Linear Construction in Space No.1, 1944-45
Naum Gabo was, with his brother Antoine Pevsner, one of the leading figures of international Constructive Art. Early in his career, he developed an interest in the dematerialisation of sculpture, and explored the replacement of inert mass and volume with space, void, light, movement and time. Linear Construction in Space No.1 belongs to Gabo’s British years (1936-46), a very productive period in which this process of dematerialisation saw its culmination. While living in London, and later in Cornwall, Gabo was stimulated by contacts with numerous artists. Among other things these led to the publication of Circle: International Survey of Constructive Art with Ben Nichoslon and Leslie Martin (1937).
Linear Construction in Space No.1 was a prototype for a public sculpture to be sited near an unidentified textile factory, as a homage to the skills of its workers. Gabo believed that artists should play a central role in the advancement of society and felt that he could contribute to it by producing public works celebrating working people. This preoccupation with industrialism, combined with his interest in the dematerialisation of sculpture, led him to experiment with new materials like plastics, which had the crucial characteristics of being modern, transparent, easily workable and cheap. Linear Construction in Space No.1 was constructed from two distinct materials which perform different functions. The Perspex frame (made of 5 pieces) provides the skeleton and describes one form; the Nylon threads act as sinews drawn across this frame, creating an illusion of continuous form with subtle light and shadow effects. Both Perspex and Nylon were newly invented materials.
This work represented a breakthrough in Gabo’s practice, marking the shift from the use of lines incised in a Perspex structure to the adoption of actual Nylon stringing, possibly inspired by mathematical models. Stringing allowed him to draw in space without enclosing it, to describe and suggest form into the surrounding environment without creating solid volumes. Eighteen versions of the work exist in different sizes, all derived from a 1938 original. The one at Kettle’s Yard is thought to be the fifth in the series.
Provenance: purchased by Frank and Vera Strawson from the artist, July 1945; bequeathed by Vera Strawson to Mrs. Joy Finzi, 1969; gift of Mrs. Joy Finzi to H.S. Ede (in memory of Frank and Vera Strawson), May 1969.
Sculpture [NG 2]
Perspex and nylon thread
308 x 310 x 63 mm
About the artist
Gabo was born in Bryansk, Russia. He worked alongside Kandinsky, Tatlin and Malevich until 1921, when he moved to Berlin. There he and his brother, Antoine Pevsner, became leading exponents of Constructivist art. In 1933 he moved to London, where he worked with Ben Nicholson and Leslie Martin, both of whom shared his interest in the concepts of purity and structure. Together they edited the manifesto 'Circle' in 1937. He went to St. Ives with Nicholson during the war, and then emigrated to America, where he spent the rest of his life.