A Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Art

By Ian Chilvers | Go to book overview

G

G. The title of a magazine founded by Hans *Richter in Berlin in 1923 with the intention of making it 'the organ of the *Constructivists in Europe'. There were six issues before it folded in 1926. * Lissitsky, who had himself published a short-lived Constructivist journal called *Vesch, suggested the single-letter title: 'G' stands for 'Gestaltung' (Formation). The first number contained an article by van *Doesburg entitled "'Elemental Formation'", in which he discussed two opposing modes of expression. The art of the past, which he called 'decorative', depended on individual taste and intuition. In contrast to this, the art of the present (by which he meant Constructivism) he called 'monumental' or 'formative'. He claimed that Constructivist art is no longer impulsive or intuitive but done in accordance with objective aesthetic principles and that the Constructivist has 'conscious control of his elemental means of expression'. Other contributors to the magazine included * Arp, * Hausmann, * Man Ray, and * Schwitters.

Gabo, Naum (Naum Neemia Pevsner) (1890- 1977). Russian-born sculptor who became an American citizen in 1952, the most influential exponent of *Constructivism. He was born in Klimovichi, Belarus, and brought up in Briansk, where his father ran a prosperous metallurgy business. His surname was originally Pevsner, but he adopted another family name, Gabo, in 1915 to avoid confusion with his younger brother, Antoine *Pevsner. In 1910 he began studying medicine at Munich University, but he soon switched to natural sciences, then engineering. He was introduced to avant-garde art when he visited his brother in Paris in 1913-14, and in 1915 he began to make geometrical constructions in Oslo, where they had taken refuge during the First World War. In 1917 the brothers returned to Russia and in 1920 they published their Realistic Manifesto, which set forth the basic principles of Constructivism (originally the manifesto was issued as a poster to accompany an open-air exhibition of their work in Moscow). They advocated a pure abstract sculpture, but official policy in the new Soviet Russia increasingly insisted on art being channelled into industrial design and other socially useful work (as exemplified by * Tatlin). Gabo therefore left Russia in 1922 and spent the next ten years in Berlin, where he knew many of the leading artists of the day, particularly those connected with the * Bauhaus. In 1932 he moved to Paris, where he was a leading member of the *Abstraction- Création group, and in 1935 he settled in England, living first in London (where in 1937 he was co-editor of the Constructivist review *Circle) and then from 1939 in Cornwall (see ST IVES SCHOOL).

In 1946 Gabo moved to the USA, settling at Middlebury, Connecticut, in 1953. He had a joint exhibition with Pevsner at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1948, and in the remaining three decades of his life he became a much honoured figure, receiving various awards and carrying out numerous public commissions in America and Europe. He often worked on themes over a long period; his Torsion Fountain outside St Thomas's Hospital in London, for example, was erected in 1975, but it is a development from models he was making in the 1920s. (Small models are a feature of his work; there are numerous examples in the Tate Gallery, London, which has an outstanding collection of Gabo material, presented by the artist himself.)

Gabo never trained as an artist, but came to art by way of his studies of engineering and science. He was one of the earliest to experiment with *Kinetic sculpture (in 1919) and to make extensive and serious use of semi- transparent materials for a type of abstract sculpture that incorporates space as a positive

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