space. The line, in this exhibition, is continuously given the freedom to break away from the page. Some works appear as though three-dimensional scribbles.
Gego’s vibrant watercolours and drawings also play with aspects of space. In creating such works, the artist regularly used lines to intersect and disrupt the buildings and shapes she depicted. The inclusion of colour and shadows furthers the depth of space in the works, playing with our perception. Space is both mapped and re-imagined by the addition of lines. The watercolours and drawings, similarly to the sculptures, explore the relationship between line and space. The pieces often appear multi-dimensional despite their actual flatness. The paper is given a sense of motion and liveliness that increases viewer engagement with the artworks. The line appears to be seeking liberation from the page once again.
The works on show here are animated, mesmerising and exciting. The journey of geometric discovery embarked on by the artist is enhanced by the individual exhibition spaces. The works communicate infinite relationships between line, art and space, which the viewer is coaxed into becoming part of. The continual inspiration and resonance of Gego’s pieces in sculptural practice today is testament to the artist’s ambition and skill. Gego ensured that one thinks beyond line as mere line – it is shown to possess the ability to be both an object and a work of art in itself, with infinite possibilities.
‘Gego, Line as Object’ remains at The Henry Moore Institute in Leeds until 19th October 2014. For further information, please visit the gallery website.
Nicola Cappleman, 17th September 2014.