Naum Gabo Russian, 1890-1977

Naum Gabo was an influential sculptor, theorist, and key figure in Russia's post-Revolution avant-garde and the subsequent development of twentieth-century sculpture. His work combined geometric abstraction with a dynamic organization of form in small reliefs and constructions, monumental public sculpture and pioneering kinetic works that assimilated new materials such as nylon, wire, Perspex along with glass and metal. Responding to the scientific and political revolutions of his age, Gabo led a peripatetic life, moving to Berlin, Paris, Oslo, Moscow, London, and finally the United States, and was positioned within the circles of the major avant-garde movements of the day, including Cubism, Futurism, Constructivism, the Bauhaus, de Stijl and the Abstraction-Création group. Two preoccupations, unique to Gabo, were his interest in representing negative space-"released from any closed volume" or mass-and time. He famously explored the former idea in his Linear Construction works (1942-1971) - which used nylon filament to create voids or interior spaces as "concrete" as the elements of solid mass - and the latter in his pioneering work, Kinetic Sculpture (Standing Waves) (1920), often considered the first kinetic work of art.


Born in 1890, in Russia, named Naum Neemia Pevsner, he was the younger brother of Antoine Pevsner. He abandoned a medical career and began to study in Munich.  In 1910 he met Kandinsky and in 1913/14, while visiting his brother, then a Cubist painter in Paris, he met other artists.  In 1915 he made the first constructions using the name Gabo. He returned to Russia in 1917 and become embroiled in art and politics and in 1920 Gabo and Pevsner wrote and issued jointly their 'Realistic Manifesto's setting out the tenets of pure Constructivisim.  He had to leave Russia, spending the years 1922-32 in Berlin and by 1924 was in Paris with Pevsner - where as well as exhibiting, he  designed the set and costumes for Diaghilev's ballet La Chatte in 1926 and from 1932-35 he was a member of the Abstraction-Creation group.  In 1935 he moved to England, first London and then spent seven years in Cornwall meeting Hepworth, Nicholson, Lanyon and others. In 1946 he settled in America, taking citizenship in 1952. 

 

From the 1950's Gabo undertook several large sculpture commissions, including a work for the Bijenkorf store in Rotterdam 1955-7 and Revolving Torsion, a large fountain outside St Thomas Hospital in London. The Tate Gallery, London, holds many key works in its collection and held a major retrospective of Gabo's work in 1966 and also recently in 2020 at the Tate Gallery, St Ives, in Cornwall.  The Museum of Modern Art and Solomon R Guggenheim Museum collections in New York also hold significant works by Gabo in their collections.  Work by Gabo is also included at the Rockerfeller Center in New York and The Governor Nelson A. Rockerfeller Empire State Plasa Art Collection in Albany and are held in major internationl public galleries and museums worldwide.

 

Naum Gabo died in Connecticut in 1977 at the age of 87.