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Gego, 1984. Photo: Isidro Núñez, Fundación Gego Archive

Gerd Leufert Gego

Gego was born Gertrude Goldschmidt in Hamburg, Germany, in 1912, and migrated to Venezuela in 1939, fleeing Nazi Germany. Trained as an architect at the Technische Hochschule (Technical School) of Stuttgart, now the Universität Stuttgart, she began her career in Caracas working at several architectural firms. Gego had maintained her practice of painting and drawing, and in the early 1950s she abandoned work as an architect to pursue art. In 1954 she exhibited for the first time in Venezuela at the XV Salón Oficial Anual de Arte Venezolano (XV Annual Official Salon of Venezuelan Art) at the Museo de Bellas Artes (Museum of Fine Arts), Caracas, and earned her first solo show in 1958. In the following decade, she explored the relationship between line, space, and volume, following a nonobjective language. She continued developing her visual vocabulary, working in engraving and sculpture, fastidiously conducting investigations of spheres and cubes, all the while conveying a dynamism with her lines that set her apart from her peers.

From 1963 to 1967 Gego focused on refining her printing technique by making grant-funded trips to print workshops at the Pratt Institute in New York and the Tamarind Lithography Workshop in Los Angeles. In 1967 she was awarded a prize for her lithographs at the XXVIII Salón Oficial Anual de Arte Venezolano (XXVIII Official Annual Salon of Venezuelan Art). Gego’s work of the late 1960s and 1970s shows her experimentation with new materials and three-dimensional construction techniques. With their intrinsic animism, transparency of construction, and sensitivity to gravity, Gego’s Reticulárea (Reticula [Net] + Area, 1969), Chorros (Streams, 1970-71), and Dibujos sin Papel (Drawings without paper, 1976-88) encouraged intimate engagement with the spectator.1 Gego continued to exhibit widely and produced several additional public works. In 1977 her largest solo exhibition, “Gego,” opened at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo (Museum of Contemporary Art) in Caracas. In 1979 she was awarded Venezuela’s Premio Nacional de Artes Plásticas (National Fine Arts Prize), and in 1981, her installation Reticulárea was permanently installed at the Galería de Arte Nacional (National Art Gallery), Caracas. She continued to experiment and produce, in the late 1980s, small sculptures called Bichitos (Little Bugs), paper strips interweaved with other found printed material in Tejeduras (Weavings), and prints on silk. Highly idiosyncratic, Gego’s oeuvre was and remains iconic among her contemporaries, proponents of Venezuelan kinetic art, such as Jesús Rafael Soto and Alejandro Otero, and post-war Constructivists. Gego’s dexterity with various art forms produced a consistent expression of her ideas wherein differences in media were nearly dissolved to her subject matter. Gego passed away in 1994 and her family created the Fundación Gego in Caracas that very same year to help disseminate her legacy.

— Sophia Marisa N. Lucas

1: Mari Carmen Ramírez, “Para leer Gego entre la línea / Reading Gego between the Line,” in Questioning the Line: Gego in Context, edited by Mari Carmen Ramírez and Theresa Papanikolas (Houston: Museum of Fine Arts, 2003), pp. 17–39.

The Bertha and Karl Leubsdorf Art Gallery Hunter West Building 68th St between Park Ave & Lexington Ave NY, NY 10065 www.hunter.cuny.edu/art/galleries, Tues–Sat: 1–6pm, T 212-772-4991