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Venezuelan curator, professor, and art critic Mónica Amor evaluates two catalogues published on the occasion of two exhibitions featuring work by German-born Venezuelan artist Gego: Gego 1957–1988: Thinking the Line (Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz, 2006), edited by Nadja Rottner and Peter Weibel; and Gego: Between Transparency and the Invisible (Houston: Museum of Fine Arts, and New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006), edited by Mari Carmen Ramírez, Catherine de Zegher, Robert Storr, and Josefina Manrique. Amor asserts that those publications make a major contribution to art history; they are complementary in terms of focus and material covered, and they open up lines of research that challenge patterns entrenched in art history since the sixties and seventies. Amor explains the main ideas formulated by the researchers in the essays in the two publications and, in criticizing those ideas, she develops her own theories of Gego’s art.

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Venezuelan curator, professor, and art critic Mónica Amor evaluates two catalogues published on the occasion of two exhibitions featuring work by German-born Venezuelan artist Gego (Gertrud Goldschmidt, Hamburg, 1912–Caracas, 1994): Gego 1957–1988: Thinking the Line (Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz, 2006), edited by Nadja Rottner and Peter Weibel; and Gego: Between Transparency and the Invisible (Houston: Museum of Fine Arts, and New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006), edited by Mari Carmen Ramírez, Catherine de Zegher, Robert Storr, and Josefina Manrique. A professor of modern and contemporary art at the Maryland Institute College of Art, Amor studies contemporary art that is bound, in one way or another, to architecture. She is an expert in Gego’s work, having curated the show “Gego: Defying Structures” at the Museu Serralves in Porto, Portugal (2006) and written numerous articles and essays on her work. Amor’s remarks in this article are relevant not only because they point out the main contributions of the researchers writing in those two publications, but also because they criticize the ideas put forth in them and, in so doing, reveal Amor’s own theories about Gego’s intriguing art. Amor also provides an overview of the state of the historiography on Gego, pointing out common approaches and some still unexplored but promising lines of research.

 

Amor begins by discussing the book Thinking the Line. She points out that, because the book includes interviews and critiques of Gego’s works by her contemporaries in Venezuela, it provides the reader with a sense, albeit a cursory one, of the enthusiastic reception her work received among local critics. Amor goes on to explain the main arguments developed by Bruno Bosteels, Juan Ledezma, Kaira Marie Cabañas, Hannah Feldman, Julieta González, and Luis Enrique Pérez Oramas in their respective essays. She points out that Bosteels’s essay addresses facets of Gego’s work that have been widely discussed in the historiography, issues like the use of rhizomatic, organic, and constructivist models and the status of the subject/viewer; that essay fails to address, however, Gego’s public works. Ledezma, in Amor’s view, duly addresses the public dimension and social reading of Gego’s work. His sole frame of reference is early-20th century constructivist practices, however, and he fails to see how those practices contradict the notion of “failure” deeply rooted in Gego’s Reticuláreas and Dibujos sin papel (Drawings without Paper). Amor explains that Cabañas addresses the social aspect of Gego’s work from a phenomenological perspective. She underscores her hypothesis that Gego does not use geometry merely as a model, but rather constructs a space-time negotiation that operates in tandem with collaborative production of the social space. While Amor supports the difference that Cabañas draws between Gego’s phenomenological work and the optical manipulations of kinetic art, she criticizes her assertion that the work of kinetic artist Jesús Soto does not address “a real empirical body,” since Amor believes that those two artists are bound by certain playful, tactile, and environmental factors. Amor disagrees with the multinational reading of Gego’s work put forth by Feldman, who describes it as “European.” In that stance, Amor argues, Feldman looks to the ideas of art critic Marta Traba, who asserted that geometric abstraction in Venezuela ignored that country’s social problems. In Amor’s view, Gego’s work neither precludes a nomadic reading nor allies itself with the national: her work is a rendering of the urban disarray all around her, the result of careful observation of the environment from the marginal point of view of an immigrant and a woman.

 

Amor has analyzed Gego’s work in depth, particularly her Reticuláreas, and on that work, see [Afirmar que una noción convencional de la historia…] found in “Between Spaces: The Reticulárea and its Place in History, Gego, 1955–1990,” (2003) [ICAA digital archive (doc. 1281156)] and “Another geometry: Gego’s Reticulárea, 1969–1982,” (2005) (doc. no. 1149547). In Gego: desafiando estructuras = Defying Structures,” (1995–96) (doc. no. 1156347), Amor criticizes the constructivist and organicist vision that has been used to classify Gego’s work. “Gego: para entrar al espacio” (doc. no. 1149443) is an early assessment of Gego’s work written by Venezuelan art critic Roberto Guevara (1932–98) in 1977.

Researcher
Giovanna Bassi; ICAA Team
Team
International Center for the Arts of the Americas, MFAH, Houston, USA
Credit
Reproduced with permission of Mónica Amor, Caracas, Venezuela