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Gertrud Louise Goldschmidt

(1912-08-01)1 August 1912
Died17 September 1994(1994-09-17) (aged 82)
NationalityGerman and Venezuelan
Education Technische Hochschule of Stuttgart, Germany
Known forSculptor, Architect, Printmaker
Notable work
MovementModern Art
AwardsPremio Nacional de Artes Plasticas

Gertrud Louise Goldschmidt (1 August 1912 – 17 September 1994), known as Gego, was a modern Venezuelan visual artist. [1] Gego is perhaps best known for her geometric and kinetic sculptures made in the 1960s and 1970s, which she described as "drawings without paper". [2]


Early life

Gertrud Goldschmidt, called "Gego", was born on August 1, 1912 in Hamburg, Germany into a Jewish family. [3] She was the sixth of seven children of Eduard Martin Goldschmidt and Elizabeth Hanne Adeline Dehn. [4] Although she was the niece of the medieval art historian Adolf Goldschmidt, who taught at the University of Berlin, she decided to attend the Technische Hochschule of Stuttgart [5] in 1932, where she was taught by popular masonry artist Paul Bonatz. [3] In 1938, she earned a diploma in both architecture and engineering. [6]

Because her family was Jewish, life became very difficult once the Nazis gained power in 1934. Her German citizenship was nullified in 1935. [7] Forced to leave Germany, her family moved to Venezuela in 1939 and Gego gained Venezuelan citizenship in 1952. [3]

In 1987, Professor Frithjof Trapp of the University of Hamburg led an investigation called "Exile and Emigration of Hamburg Jews", which he hoped would explain the lives of these Jews. Gego was one of the people who he hoped to investigate.[ citation needed ] After several letters to her home, Gego finally agreed to respond but the letter was never mailed and instead stayed in her collection of notes. In her testimony, "Reflection on my origins and encounters in life", Gego describes how her family identified with German society. She described, in detail, her education history and her departure from Germany. [8]

Importance of education

After moving to Caracas, Venezuela, she taught at the College of Architecture and City Planning at the Central University of Venezuela between 1958 and 1967. [4] Additionally, between 1964 and 1977, she taught at the Neumann Institute of Design in Caracas, an institution where many other renowned artists, such as Harry Abend, her fellow European-born artist, also taught. She taught "Bidimensional and Three-Dimensional Form" and "Spatial Solutions" and published two articles between 1971-77. [6]

In 1947, the Venezuelan president was overthrown by a military coup. [9] Gego knew that, after a time of crisis, students are the members of society that are the most influential. Included in her Sabiduras, a folder of her informal writings discovered upon her death, there is a letter addressed to her colleagues explaining the criteria that would be beneficial to the students of Venezuela.[ citation needed ] In it, she explains that only through experience can artists, and architects in particular, learn their medium. Images and theories about architecture would not further their artistic training. Her views were fueled by her belief that students were taught with too much emphasis on rationality and were becoming "ignorant of imagination". [8]



Arriving in Venezuela during an economic boom, Gego was surrounded by artists who were enjoying a great deal of success. Modernism was the artistic fad sweeping through Latin America and artists in Venezuela participated enthusiastically. Modernism was a political tool as well. Latin American governments were trying to catch up to the advancements of the United States during the Post World War II era and Venezuela thought by encouraging the modern art movement, which incorporated ideas of the industry, science, and architecture, the country would be seen as progressive. [10]

She made her first sculpture in 1957. She was aware of the modern movement when she came to Caracas, but she did not want to simply co-opt the ideas of Kinetic Art, Constructivism or Geometric Abstraction. Instead, Gego wanted to create a style of her own because she was able to use so many aspects of her life in her art—for example, her German heritage. In the end, Gego saw that these new projects labeled desarrollista (developmentalist movement) were pleasing the elite and government, but she wanted an art that would relate to the local community of Venezuela. [10]


From Kinetic Art, Gego incorporated the ideas of motion as well as the importance of experimentation and the spectator. One of her earliest works, Esfera (Sphere) (1959), consists of welded brass and painted steel of different widths that are placed at different angles to one another in order to create overlapping lines and fields. When the viewer walks around the sphere, the visual relationship between the lines changes, creating a sense of motion. Esfera echoes the work done by famous Kinetic artists like Carlos Cruz-Diez and Jesus Rafael Soto. It was not until the mid-1960s that Gego departed from the basic concept of Kinetic Art in response to her developing ideas about lines. For Gego, a line inhabited its own space, and as such, it was not a component in a larger work but instead it was a work by itself. Therefore, in her artworks, she did not use line to represent an image; line is the image. [11]

The strength or purpose of the line was enhanced by her use of different materials, such as steel, wire, lead, nylon and various metals. In addition to relating to her interest in architecture, these materials also contradicted the new modernist movement in Latin America. Gego not only used these materials to create lines in her massive sculptures but also in her series entitled Dibujos Sin Papel (Drawings without Paper). These tiny works were created from scraps of metal that were bent and weaved together in order to evoke movement, experimentation and spontaneity. [10]

While in Los Angeles in the late 1960s, Gego composed a series of lithographs that were mostly untitled except for a ten-page booked entitled, Lines in 1966. This book is full of lithographs produced in gray and red. Variations in the thickness, length, and direction of the lines demonstrate the fundamental instability of line. By experimenting with line in a different medium, Gego emphasized that the notion of "line" retains its strength and independence regardless of its specific location or form.


Gego's idea of a series artworks that would be titled "Drawings Without Paper" reflects on her view of space. Gego considered space as its own form; as if her artwork was occupying the artwork of the room itself. Since her work is made from nets and grid-like materials, negative space is everywhere, causing the negative as well as the positive space to be appreciated. But it is the shadows created by her works that reveal the integral connection between the sculpture and the room it occupies. Gego is thus allowed to play with the idea of the stable and unstable elements of art. [11] The stable elements of art is the sculpture itself, while the unstable elements consist of the constantly changing shadows and the slight movement in her design due to the fragility of her materials. In fact, the way her sculptures exist in space changes every time it was installed because Gego had the power to recreate the image as she wanted.

Tamarind Lithography Workshop

On the invitation of June Wayne, Gego briefly visited Tamarind Lithography Workshop in Los Angeles (now Tamarind Institute) in 1963 and returned as an artist-fellow from November to December 1966, during which time she created thirty-one lithographs, including two books of lithographs. [12]

Gego explained her interest in using non-traditional formats in her printmaking in a speech at Tamarind in 1966: "I think that series of sheets with a coherent meaning must be gathered in a way that they can be easily enjoyed so I make books." [13]

As in her three-dimensional installations, Gego used printmaking as a mode of linear experimentation. The artist used line, and its infinite variations, to explore negative space, or what she called, the "nothing between the lines." At a reception honoring the artist at Tamarind in 1966 she explained, "I discovered that sometimes the in-between lines is as important as the lines by [themselves]." [13]


Her series of Reticuláreas is undoubtedly her most popular and most talked about group of artworks. Her first series was created in 1969. Pieces of aluminum and steel were joined together to create an interweaving of nets and webs that fills the entire room when exhibited. Her use of repetition and layering in the massive structure causes the piece to seem endless. Indeed, Gego's attention to line and space creates a beautiful artwork for the viewer. Since her death, the permanent collection of Reticuláreas is in the Galería de Arte Nacional in Caracas, Venezuela. [10]


Gego died on September 17, 1994 in Caracas, Venezuela. [3] In 1994, her family founded the Fundación Gego to preserve her artistic legacy, which organizes continued exhibitions of her artwork and promotes awareness of Gego's significant contribution to the art world. [14] The Fundación Gego gave the permission to publish Gego's personal writings and testimonies in 2005. [15] These writings, now published, might influence other artists in her innovative and experimental mode of sculpture. [16]

Personal life

In 1940 Gego met Venezuelan urban planner Ernst Gunz at the architectural firm where she worked with other architects to design the Los Caobos housing estate for Luis Roche. [4] They married in October 1940 and opened a furniture studio called ‘Gunz’, where Gego designed lamps and wooden furniture. Together the couple had Tomás (b. 1942) and Barbara (b. 1944). [4] Gego closed Gunz in 1944 in order to spend more time with her children. By 1948 she returned to designing private homes, nightclubs, and restaurants.

In 1951 she separated from Gunz, and in 1952 met artist and graphic designer Gerd Leufert. [4] Gego and Leufert remained partnered for life. [4] This romantic partnership coincides with the development of her artistic career. She begins exhibiting her watercolors, collages, and monotypes in 1954 and is experimenting with creating three-dimensional objects by 1956. [17]

Selected exhibitions

Solo exhibitions
Group exhibitions

Selected works

See also

Related Research Articles

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  4. Phaidon Editors (2019). Great women artists. Phaidon Press. p. 149. ISBN   0714878774.
  5. 1 2 Amor, Monica. Another Geometry: Gego's Reticulárea, 1969-1982", October, Issue 113 (2005): 101-30, 25.
  6. Rottner, Nadja. Gego 1957-1988 Thinking the Line. Hatje Cantz, Germany: 2006, pg. 59; ISBN   978-3-7757-1787-8
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  8. "Timeline: Venezuela", BBC News, Retrieved 11 November 2018.
  9. 1 2 3 4 Lygia Clark, Gego, Mathias Goeritz, Helio Oiticica, Mira Schendel, The Experimental Exercise of Freedom, ed. Susan Martin (Germany: Cantz, 1999); ISBN   978-0-914357-64-3
  10. 1 2 Gego, Questioning the Line: Gego in Context, ed. Mari Carmen Ramirez (Houston: University of Texas Press, 2003). ISBN   0-89090-119-8.
  11. "Pressing Ideas: Fifty Years of Women's Lithographs from Tamarind, Artist Spotlight: Gego". Broad Strokes: The National Museum of Women in the Arts' Blog. 2011-08-04. Retrieved 2017-04-06.
  12. 1 2 Documents, ICAA. "ICAA Documents > THE ARCHIVE > Full Record". Retrieved 2017-04-06.
  13. "Fundación Gego - About", Fundación Gego, Retrieved 31 October 2018.
  14. Huizi, Maria Elena; Manrique Cabrera, Josefina (2005). Sabiduras and other texts : writings by Gego. Houston: International Center for the Arts of the Americas and Fundación Gego. ISBN   0300111630.
  15. Latin American and Caribbean Art: MOMA at El Museo, ed. Fatima Becht (Madrid: Turner, 2004); ISBN   978-0-87070-460-4.
  16. GEGO: Line As Object. Germany: Hatje Cantz Verlag. 2013. p. 161. ISBN   978-3-7757-3740-1.
  17. "Questioning the Line", Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Retrieved online 11 November 2018.
  18. "Gego. Line as Object", Henry Moore Foundation, Retrieved 11 November 2018.
  19. "Versiones del Sur: Cinco propuestas en torno al arte en América. Heteropías. Medio siglo sin-lugar: 1918 - 1968.", Museo Reina Sofia, Retrieved 11 November 2018.
  20. 1 2 3 "ZERO" - exhibition catalog of the most important travelling exhibition in America of Zero Group, edited by Heike van der Valentyn, with essays by Otto, Piene, Paulo Venencio Filho, Heinz-Norbert Jocks, Heike van den Valentyn, published by Museu Oscar Niemayer, Iberê Camargo Foundation & Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo and printed in São Paulo, Brazil, 2013, ISBN   978-85-60638-37-6
  21. Gego (2016). "Reticulárea cuadrada 71/6 [Square Reticulárea]". Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible (March 18, 2016-September 4, 2016). The Metropolitan Museum of Art.