A world premiere exhibition of more than 100 early works of the Mexican master artist Gunther Gerzso opens with a reception from 7-10 p.m. Friday, February 6th at ArtSpace/ Virginia Miller Galleries, Coral Gables, Florida.
Gerzso is “one of the great Latin American painters,” according to Octavio Paz, the Nobel Prize-winning Mexican author. New York Times critic Stephen Kinzer places Gerzso among a group of pioneering artists, including Roberto Matta, Joaquín Torres-Garcia, and Wifredo Lam, whose work mixes “the subtlety and psychological depth of European art with Latin America’s vibrant passions and tragic sense of life.”
Titled “Gunther Gerzso: Defining Mexican Abstractionism,” most of the 120 works in the ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries exhibition are from a private collection of drawings and paintings from the 1930s and 1940s. A number of later works are being added to the show as examples of Gerzso’s nonrepresentational, architectonic paintings.
“This is the first time these early works have ever been exhibited. It’s fascinating to see how Gerzso progressed stylistically as he evolved as an artist,” stated Virginia Miller. “These drawings and paintings have been called pivotal to understanding the visual language that Gerzso later created.”
The show is being held in conjunction with a major current exhibition, “Risking the Abstract: Mexican Modernism and the Art of Gunther Gerzso,” being shown at the Museum of Modern Art in Mexico City from November 12–February 22 and at the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum in Chicago from March 19–June 27, 2004
The retrospective was launched at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art from July-October 2003. “We need to look at the figures who shaped this (Latin American) art in the 20th century,” noted Santa Barbara Museum Director Phillip M. Johnston in the exhibition catalog. “Gerzso is right up there with the best of them.”
Before he pioneered abstract art in his native country, Gerzso worked as a set designer at the Cleveland Playhouse. During those years, from 1935 to 1941, he began developing as a fine artist, exploring various styles. Some of the early works in the ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries exhibition are set designs and costume studies, while others from this period are sketches, drawings and small paintings influenced by artists such as Picasso, George Grosz, Matisse, and Giorgio de Chirico.
The artist's early work was collected by a playhouse actor, Thomas Ireland. The early paintings and drawings in both the Coral Gables exhibition and the museum retrospective are from the Ireland Collection, thought to be the most extensive archive of early work by a modern master artist.
“To be able to see so many works done by a major artist during his formative years is an extraordinary opportunity,” notes gallery owner Virginia Miller. “Much of the earliest work by so many master artists was discarded or destroyed, because they did not appreciate its value in terms of art history. The works that survive often become sought after by scholars and collectors. The early works of Picasso, for example, have become quite valuable.
Diana C. du Pont, curator of the “Risking the Abstract” exhibition, observes that Gerzso often is “expressing a reality behind surface reality...the necessity for mystery and poetry in art.”
Although he has been called the pioneer of Mexican abstraction, Gerzso did not consider his works abstract. Strongly influenced by Mexico's pre-Columbian art and architecture, “Gerzso moved from a literary-based Surrealism to an abstract Surrealism on his way to a Mexican form of Abstract Expressionism, one that emphasized the architectonic over the gestural,” according to du Pont, who notes that Gerzso's style is rooted in nature and the human figure, particularly the female figure.
Gerzso is best known for his mature work: geometric abstractions, whose jewel-like glazes feature colors and textures that suggest the cultural heritage of Mexico. Several of these are in the ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries exhibit. “I want to give viewers a well-rounded experience of Gerzso’s art,” Miller said.
“Gunther Gerzso: Defining Mexican Abstractionism,” will be exhibited at ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries from February 6–April 30, with receptions from 7-10 p.m. on February 6th, March 5th and April 2nd. Open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and by appointment, the gallery is located at 169 Madeira Ave., in the heart of the Coral Gables business district. For more information, call 305-444-4493.