Defying structures: Gego and the crisis of geometric abstraction in the Americas.

Monica Maria Amor, City University of New York, Graduate Center

Abstract

This dissertation investigates the work of German-Venezuelan artist Gego (Gertrud Luise Goldschmidt, 1912--1994) in the context of sculptural practices of the sixties in Venezuela, Brazil, and the United States. In these countries, the legacy of Constructivism, and geometric abstraction in general, provided a formal matrix in relation to which a radical rethinking of the art object was elaborated. As a result of a crisis of the pictorial and sculptural signifier, artists developed strategies in which issues of space, spectatorship, public address, environmental scale and temporal conditions were paramount.;The investigation focuses on Gego's most important work: the Reticularea, first installed in 1969 at the Museo de Bellas Artes de Caracas, and permanently housed by Gego at the Galeria de Arte Nacional, Caracas in 1980. The Reticularea, made of meshes and nets of metal connected and dispersed irregularly within the space of a room, was entitled by critic Roberto Guevara prior to its first exhibition in 1969. The word reticula, as in the English reticule, refers to a network of lines or a net, therefore, Reticularea alludes to an area of nets. Line, and the inherent liminality of drawing, allowed Gego to circumvent the hierarchical organization and constructive nature of the sculptural object, its material integrity, its common figure/ground relationship to the visual field, and its reliance on volume and shape. To Gego, the linear grid provided a matrix, which once submitted to manual deformation (she wove her nets manually with the aid of assistants and friends), undid the rectilinearity of the architectural space in which the work was inserted, destroying the differentiation between the environment and the work's apprehension by the viewer.;Related concerns with space, spectatorship and the reconceptualization of conventional paradigms of pictorial and sculptural production are studied in the work of artists Lygia Clark an Helio Oiticica, and artists Eva Hesse, Donald Judd and Robert Morris. During the sixties, both artists from North and South America found themselves at an impasse and were compelled, within the different local circumstances and contexts they confronted, to rethink the status of geometric abstraction, to redefine the art object, and along with it, its modes of production, its audiences and its modes of circulation.