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Gerd Leufert, ca. 1960. Photo: Courtesy Cecilia de Torres Gallery, LTD.

Gerd Leufert Gego

Gerd Leufert was born in 1914 in Memel, a coastal Lithuanian town which was later occupied by Germany. He attended the Akademie der Bildenden Künste (Academy of Fine Arts) in Munich in 1939 where he studied graphic design, and became a member of the Werkbund, an interdisciplinary association founded on the social importance of design and craftsmanship. He worked for several German publishing houses, and upon migrating to Caracas, Venezuela, in 1951, continued to work as a designer. Leufert’s contribution to visual culture, graphic design, and museology is paramount in Venezuela. He was credited with bringing the rigor of German design principles to the country, and was well regarded for his work as an art and graphic design teacher in various Caracas educational institutions. His art practice was continuous and evolving: looser and more organic than his graphic art and displaying a dedication to the expressive potential of line, undergirded by a fine understanding of the communicative potential of articulated space.1 In 1954 he was the subject of several solo exhibitions in Caracas, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, in which his monotypes and collages figured prominently.2 Over the next four decades Leufert participated in solo and group exhibitions in Germany, France, Holland, Colombia, and Mexico, among others.

From 1961 to 1973, Leufert worked at the Museo de Bellas Artes (Museum of Fine Arts), Caracas, first as a designer, rebranding the museum’s visual identity, and later as the curator of drawings and graphic design. During his tenure he developed numerous exhibitions and published nearly three hundred exhibition catalogues, of which he personally designed two hundred.3 During this time he also published celebrated and award-winning books, including Visibilia (1966), Imposibilia (1968), Nenias (1970), and Sin Arco (1971), which featured his groundbreaking graphic design. Upon retirement, from 1974–79, Leufert was part of a group of four designers who developed La nueva estampilla Venezolana (The new Venezuelan stamp) series of postage stamps, which were exhibited in Venezuela and Prague, then-Czechoslovakia.4 Boundless in his invention, he then focused on creating sculpture in organic materials and on a new venture into photography. In 1990 he was awarded Venezuela’s Premio Nacional de Artes Plásticas (National Fine Arts Prize), followed by an exhibition of his photographs at Sala RG, Caracas, curated by Miguel Arroyo (Venezuelan, 1920–2004).5 In the last years of his life, Leufert continued to exhibit his drawings and photographs at Centro Cultural Consolidado (Consolidated Cultural Center), Caracas (1992), Museo de Arte Contemporáneo (Museum of Contemporary Art) de Maracay Mario Abreu (1992), and Museo de Bellas Artes (1994–95). He passed away in Caracas in 1998.

— Sophia Marisa N. Lucas

1: Victoria de Stefano, “Introduction,” in La emblemática de Gerd Leufert: Selección realizada por Alvaro Sotillo (Caracas: Ediciones Galería de Arte Nacional, 1984), pp. 6–7.
2: Iris Peruga and Marco Rodríguez del Camino, eds., Espacios imaginarios y reales: Tintas de Gerd Leufert, exh. cat. (Caracas: Museo de Bellas Artes Caracas, 1994), p. 24.
3: Miguel G. Arroyo C., ed., Gerd Leufert: Diseñador (Caracas: Museo de Bellas Artes, 1976), p. 14.
4: Francisco da Antonio et al., eds., Diccionario biográfico de las artes visuales en Venezuela (Caracas: Fundación Galería de Arte Nacional, 2005), vol. 2, pp. 689–93.
5: Peruga and Rodríguez del Camino, Espacios imaginarios y reales, p. 24.

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