The editorial categories are research topics that have guided researchers during the recovery phase and continue to be the impetus behind the Documents Project’s digital archive and the Critical Documents book series. Developed by the project’s Editorial Board, each of the teams analyzed this framework and adapted it to their local contexts in developing their research objectives and work plans during the Recovery Phase. Learn more on the Editorial Framework page.
Marta Traba analyzes the entire body of artwork integrated with architecture in Caracas created by Gego, and contrasts them with those created by Jesús Soto and Carlos Cruz Díez, practitioners of Venezuelan Kinetic art. Traba observes that Gego’s work is based on her training as an architect/engineer; thus, Gego “thinks like an architect, solves problems like an engineer, and projects as an artist.” In Traba’s opinion, Gego’s work can be investigative, complex, and poetic, and at the same time calculating, as opposed to the gyrating games and visual illusions of Kinetic art. Referring to the artists working in Kinetic art, Traba states that they “have no right” to make artwork that mimics American and European art, introducing such work into an [economically] poor society such as Latin America.
This essay, written in 1974 by the Colombian critic originally from Argentina, Marta Traba (1923–1983), has been considered the first important critical text written on the work of the Venezuelan artist originally from Germany, Gego (Gertrud Goldschmidt, 1912–1994). As Traba notes at the outset of this essay, apart from the occasional news story and brief essays for catalogs, the critics have been generally dismissive of Gego. Traba decides to analyze the works Gego has on exhibition in public spaces as well as those integrated with architecture, an environmental approach in which the artist was a pioneer. By way of background, when this article was written, Caracas was flourishing in the midst of a round of urban renewal brought on by the high petroleum revenues garnered by Venezuela during that period. Thus, a number of buildings and other public spaces were springing up, amid aspirations that they be distinguished by their architecture, originality, and luxury, and upheld by ostentatious and avant-garde artwork. Traba highlights Gego’s research and the seriousness of the works she executed in this context, in which she put technology and science in service of an aesthetic approach that is audacious, fluid, and natural as it relates to the architectural environment. She compares these qualities with those she perceives in exhibitions of Kinetic art, patronized (in her opinion) by the “power brokers” of Caracas. She classifies these works as simple “visual games,” “pyrotechnic statements,” among other equally contemptuous epithets. These works were nevertheless broadly heralded by the critics and by the general public. Traba performs an in depth and complete evaluation of Gego’s work, set forth in a positive and one might say, sure-footed way—partly as an act of justice, to acknowledge the artist’s hard work. But there is also a moral judgment in this article, stated in the rejection and statements she makes about works of Kinetic art, when she states her opinion that they “don’t have a right” to create what the critic perceives (in a summary, superficial way) as visual games. This is because she believes they have no place in a society where misery and chaos persist. Although she insistently maintains this stance, she does make generic exceptions for some works by the Kinetic artists. In this regard, Traba goes back to ideas she first stated in 1965 during a controversy stirred up by her article, “El arte latinoamericano: un falso apocalipsis” [Latin American Art: A False Apocalypse], published in the literary section of the newspaper, El Nacional, on May 2. In a similar development related to Gego’s work, years later, this argument would be resurrected and used in sociopolitical discussions as well as their aesthetic counterparts by the Venezuelan critic and curator, Luis Enrique Pérez Oramas. These lines of thought would appear in his essay for the exhibition, La invención de la continuidad [The Invention of Continuity] (Caracas: Galería de Arte Nacional, 1997). This Traba text was published in Mirar en Caracas [Looking in Caracas] (Caracas: Monte Ávila Editores, 1974).