Gego (Gertrud Goldschmidt), Venezuelan, born Germany, 1912–1994
Stainless steel wire
82 11/16 × 102 3/8 × 20 in. (210 × 260 × 50.8 cm)
Gift of AT&T
Habits of Mind
- OBSERVE DETAILS Observe details / time to think and reflect
Discussion through works of art encourage how to approach ambiguous and complex ideas, thoughts, and feelings. The MFAH offers a democratic space where students and teachers can develop, practice and articulate these habits of mind. Remember that the quality of the conversation is what is important, not finding the artist’s “answer.” Slow down and take the time to make careful observations. Talk about what you notice, and try to avoid jumping to conclusions and interpretations. Be sure to give enough time for silent looking and thinking.
Connecting to the Work of Art
Gego was born Gertrude Goldschmidt in Hamburg, Germany, to a distinguished family of bankers. She attended the rigorous Stuttgart Technical School, where she earned degrees in engineering and architecture. In 1939, troubled by the rise of anti-Semitism, the Goldschmidt family fled Europe and scattered. The last to leave Germany because of her studies, Gego was 27 when she liquidated her family’s remaining assets and immigrated to Venezuela. In Caracas, unable to find work as an architect, she designed and built lamps and furniture. In 1953 Gego began to create art, beginning with landscapes and portraits. By 1955 she was creating abstract drawings using a series of parallel lines. These pencil and ink works evolved into abstract and geometric sculpture, prints, and drawings in various media.
Gego’s approach to art was free and experimental. She continually learned or invented new techniques. In 1959 she went to the United States, where she studied welding techniques which she used in a series of iron and steel sculptures. In the mid-1960s, she began creating monumental wire-steel sculptures that were integrated within and around architectural spaces. Eventually wanting to work more independently and be able to “follow her immediate intuition,” Gego began using wire, a material that she could manipulate without the assistance of welders or blacksmiths. In 1969 she exhibited her first Reticulárea (Web-like area) series at the Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas. Measuring approximately 17 x 11 x 16 feet, this large web or net-like structure hung from the ceiling, filling most of the gallery. Gego used the name Reticulárea for subsequent works (such as the work discussed in this Art Card) based on the idea of a mesh or a net. This series evolved into various wired configurations, incorporating different geometric and organic shapes.
To create this Reticulárea, Gego started with short, equal-length sections of straight wire. She joined these together with small metal loops to form interconnected triangles and squares that also define larger, almost circular openings. The overall shape of the delicate construction is roughly rectangular. It hangs free in space, suspended from the ceiling. Though composed of simple and equal lines forming basic geometric shapes, this Reticulárea has a complex structure. Based in pure geometry, but made by hand and filled with breaks, inconsistencies, and tension, it evolves into a seemingly organic network that appears as if it could expand indefinitely into space. While Reticulárea is sculptural and occupies three dimensions, Gego rejected traditional approaches to sculpture as a solid form, instead integrating architectural and artistic principles of openness and light into her work.
When Gego arrived in Venezuela, the country was experiencing rapid modernization, urban expansion, and economic development due to a booming oil industry. Beginning in the 1950s, artists in Caracas claimed abstraction as the rational and universal language of these changes and embraced geometric and kinetic art. They received enthusiastic support from industrialists and politicians. Gego developed her work in the midst of a thriving geometric-abstract art scene, yet she remained critical of its idealization of progress and celebration of technology. In contrast to the image of steady advancement dominating the country, Gego’s Reticulárea reveals an unstable, precarious universe that nonetheless has an unlimited capacity for expansion.
- How do you think Gego made this object?
- What shapes do you see in this piece? Do any shapes repeat? How often?
- Are these shapes geometric or organic? What is the difference between a geometric and an organic shape?
- Is this a solid object? Why or why not?
- Reticulárea roughly translates to “net-like area”. Is this an effective net? How is it like a net someone might use? How is it unlike one?
- What does this remind you of?
- Would you say that this looks more natural or man-made? Defend your answer using visual clues from the piece.
- Look at the dimensions of this artwork. How would it take up space in a room? How would it react to your body as you moved around the room? If you are not viewing it in the gallery, measure out the space in your classroom and see how it feels.
- Before she was a practicing artist, Gego was trained as an architect. Can you see how that practice might have informed this piece? If this is a building, what kind of building is it?
Resources Available to Order
The Learning Through Art program is endowed by Melvyn and Cyvia Wolff.
The Learning Through Art curriculum website is made possible in part by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
All Learning and Interpretation programs at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, receive endowment income from funds provided by the Louise Jarrett Moran Bequest; Caroline Wiess Law; the William Randolph Hearst Foundation; The National Endowment for the Humanities; the Fondren Foundation; BMC Software, Inc.; the Wallace Foundation; the Neal Myers and Ken Black Children’s Art Fund; the Favrot Fund; and Gifts in honor of Beth Schneider.