Brazil

Angela Freiberger and Yana Kraeva • Body Recycling

Figment, Imagination island, Governors Island

We will create 7 to 14 sculptures that consider the interaction and relationship between humans and nature and our thoughts about the role of the human species on the Earth. At the beginning of the performance we cut out square pieces of nylon fabric, then we trace different parts of our and audience's bodies [head, feet, etc.] onto the nylon surface.

2007 Governors Island, New York   Photography by Maira Donoso

2007 Governors Island, New York
Photography by Maira Donoso

We fill the outlines with cotton and plant sprouted wheat seeds into the cotton. As time passes the sprouts start growing, transforming the outlines of our bodies, connecting the idea of bodies back to nature.                                                                                                                                    By planting new life in our own image and thus envisioning nature as ourselves we invite a positive and constructive relationship with nature that can be a solution for contemporary environmental problems. We are striving to demonstrate the potential for reconstructing our lost relationship and return back to Mother Nature with peace. The performance implies a message of action encouraging the viewer to awaken and relate to the urgency of the growing problems with our environment and ourselves.

http://angelafreiberger.com http://kaylem.name

Angela Freiberger • MFA Thesis 2007, The Statesman

By NANDITHA DAS• February 19, 2007 

The University Gallery at the Staller Center for the Arts recently had their 19th MFA Thesis exhibit. It ran from Saturday, Mar. 17 to Saturday, Apr. 14. The exhibit featured the work of eight students in the Master of Fine Arts program offered by the Department of Arts here at Stony Brook University, including Alton Falcone, Angela Freiberger, Melanie Gerules, Karsten Grumstrup, Takafumi Ide, Athena LaTocha, Tim Murray and William Sherrod Tyson. The exhibit consisted of paintings, sketches, sculptures and electronic and mixed media components. 

Having gone to the MFA Thesis exhibit last year and enjoyed it thoroughly, I was looking forward to viewing the creative and innovative handiwork of the MFA students this year. This year’s exhibit was different from last year’s, although still quite interesting and thought-provoking. Art changes with time, as do most aspects of life, so changes were expected. However, sometimes it seems as if the only tradition we keep is not to keep tradition. More and more of the exhibits that I have visited seem to employ more modernistic expressions of emotion and life in general. The word “modern” has both positive and negative connotations, but the negative undertones always seem to overpower the positive ones in my mind. And it is with this handicap that I approached the artwork of this exhibit. 

The themes of these art pieces were very mature, inspiring and stimulating. Falcone’s artwork, for example, consisted of dilapidated cylindrical wood installations. In the accompanying catalogue he wrote, “The simple, monolithic, centripetal quality of the form is meant to contrast with the breaks and openings from torn wood edges and knot holes. This should give the viewer the sense of both solidity and openness.” He went on to write, “Worn wood, rusted iron and other such materials, corroded through the slow insistence in time of atmospheric elements and human abuse, offer a contrast to the purity of the geometrical form, a cylindrical dodecahedron.” From where I saw it, it was a successful attempt at portraying the ephemerality of life. I found great joy in knowing that I understood the work when I saw the artist’s following statement: “There is a beauty to endurance, a dignity to aging, and an existential quality of fragility in firmness to works of this nature.” 

The death of innocence (Tyson), questioning the meanings of signs that are the result of societal concord (Grumstrup), open interpretation (Murray), the use of color and shape to generate dynamic objects and people (Gerules), using landscape unconventionally to portray strife, turbulence and disorder (LaTocha), juxtapositions of fragility with tranquility (Ide), and the examination of emotion and mood (Freiberger) are among the other themes that were explored in the exhibit. 
While Falcone’s work was more encompassing, with its examination of impermanence, Freiberger’s presentation of mood and the contrast of viewer versus narrator was more personal and equally interesting. She stated in the accompanying catalogue, “By layering references to woman, body, and landscape, the installation merges feelings of desire, sensuality, and childhood memories to create an emotional experience. Through dual video projections, large-scale installations that envelop the viewer, my work aims to dissolve the conventional boundaries between artist and audience.” 

Sound proves to play an important role in such media installations. Deep utterances in the video presentation that I thought were noteworthy include, “Place there is none. We go forward and backward and there is no place. Empty space that needs to be fulfilled. We are living in a placeless society.” Freiberger also commented on technology and how human accessibility has declined as a result. 

While Freiberger’s piece involved mixed media and Falcone’s work was 3D, Gerules’ presentation included several self-portraits. But at the same time, dynamism was achieved through the use of color. Also, what struck me is the consistency of the self-portraits - each looked like the one preceding and the one following. As she stated in the catalogue, “My objective in painting is to create a believable world that comes alive through the play of color and form. I seek to show a certain drama with the objects of people.” 

Two-dimensional pieces are quite capable of making a shattering impact, just as 3D sculptures are. LaTocha’s work depicted chaos and distress through landscapes. Landscapes usually employ a lot of color and show scenes of serenity. The most striking characteristic of LaTocha’s pieces were their lack of color. She stated in the catalogue, “My landscape imagery implies a state of unrest and a sense of discomfort through the struggle, as well as the tension, between representational and abstract imagery, the known and unknown, the other and the self. I am concerned with the ideas and sensations resulting from conflict, doubt, rejection and resistance. My work is process-based, dependent upon the manipulation of the paint surface and sense of movement and forms found inside the recurrent image.” 

Grumstrup’s questioning of symbols and the meanings of signs that were collectively agreed upon by society can be paralleled with Murray’s work. Grumstrup said, “Comprised of symbols, the pictorial acts as an emblem, but as an emblem of what? How do we arrive at meaning? The proliferation of signs and their collectively agreed upon meanings obscures and important possibility; pointless mundane life has more to do with meaningful experience that it is given credit. My formal decisions are intended to lead the viewer into the picture, making the act of looking fun.” He further stated, “I want viewers to answer their own questions and come to their own conclusions.” 

Murray, like Grumstrup, encourages the viewers to examine the work and make their own conclusions. “The work is a vehicle for the critique of what is perceived as (and subsequently presumed to be) a fundamental truth(s) and how these assumptions guide our finite existence in society.” 
Ambiguity can be a plus point in art, because it allows the artwork to be interpreted from multiple perspectives. However, too much ambiguity makes the art lose its purpose. The piece that I enjoyed the most was by Ide, which I felt had the perfect combination of ambiguity, mixed with innovation and creativity. As Ide said, “I have controlled my installation by incorporating delicate objects, sound, video, and light. As a result, the viewer can feel the harmony and participate in my installation, rather than only see and feel the individualistic energy from only one. I hope the experience created by my work encourages audiences to reflect on important transitional moments in their own lives.” 

Everything combined together created a unique sense of calmness. The sounds that were repeated over and over again included, “I love you. Don’t worry. Take care. I’ll see you soon. I’ll never forget you. Good luck. Thank you.” The repetition of these phrases created a beautiful spiritual experience. If you were looking for a moment of reflection and peace, this would have been the perfect place to be. 

Each piece of artwork has something distinct to offer, and can arguably stand on its own. I found an interesting link between the artwork, but am unsure whether it is fabrication or fact. Tyson’s work, depicting the massacre of innocence, in some ways connected all the other pieces in the exhibit. By scattering everyday objects we associate with childhood, like crayons and drawings, he was easily able to convey his message. 

Tyson’s work was a 3D representation, in color (like Gerules’ work), of LaTocha’s sketches that showed disorder and chaos. At the same time, it allowed the viewers to develop their own interpretations, like Murray and Grumstrup’s work. The death of innocence symbolizes the birth and growth of adulthood, which is also aging, like Falcone’s work. And finally, his work seems more relevant when compared with Ide’s depiction of calm. 

At a time when we try very hard to be unique, so that we may leave a mark on the world, sometimes we forget that simplicity is invaluable. While complexity adds spice to art and life, it further complicates what can easily be accomplished in a much simpler manner. I feel as if some of the artwork was too much a tribute to the out of the ordinary. At the same time, I can understand the desire to be different, just to avoid monotony. 

In the end, if the artist was able to successfully convey their messages they can be satisfied, even if their art was meant to be up for open-ended interpretation that is neither right nor wrong. I suppose, then, that Murray and Grumstrup were right. Although I was confused, I had approached their work with my own expectations and experiences. And they were able to allow me to discover the truth about myself-perhaps I am more conservative than I cared to admit or realized.

Angela Freiberger • Body Extentions • Focus • Scupture Magazine

By DENISE CARVALHO • APRIL 1,   2005

Brazilian artist Angela Freiberger creates sculptures that celebrate past and present, tradition and contemporaneity. Using marble from Italy and Portugal, she sculpts “receptacles” or “recipients” as she calls them in her native Portuguese. Her urinals, wash-basns, bathtubs, vessels, and bowls are reminiscent of Greek and Roman funerary vessels. In their treatment, they are smooth and uniform, with little oxidation, nearly pure.

The contemporary side of Freiberger’s work begins with the atmosphere surronding its making, a marble factory where builders and stonecutters, not artists, prepare and cut the stones. Using traditional sculpting techniques, she blends machines with the detailed precision and smoothness of her work and mixing a worker’s mood with what she ses as a female sensibility. This sensibility is extended to her vessels, which are “receptacles” for her own body.

Freiberger began to make these objects in the earl 1990s, and her immediate concern was to create lightness in marble by substituting negative space for positive sculptural matter.

As her interaction with the work developed, she emphasized the relation between sculpture and performance, using her own body as a mold. Her vessels, plates, washtubs, and bowls were all taken from casts of her body-her back, stomach, and head for instance. Other works, made as replicas of utilitarian objects such as bathtubs, bidets, or urinal, contain signature marks of the artist’s hands, fingers, or toes imprinted on the stone.

By mixing ancient and contemporary processes and ideas, she follows what has long been seen a signature of Brazilian art-adapting foreign influences to local conditions, redefining sources into an international art par excellence. Masculine archetypes such as over rationality, excessive organization, and symmetry-a Constructivist influence rooted in Brazilian art since the late 1950s-are replaced with feminine archetypes such as smoothness and roundness, though still sustaining cohesiveness and attention to detail.

2.angela_frei.jpg

Since the interactive works of Helio Oiticica and Lygia Clark (1960s), Brazilian sculpture has been connected to the body of the viewer or to that of the artist. In Freiberger’s case, a connection to the body’s performance is implicit, even when the piece stands alone in the gallery. In her work, both the process and the finished piece are shaped by anachronistic historical influences leading to a synthesized finished object. Sh reverses the process of much Brazilian art, which begins with a clear framework and ends in organized chaos.

Freiberger’s vessels link sculpture, architecture, and performance. Her connection with architectural space begins with her awareness of the viewer. Although the sculptures are extensions of the body, they appear frozen in space. There is an ambiguity between stillness (which usually suggest a balanced weight, a gravitational point of axis) and lightness (movement). The performing body here is not necessarily moving: more often it is frozen like a snapshot, a positive element to the negative forms of the receptacles.

In the Carrara marble pieces Woman Washing her Soul, Woman Carrying the Place of her Head, Woman Carrying The Place of Her Fingers, and Man Ray’s Violin (all 1999), Freiberger connects sculpture and performance. Photography here serves a purely documentary roles, though it questions the very reason of the performance, its source of action and immediacy, making us wonder whether the stillness in the snapshot actually takes away the performance’s most vital significance-its subjective interaction with the viewer. It is possible that the need or photo documentation determined the nature of the performance, with the stillness in the performer’s body a way to simplify reception both for lens and the viewer.

Lavabo da Alma (1999) is a large washbowl created an inverted form or spirals engraved inside that reference the earthworks of Robert Smithson. According to Freiberger, the relationship to Smithson suggests the female body as ultimately connected to nature, a concept that still prevails to nature in Latin American culture.

For instance, in the works of Ana Mendieta, the artist’s body becomes an extension of waterfalls, grass, mud, and other natural materials. In this way, the female body symbolizes life and death. Similarly in Freiberger’s work, the physical condition of the marble, its purity or higher level of oxidation, leading to fragmentation or sedimentation, reveals a constant negotiation between opposing natural forces.

The installation Bath House (2001) consists of a bathtub, a bidet, and a large bowl for washing woman the feet. While the bathing woman has provided subject matter for many artists, from Degas to Picasso, in Freiberger’s work, the presence of the woman is transitory. In her absence there is death, violence, loneliness, and abuse. This relationship between life and death is underscored by the placement of marble vessels and other ritualistic objects in large rooms to emphasize a sense of emptiness and abandonment after the brief appearances of a performing body. Performances such as Sora (1998), in which the artist bathes with I.V. drops of cranberry juice, suggest the ambiguous relationship between pleasure and pain.

Collection of Urinals (2001), an installation shown at Rio de Janeiro’s Centro Cultural Oduvaldo Vianna Filho in 2002, featured marble urinals inspired by a scene in Luchino Visconti’s The Leopard (Il Gattopardo, 1963). Freiberger re-creates the bathroom set, filled with Roman-style urinals, next to a monitor, where the movie clip is replayed. In the scene, the Prince of Salina, played by Burt Lancaster, senses death approaching and seeks refuge in the bathroom of his mansion during a ball celebrating the engagement of his aristocrat nephew and the nouveaux riche daughter of a merchant. In the gallery, the viewer replays the part of Salina by entering through the door.

Freiberger’s performance O Banquete (The Banquet, 2002) was also inspired by film. Marco Ferreri’s La Grande Bouffe (1973) and Luis Buñuel’s The Discreet Charm of The Bourgeoisie (1972) treat the act of eating a subversion of moralistic rules. In Freiberger’s performance, a model dressed in a voile apron kneels on a large table, as if she were a dish, surrounded by large marble plates and peaches. Spectators around the table participate by “eating with their eyes.” After 20 minutes, the performer stands up, picks up the peaches, and offers them to the viewers. The sensuous game of hunting and being hunted with the eyes, of desiring and being desired, is also the game of the arts. The spectator eats without possessing, whether the goal is an art object or a woman’s body.

ANGELA FREIBERGER • "Redefinindo o Espaço do Corpo", Página Crítica

BY DENISE CARVALHO • July 10, 2003 •

UNIVERSIDAD DAS ARTES

As esculturas de Angela Freiberger lidam com três dimensões espaciais, uma do espaço fixo da escultura, ao redor da qual o espectador faz a sua trajetória de observação, a outra do espaço móvel da arquitetura como extensão do objeto escultural, e uma terceira que une o objeto ao movimento performático. O início dessa conjunção entre a escultura, a arquitetura e a performance foi na série de recipientes, iniciados no final da década de 90. A preocupação original era a de adicionar leveza ao mármore dos recipientes, utilizando o espaço negativo arquitetônico ao positivo da forma, e esta era uma preocupação escultural. O contato do corpo da artista à forma, apesar de se apresentar como casual e instintivo e podendo até ser interpretado como uma tendência de ordem sensorial, do tato, também é parte de um vocabulário contemporâneo que enfoca as tendências de inclusão do corpo à experiência arquitetônica como crítica de uma arte puramente contemplativa.

Apesar de que, no trabalho de Freiberger, esta tendência dinamiza duas vertentes de postura estética: uma que questiona a posição do corpo como extensão do objeto de arte, implicando assim a possibilidade do lado subjetivo do corpo ao objeto da obra, e outra que identifica a importância da linguagem tradicional, até arcaica, na obra contemporânea. Esta segunda linguagem é vista através das referências do mármore às esculturas figurativas tradicionais e aos objetos funerários como ânforas, vasos, e recipientes greco-romanos. Esta referência nas oferendas ligadas á morte contrastam a própria tendência performática que enfatiza o corpo vivo e mutante.

A série de recipientes de mármore Carrara com títulos como Mulher lavando a alma, Mulher com Veste de Pedra, Mulher Carregando Local da Cabeça, O Violino de Man Ray, e Mulher Segurando o Local dos Dedos, todos feitos em 1999, traduz um trabalho de correspondência entre escultura e performance. Nesta série, também, há uma correspondência entre a dramaticidade do teatro nos títulos das obras e o congelamento da imagem na documentação fotográfica. Uma das questões neste sentido é a da reprodutibilidade da obra como documento fotográfico ou de vídeo, que na maioria das vezes se dá como possibilidade na reprodução do momento performático. Diferente do teatro, no qual o performático é vivenciado como espetáculo, a performance artística de Freiberger se situa no momento transitório e casual, dando uma dimensão altamente feminina à sua linguagem fragmentária.

Porém, no que se trata do congelamento das imagens em fotografia como documento do trabalho de arte, o transitório aparece com uma imagem permanente, implicando a importância do olhar contemplativo e reflexivo dos princípios estéticos formalistas. Este congelamento do olhar da fotografia também existe no contexto temporal da performance, que é lento e reflexivo. Esta intertextualidade de discursos distintos na arte contemporânea é centralizada pelo fator de conflito, de tensão, e de negociação de vertentes estéticas inegociáveis, que são indispensáveis para uma constante leitura do novo, do de cunho local, do imediato, e do experimental, numa arte madura e de qualidade, sem se desfazer de discursos formalistas que legitimam a autonomia do diálogo artístico na sociedade.

A intertextualidade entre discursos específicos da escultura, pintura, fotografia e performance é traduzida pela extensão dos significados iconográficos através das épocas, como as tatuagens no corpo da artista que se referem à obra fotográfica de Man Ray "O Violino de Ingres" (1924), que por sua vez também referencia o pintor dois séculos anterior a este, conectando assim presente e passado, arte neoclássica e moderna. A relevância dadaísta e surrealista do trabalho de Man Ray na escultura e performance de Freiberger não se limita à referência iconográfica da forma do f’83 tatuado no próprio corpo da artista, mas no uso da conjunção entre negativo e positivo usado por Man Ray na fotografia através da "rayografia", técnica de fotografia contínua ou fotograma sobre papel de alta sensibilidade resultando numa revelação parcial ou solarização da imagem em que o negativo se justapõe ao positivo. Este conceito é traduzido através da fragmentação do positivo e negativo da forma escultural, apresentando esculturas das esculturas, ou usando a idéia de substituição entre dentro e fora, fôrma e massa. O próprio corpo escultural da artista como escultura viva traduz uma releitura da performance com raízes dadaístas quebrando princípios acadêmicos voltados para a escultura, unindo o olhar à interatividade do corpo, o objeto à subjetividade do momento imediato.

As linguagens entre pintura, arquitetura, e escultura também se dão nas formas circulares gravadas dentro ou fora dos recipientes, como é o exemplo de uma espiral desenhada no pó de mármore na parte mais funda da peça Lavabo da Alma (1999), que é a fôrma do ventre da artista, que no espaço é invertida como recipiente. Aqui também iconografias femininas e masculinas se interpõem, como também se interpõem o dentro e o fora do corpo (a pele e os órgãos, vísceras e fluidos), o yin e o yang, o fragmento e o todo, a escultura e o espaço arquitetônico. O masculino e feminino podem ser interpretados até mesmo em relação à condição física do mármore, em termos da sedimentação, de sua pureza e unidade, ou da fragmentação e oxidação deste.

As esculturas de Freiberger passam a ser invólucros do corpo em peças como Casa de Banho (2001), em que a escultura é o referencial do corpo no espaço do banho. A instalação e performance é constituída de uma banheira, um bidê e um lava-pés, que tem marcas esculpidas do corpo da artista. No bidê, vê-se as marcas de nádegas em baixo relevo, no lava-pés, a marca de dois pés, e na banheira, as marcas de um braço e uma perna. As peças são de mármore rosa de Portugal, dando um aspecto feminino ao mármore. O lava-pés e o bidê foram adquiridos pelo colecionador João Sattamini em comodato com o Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Niterói. O tema da mulher no banho é visto em inúmeros trabalhos de arte moderna e clássica, como em Renoir, Degas, Courbet, Bonnard, Gauguin, Cézanne, Picasso, e outros. Porém, em Freiberger, a presença performática da mulher é transitória, enfocando exatamente aspectos mais sombrios ás esculturas, como referências à dor, à solidão, ao abandono, e até mesmo à morte.

Nestas esculturas de aspecto límpido e de qualidade escultural impecável distribuídas no espaço vasto da galeria, há uma sensação de vazio e de perda, como um memento mori ao corpo ‘vivo’ da mulher. A questão da ambigüidade entre morte e vida no trabalho de Freiberger pode ser vista também nas instalações de inúmeras ânforas ou vasos pelo espaço arquitetônico ou nos líquidos coloridos que se assemelham a fluidos do corpo colocados dentro de recipientes. No vídeo Sora (1998), a artista banha-se com suco de groselha que é entornado numa banheira de metal.

A referência com urina também pode ser puramente conceitual, como na instalação Coleção de Penicos (2001), que esteve à mostra numa exposição no Centro Cultural Oduvaldo Vianna Filho em 2002.

Nela, a referência com os penicos é discursada através da interação entre a instalação de uma série de penicos romanos antigos em mármore de Portugal e o filme O Leopardo, de Luchino Visconti, mostrando uma cena do filme em que o personagem representado por Burt Lancaster entra num mictório. Freiberger criou a série de pinicos baseando-se na cena do filme e os pinicos são réplicas do que se vê na cena. Na exposição, a cena é reconstruída junto a um espaço arquitetônico semelhante, no qual o espectador reproduz a entrada do ator no mictório. Os penicos também foram adquiridos pela coleção João Sattamini.

O filme narra as revoltas que levam às mudanças de poder com a queda da aristocracia e a ascensão da burguesia no sul da Itália em 1860. O mictório significa o espaço real num momento histórico em que tudo é aparente. É o refúgio do personagem após sua constatação de que o fim dos valores de uma época reflete também a sua própria mortalidade.

Uma outra performance no mesmo espaço cultural chamada O Banquete (2002) também referencia o cinema surrealista. Filmes como A Comilança (1973) de Marco Ferreri com o espanhol Rafael Azcona, e o filme O Charme Discreto da Burguesia (1972) de Luis Buñuel, são exemplos do ato de comer como subversão às regras morais. Na performance de Freiberger, uma modelo vestida com um avental de voille se ajoelha numa posição fetal sobre uma mesa de banquete, juntando-se aos pratos e travessas de mármore e a vários pêssegos esparramados pela mesa. Ao redor da mesa, os espectadores participam do banquete comendo com os olhos. Vinte minutos depois, a modelo colhe os pêssegos em seu avental e os oferece aos espectadores. A performance me lembrou de um texto de Rubem Alves sobre o filme de Gabriel Axel, A Festa de Babette (1987) em que o autor fala sobre o prazer do olhar quando passeia pela feira, comparando o olhar do caçador ao do vagabundo. Ele diz, "Alterno o olhar caçador com o olhar vagabundo. O olhar vagabundo não procura nada. Ele vai passeando sobre as coisas. O olhar vagabundo tem prazer nas coisas que não vão ser compradas e não vão ser comidas. O olhar caçador está a serviço da boca. Olham para a boca comer. Mas o olhar vagabundo, é ele que come. A gente fala: comer com os olhos, é verdade. Os olhos vagabundos são aqueles que comem o que vêem. E sentem prazer".1 O comer com o olhar também é uma especialidade das artes plásticas, utilizado como ferramenta de poder. O olhar vagabundo do espectador come sem possuir, come o objeto do desejo seja ele arte ou um corpo de mulher.

1 Rubem Alves, Correio Popular, Campinas, SP

Página Crítica é uma coluna no sítio da UniversidArte escrita por críticos, historiadores e curadores de arte contemporânea. O objetivo da coluna não só é o de refletir sobre questões estéticas e sociais na arte contemporânea, como também o de identificar na linguagem artística um papel crítico. A arte contemporânea ultrapassa tradições acadêmicas e formalistas, mas não nega as suas raízes, redefinindo processos e conceitos e mostrando uma constante releitura de códigos estéticos. Local ou global, ela se identifica com posições subjetivas e sociais, e sua proposta vai muito além de uma simples representação ou da mera possibilidade de vir a ser um produto de mercado.

Denise Carvalho é crítica de arte para revistas americanas como Sculpture, Flash Art, NKA – Journal of Contemporary African Art, e outras, e curadora independente, tendo organizado várias exposições multimídia como "Fairy-Tale," no Center for Metamedia, na República Tcheca em 1999, com 26 artistas do mundo todo, enfocando o tema da subversão de estruturas lineares nas artes plásticas; Hybrid Dwellings (Habitações Híbridas), na National Gallery em Bialystok, Polônia, em 2001; e RAW, no espaço cultural Smack Mellon, em Nova York em 2003. Sua educação inclui mestrados em História da Arte, Antropologia, e Estudos Culturais. Denise Carvalho é doutoranda em Estudos Culturais e leciona na Universidade da Califórnia, em Davis. Ela vive e trabalha nos Estados Unidos há quase 20 anos, 17 em Nova York e os três últimos na Califórnia.


GEGO • Gego's Galaxies: Setting Free the Line", Art in America

BY ROBERT STORR • July 1, 2003

Though born in Europe, Venezuelan artist Gertrude Goldschmidt—known as Gego—created a body of highly refined abstract work that, by its formal rigor and uncanny inventiveness, places her firmly at the forefront of South American modernism.
Fridamania has peaked. With the success of Julie Taymor's relentlessly colorful biopic devoted to the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo (1907-1954), this once underrated painter has now become a refurbished symbol of the romantic artist, a feminist icon and an emblem of cultural vitality "South of the Border."

Gego Untitled 12 of 20

Gego Untitled 12 of 20


Although late in coming, Kahlo's rise to stardom seems meteoric when one considers that as recently as the mid-1970s the only book on her that was readily available was a small catalogue published by the Museo Frida Kahlo, housed in her out-of-the-way but now famous Casa Azul in the Coyoacan district of Mexico City. In the English-speaking world, at least, the artist's obscurity began to lift in 1982, with the Frida Kahlo and Tina Modotti exhibition at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London. (The show traveled to the Grey Art Gallery, New York, in 1983, as well as to Berlin, Hanover and Stockholm.) The following year saw the publication of Hayden Herrera's well-researched and widely read Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo, on which Taymor's film is based. The rest, as they say, is history, although an account of the critical reception of Kahlo's oeuvre (and its oversimplification by enthusiasts) has yet to be written. Kahlo was so picturesque in life that she still tends to eclipse the thorny complexity of the pictures she made.


It is doubtful that there will ever be a dramatic film made about Gertrude Goldschmidt (1912-1994)--professionally known as Gego. Nevertheless, as her work gradually emerges from the background mosaic of post-World War II art, it becomes increasingly clear that she is of equal artistic stature to Kahlo, and indeed any Latin American artist, male or female, active, as she was, during the mid-1950s into the '90s. This is true even though her "career" barely registered on the seismic scale of mainstream taste while she was still working. It is high time for her achievement to be evaluated in relation to her modernist peers.


Chronologically and culturally, Gego's life marginally overlapped Kahlo's. She was born in 1912 to a liberal Jewish banking family in Hamburg; while Kahlo, whose father was a free-thinking photographer of Hungarian and German Jewish extraction, was born in 1907. In their separate ways, both Kahlo and Gego are products of the Central European migrations that helped populate Latin America in the 19th and 20th centuries, and, more particularly, both have their place in the Jewish Diaspora. Although Gego did not bear witness to a revolution in progress as Kahlo did, she did experience the upheavals of post-World War I Germany and the rise of the Nazism, which forced her expatriation to Venezuela in 1938, the year she graduated from Stuttgart Technical School with a diploma in architecture and engineering. An emancipated woman from a comfortably well-off milieu, Gego was the last member of her family to escape their homeland. Although out of harm's way in Caracas, she fully experienced the stresses of that society as well, responding in her own subtle but substantive way to the technologically oriented forms of artistic expression supported by modernizing constituencies in the political and economic establishment of her adoptive country.

Gego 1970 Ink Silk Screen 13x19 Inches.


Spare and unequivocally abstract, Gego's art is the antithesis of Kahlo's. Though self-evident, this fact must be insisted on because North American perspectives on South American modernism tend to be skewed by the lens of Mexican, Central American and Caribbean art. Geographic proximity to these varied and, in many respects, heavily conflicted artistic traditions has led North Americans to focus disproportionately on the tropical, the folkloric and the exotic when taking account of South American artistic currents. Kahlo played all those cards, with dazzling results. And her work is seductive, provocative and richly problematic in ways she plainly intended.


By contrast, every gesture the self-effacing Gego made was out in the open; she had no cultural trumps up her sleeve. And yet, the very transparency of her sculptures, drawings and prints--a transparency of process, as well as of form--is itself a kind of prestidigitation. Gego demonstrates that, even when the hand moves no faster than the eye, relative unpredictability within a strict repertoire of possibilities, combined with sureness of touch, can be as artistically effective as the most theatrical of flourishes. We see this in the intricate tracery of Paul Klee, who was as essential to Gego's esthetic as the other Bauhaus artists, who in Germany pioneered the geometric language of forms she assimilated and pushed further. We see something similar in the De Stijl artists and the Constructivists. It is through the filter of such work and its pervasive influence in Latin America before and after World War II that Gego's position can best be appreciated. Recent scholarship giving proper breadth and depth to formalist abstraction in Latin America--particularly in Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela--has begun to spawn exhibitions of a similar cast, and in these Gego has held prominent place. "Geometric Abstraction: Latin American Art from the Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Collection," which appeared at Harvard's Fogg Art Museum in 2001, was a particularly successful example of these corrective surveys.


Finally, Gego has also become the subject of a series of one-person exhibitions, beginning with a full-scale retrospective mounted at the Museo de Bellas Artes in Caracas by Iris Peruga in collaboration with the Fundacion Gego (2000-01), followed by a smaller overview exhibition organized by Marl Carmen Ramirez at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston and a New York gallery show of works on paper at Latincollector (both 2002). Although the Museo de Bellas Artes was at that time already besieged by populist factions within the current government that at least implicitly militate against the kind of refined nonobjective art in which Gego specialized, the exhibition itself could not have made a better case for the artist it featured.
Indeed, the Caracas museum boasts two major works by her in its permanent collection. Reticuldrea cuadrada (1972) is a ceiling-to-floor grid-based sculpture made of stainless-steel wire and nylon filament that visually coalesces into cubic blocks. This piece comes closest to the sleek Op art works of her fellow Venezuelan Jesus Rafael Soto--one of the artists whose scintillating reliefs found official patronage in the 1960s--and by that very token makes it exceptional in her overall production. (1) The second, Reticularea (ambientacion), 1969, is an astonishing tessellation of suspended, interlocking stainless-steel wire elements that fills a large white room whose corners have been rounded so that viewers can more easily lose themselves and their sense of scale in the triangulated, volumetric webs that surround them, webs through which they move like planes navigating the gaps in a cloud bank.


This environmental Reticularea is Gego's masterpiece. (The title is a combination of the Spanish words reticula, meaning "net," and area, which is cognate to the English.) Given the work's fragility, it is unlikely to leave Caracas, and to see it one must make the pilgrimage. The sculptural stratagem on which it relies, however, was developed by Gego in many small and intermediate-sized works, and these made up a considerable part of the museum's three-floor retrospective. Assembled from slender lengths of rod or wire, often with circular "eyes" or wire twists at their ends to facilitate joining them one to another, Gego's geometric configurations vary from relatively simple intersecting, generally warping, planes floated in midair to fretwork spheres and skeletal variants on Brancusi's Endless Column--shapes that look as if they could collapse into themselves--and on to still more complex polygons and stacks or spirals of polygons. Although Gego brings Alexander Calder to mind, her work eschews pictorial biomorphism, instead suggesting crystal growth, helixes and astronomical mappings. Nor, in the realm of pure abstraction, did she juxtapose opaque silhouettes to wire lines, as Calder did. Instead, her sculptures are thoroughly integrated formally and of a piece in terms of facture, so that contour and volume, facet and void are the consequence of the nuanced manipulation of a consistent system of geometric variables using almost rudimentary sculptural means.
In that respect they recall the work of Tony Smith, another architect-turned-sculptor. But while his improvised massing and fusion of tetrahedra and other basic solids resulted in sometimes severe, sometimes extravagant aggregates whose generative but inorganic qualities resemble those of Gego's shapes, Smith's monoliths and space frames are uniformly "closed," while Gego's sculptures are always "open." HIS structures are rigid in substance as well as appearance; hers are pliant in both.


Gego may not have known Smith's work, although she lived in New York in 1960, had a residency at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1963 and was included in the Museum of Modern Art's Op art exhibition, "The Responsive Eye," in 1965. In any event, what separates Gego from Smith also separates her from the whole gamut of sculptors whose recourse to modularity anticipated or exemplified Minimalism in the 1960s and '70s. The "primary structures" of Donald Judd, Robert Morris, Sol LeWitt and their cohorts were spatially fixed and fundamentally symmetrical, even, as in the case of LeWitt's stalactitelike hanging grids, when they exfoliated, block by self-centered block. (LeWitt after the 1970s is a different story.) The geodesic armatures of Buckminster Fuller--whose work Gego saw at MOMA--and, to a lesser degree, the sculptures of Kenneth Snelson also depend on tautness and rigidity in relation to a basic unit or core.


However, Gego's objects--if one can call such airy things "objects"--do not so much occupy, displace or divide space as permeate it. Instead of absolute and unyielding geometries, we encounter forms that give in response to the tug of others, sustaining their own essential shape thanks to the tension thus exerted on them, forms and compounds of form that quiver in a draft and sometimes shimmer visually to the point of evaporating and yet remain clearly articulated. In other words, we are in the presence of sculptural textiles that take their shape from an exquisite balance between the tensile strength of their lightweight components and the artfully attenuated effects of gravity.

Gego may not have known Smith's work, although she lived in New York in 1960, had a residency at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1963 and was included in the Museum of Modern Art's Op art exhibition, "The Responsive Eye," in 1965. In any event, what separates Gego from Smith also separates her from the whole gamut of sculptors whose recourse to modularity anticipated or exemplified Minimalism in the 1960s and '70s. The "primary structures" of Donald Judd, Robert Morris, Sol LeWitt and their cohorts were spatially fixed and fundamentally symmetrical, even, as in the case of LeWitt's stalactitelike hanging grids, when they exfoliated, block by self-centered block. (LeWitt after the 1970s is a different story.) The geodesic armatures of Buckminster Fuller--whose work Gego saw at MOMA--and, to a lesser degree, the sculptures of Kenneth Snelson also depend on tautness and rigidity in relation to a basic unit or core.
However, Gego's objects--if one can call such airy things "objects"--do not so much occupy, displace or divide space as permeate it. Instead of absolute and unyielding geometries, we encounter forms that give in response to the tug of others, sustaining their own essential shape thanks to the tension thus exerted on them, forms and compounds of form that quiver in a draft and sometimes shimmer visually to the point of evaporating and yet remain clearly articulated. In other words, we are in the presence of sculptural textiles that take their shape from an exquisite balance between the tensile strength of their lightweight components and the artfully attenuated effects of gravity.

 

 

The range of formats Gego found for this type of incremental, lightweight constructivism is impressive. From tabletop sculptures in which planes are created with fringes of wire attached to thicker metal frames, posts or spines; to the most delicate sprung grids, dangling like sheets of crumpled graph paper; to her architecturally scaled "Chorros" (Cascades, 1970-71), waterfall screens made of chainlike shafts of metal that appear to have tumbled like pickup sticks from on high to touch or lean on the ground at odd angles, Gego was enormously inventive within the rigorous parameters she devised for herself. What's more, these sparkling works seem anything but austere. Seldom do her sculptures have the schematic look so common to neo-constructivist art--largely, one feels, because her process was intuitive rather than programmatic. Indeed, her sculptures have the fluency of visual poetry "spoken" in a geometric idiom, rather than the stiffness of "recited" equations. While never precious or merely decorative, material Irregularities and procedural quirks, such as the partial sheathing of wire by colored plastic insulation, the binding or knotting or clamping of connections between basic structural units, and the sudden erupting of haywire tangles from otherwise orderly configurations, add grace notes to the basic visual chords Gego sounds and the sympathetic vibrations they set off throughout her pieces.
And yet, for all its spatial sophistication, Gego's sensibility was in many ways graphic. The wealth of drawings and prints she produced was one of the revelations of the Bellas Artes retrospective, as well as the focus of the exhibition at Latincollector, and those are the mediums, at least until recently, in which most people have seen Gego at her best.


Her works on paper of the 1950s and early '60s--watercolors and pen-and-ink drawings--combine tonal nuance with crisp linearity and sheer, veil-like hatchings whose accumulation opens shallow spaces within the compressed format she favored. Although generally composed of striated and layered geometric lozenges, these drawings breathe out rather than in, and their forms hover within the framing edge of the page rather than locking into a geometric template, whether explicit or implied. Without actually looking like Eva Hesse's mature drawings, they nonetheless evoke the same sense of liminality and flux, with much the same tension between self-discipline and an innate responsiveness to gestural opportunity, between deft mark-making and authoritative shape-making. As the 1960s ended, these often pictorial motifs gave way to stretched, pleated and bunched allover linear fabrics that recall the brittle pen-and-ink hatch drawings of Jan Schoonhoven and the elastic "infinity nets" of Yayoi Kusama, except that Gego's grids never tend toward entropy as Kusama's often do. In their 1980s pale watercolor-wash versions, these motifs presage the patterns of Brice Marden and Terry Winters. Starting in late 1959, Gego also began to produce linocuts and etchings that have many of the same properties as her drawings, along with a crackling luminosity all their own. And in 1966, at the invitation of June Wayne, Gego made a series of lithographs at the Tamarind Workshop. With their rich, mysterious blacks and bold asymmetrical arrangements of form, these works brought an emotional density and an almost painterly physicality to her practice that one wishes she had returned to.


This is not at all to disparage the direction Gego took instead, which was to fuse her sculptural and graphic concerns in an innovative group of what she called "Dibujos sin papel," "Drawings Without Paper" (1976-89). These ingenious and varied works, for which there is no obvious precedent, consist of generally flat and approximately rectangular assemblages of wire, window screen, hangers and other components in which color, thickness of line and relative depth of field are all brought into play. The images presented in these works range from lacy contour drawing, zigzags and grids to passages of bundled wire, superimposed and off-square frames that bind and shift against each other, and other more erratic formal constellations.
As their name implies, Gego's "Drawings Without Paper" emancipate line from flatness, gesture from surface, and pry loose an interval between two and three dimensions in which a new kind of very low relief becomes an optical and tactile reality. Although they take advantage of shadows cast on the walls to reiterate and recast their designs, they are quite unlike Richard Tuttle's wire drawings in their substantiveness and intricacy. The subtlety and freshness of these avatars of a hybrid genre are nearly impossible to describe. Suffice it to say, then, that only very occasionally does one see something that, like the "Drawings Without Paper," snaps into focus so completely and alters one's sense of esthetic opportunity so forthrightly that it is hard to imagine why nobody hit on it before. It is equally hard, in this case, to imagine that anyone could have addressed a problem so inherently susceptible to overembellishment and have invested it with comparable nuance and less fuss or affectation.


That indeed is the sense one gets from Gego's work as a whole, and insofar as the Caracas retrospective was, in breadth and depth, the most important presentation of Gego's art to date, it admirably served its function of honoring the essence of her accomplishment by accenting its lucidity and its surprises rather than its historical weight. It is too bad that more people could not have seen it, but the smaller exhibitions in Houston and New York and Gego's increasing presence in survey books are, one hopes, harbingers of more comprehensive and more accessible exhibitions in the future. In the meantime, the international public's appreciation of Latin American art's multidimensionality continues to grow, and if Kahlo represents one of its most striking facets, then it is, in a sense, to Gego that we must look to see the complex overall model into which that facet fits.


(1.) I would like to thank Adele Nelson for drawing my attention to this issue.
"Gego: 1955-1990" appeared at the Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas [November 2000-April 2001]. "Gego: Works on Paper 1962-1991" was seen at Latincollector, New York [May-June 2002]. "Questioning the Line: Gego, A Selection 1950-1990" appeared at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston [Mar. 17-May 19, 2002].
Author: Robert Storr holds the Rosalie Solow Professorship of Modern Art at New York University's Institute of Fine Arts.
COPYRIGHT 2003 Brant Publications, Inc.
COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group

Gego en Tribeca • "Plastica", TIEMPO LIBRE

Gego en Tribeca - Inaugura el 16 de mayo en Latincollector

GEGO by YASMIN MONSALVE • May 2002
 

Gego • Untitled • 1966 • Litograph on Paper

Un conjunto de 29 obras en papel sera exhibido hasta el 7 de julio en la ciudad de Nueva York.

Los dibujos, grabados y tejeduras de Gego exhibidod en el Latincollector Art Center de Nueva York, a partir dek próximo 16 de mayo, en una muestra organizada por la Fundación Gego y la mencionada galleria neoyorquina localizada en Tribeca , en el centre de Manhattan.

 

Gego: Obra sobre papel, 1962-1991, muestra coordinada por Bárbara Gunz y Josefina Manrique (fundacíon Gego) y Yolanda Pantin(coeditora e la página web de Latincollector Art Center), representa un esfuerzo valioso en el sentido per esta artista contemporanea venezolana conocida más por sus esculturas, algunas de las cuales hn sido subastadas por Sotheby’s y Christie’s en la ciudad norteamericana.

 

En este sentido, explicó Yolanda Pantin que las 29 piezas que integran la muestra des Latincollector Art center estarán a la venta, “lo que permitirá a la Fundación gego continuar con sus proyectos y darle a la obra realizada en papel por esta creadora un piso real en relación con su valor”.

A pesar de que la obra tridimensional de Gego ha sido mayor difundida, sus dibujos y grabados son muy significativos, más cuando se considera a la línea como el elemento unificador de su trabajo. Las creaciones abstractas de esta artista dialogan con las corrientes contemporáneas, incluyendo el minimalismo, la abstracción geométrica y el arte cinético, pero resisten la catalogación como parte de ninguna escuela o moviemto artístico. Su personal cuerpo de trabajo es permeable a muchas lecturas y siempre muestra gran maestría técnica. Partiendo de la línea y del espacio bidimensional, Gego logra expresar tension structural, luz, vibración óptica, ritmo, atmósfera y profundidad.

“La obra de Gego refiere a la vida y se coloca en el centro mismo de lo humano” – Iris Peruga.

Recientes exposiciones alrededor del mundo han llamado la atención acerca de la importancia e la obra de Gego. En efecto, esta exposición en Latincollector coincide con la clausura, el próximo 19 de mayo, de la exposición de esta artista en el Museo de Bellas Artes de Houston, curada por Iris Peruga y Maricarmen Ramírez, y anticipa muchas otras inportantes enP.S.1, The drawing center en Nueva York en 2003, y el Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey (Marco), así como otras en Portugal y Loa Angeles.

“Como organización que pretende ampliar la apreciación des arte de America Latina, Latincollector siente orgullo en unirse a tan prestigiosas instituciones y continuar con la excelencia de sus programaciones”, acotó Pantin.

2001

ANGELA FREIBERGER • Individuais no Paço Imperial, Veja Rio, Exposições

 
ANGELA FREIBERGER • September 2001

Bath's House performance 2001

O pouco uso da pintura é notado nos trabalhos dos onze artistas que vão fazer as individuais. É o caso de Angela Freiberger, que mistura escultura, instalação e vídeo, Chico Cunha, que construiu uma instalação com areia, e da escultora Ana Linnemann. Completam o programa Milton Machado, Frida Baranek, Luiz Alphonsus, Matheus Rocha Pitta, David Cury, Daniel Feingold, José Patrício e Anna Bella Geiger. Praça Quinze, 48, Centro, 2533-4407. Ter. a dom., 12h/17h30. Grátis. Até 4 de novembro.