Gego: Exploding the Field
Amor, Monica, Art Journal
Nadja Rottner and Peter Weibel, eds. Gego 1957-1988:Thinking the Line. Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz, 2006. 240 pp., 62 color ills., 111 b/w. $55 paper.
Mari Carmen Ramirez, Catherine de Zegher, Robert Storr, and Josefina Manrique. Gego: Between Transparency and the Invisible. Houston: Museum of Fine Arts, and New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006. 256 pp., 85 color ills., 25 b/w. $50 paper.
The number of publications devoted to the work of the Venezuelan artist Gego (Getrud Goldschmidt, 1912-1994) in the last five years has suddenly repositioned her as a figure to reckon with in the fields of postwar drawing and sculpture. Her presence in group exhibitions, the recent surveys devoted to the artist, and her increasing appearance in classrooms all pose important questions about canon formation and about the idiosyncratic dynamics of a field exposed to the uneven dialogues between an entrenched conservatism, still pronounced in certain areas such as academia, and practices open to artistic and aesthetic paradigms that deviate from mainstream art-historical narratives. Last year alone, four exhibitions and corresponding catalogues highlighting specific areas of Gego's artistic production appeared: Gego 1957-1988: Thinking the Line, curated by Nadja Rottner and Peter Weibel (which paired Gego's work with that of artist Ruth Vollmer) ; Gego: Between Transparency and the Invisible, curated by Mari Carmen Ramirez (which emphasized the artist's dedication to drawing); Gego: Defying Structures, curated by myself and Bartomeu Mari (which focused on her second, most important environmental work, the Chorros of the early 19705); and Gego: Architect, curated by Hannia Gómez (devoted to Gego's public works and architectural background). Here, I will address the first two publications, which follow the classical format of exhibition catalogues, with essays by guest writers, a section of plates, a chronology, and a bibliography on the artist. Thinking the Line also includes interviews and criticism by contemporaries of Gego, sufficient to give the reader a taste of the local reception of her work, but not enough to make this section representative of the enthusiastic responses Gego generated in the Venezuelan intelligentsia. This gesture of inclusion, though, is crucial, as it gives voice to important interpreters of Gego's work whose words, in the recent literature, tend to be obscured by Alfred H. Barr, Jr.'s one-time (unrecorded) comment on Gego's "parallactical charm."1
Bruno Bosteels opens Thinking the Line with a text that attends to issues of inclusion and exclusion. His introduction summarizes debates of the 1990s that emphasize the pitfalls of geographic categorization in the arts and problematizes the linguistic/conceptual hierarchies in which Latin American art is inscribed-the latter always rendered the marked term of the unmarked/marked binary and therefore implicitly considered incomplete or lesser. Bosteels's excursus on modernity, colonialism, and the politics of neoliberalism concludes with doubts regarding Gego's public-art works, situated as they are (or were) in banks, shopping malls, "and other monuments to the world of global marketing and finance" (24). Abrupdy, Bosteels decides not to address these works-which among Gego's critics have received little or no attention, presumably because many of these critics have never been to Caracas to see them in situ, or because they indeed are sometimes radically different from her more vulnerable and radical environments and drawings. Instead he turns to Gego's best-known works (the series Reticuloreos, Trunks, Streams, Drawings without Paper, and odiers) which he evokes in tandem with various theoretical tropes: "purport" (Louis Hjelmslev), "diagram," "rhizome," and "immanence" (Deleuze), "discipline" and "control" (Foucault, Deleuze), and "suture," (Jacques-Alain Miller).These are provocative suggestions, no doubt, but instead of leading to a close and elaborated reading of specific works, Bosteels dwells on three major themes treated repeatedly in the literature on Gego: the rhizomatic, the organic and constructivist models, and the status of the subject/viewer. …