Rare woodblock prints by Russian artist Naum Gabo (1890—1970), one of the most important and influential sculptors of the twentieth century, will go on display at Cristea Roberts Gallery's Print Project Space from 9 January—8 February 2020. Naum Gabo: Spatial Impressions features over 30 works sourced directly from the artist's estate and coincides with the largest ever survey of Gabo's work in the UK at Tate St Ives (25 January—3 May 2020). Both exhibitions mark the centenary of The Realistic Manifesto, a text published by Gabo and his brother, Antoine Pevsner, in 1920, which served as a catalyst for the Constructivist movement in post-war Europe and beyond.
Spatial Impressions will showcase works made by Gabo in the latter half of his career, between the 1950s and 1960s, that trace the development of his artistic principles following his discovery of the potential of printmaking. Gabo chose not to edition his prints and worked almost exclusively in the woodcut technique, producing an extensive body of unique works on paper that he made in his own studio and without the assistance of a printer.
The Realistic Manifesto was published on the occasion of an open air exhibition in Moscow by Gabo and Pevsner, just three years after the Russian Revolution and two years after the end of the First World War. It acted as the focal point of debate within Russia on what the role of art should be. Gabo and Pevsner's belief was that art should reflect the modern world or that, in their words, 'the realisation of our perceptions of the world in the forms of space and time is the only aim of our pictorial and plastic art.'
It was 30 years after the publication of The Realistic Manifesto that Gabo, encouraged by William Irvins, a former curator of prints at the Museum of Modern Art, made his first print. This initial experiment, an impression taken from the bottom of a chair leg, whetted Gabo's appetite for the medium and he went on to produce an extensive body of woodcuts over the next 25 years. His main body of monoprints, Opus I - XII, some of which will be on display in this exhibition, consisted of twelve works or 'Opera' of which he made numerous printed variants. None were editioned, but instead the artist used the woodblocks to create unique versions, in each case showing how, by altering colour, tone, paper and orientation, he could radically change the nature and balance of a single composition. Only a small number of these works remain in circulation.
Following his major retrospective with Pevsner at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1948 and his involvement with several important commissions, printmaking offered Gabo the opportunity to work creatively in the far more intimate environment of his own studio. As such, these prints provide a fascinating insight into the artist's creative process at a time when he saw himself, in his own words, 'in a state of intense vitality which I have not experienced before.'
Throughout his work, an abiding interest in wave motion, field theory and the geometry of curved lines is reflected in the dynamism of his compositions in both sculpture and print.
The Cristea Roberts Gallery is the exclusive worldwide representative for the prints from the Naum Gabo Estate. The Print Project Space presents an ongoing programme of public displays featuring prints and editions by the gallery's roster of international artists.
Press release courtesy Cristea Roberts Gallery.