Naum Gabo

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Sculpture (1957) by Gabo in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

Naum Gabo (August 5, 1890August 23, 1977) was a prominent Russian sculptor in the Constructivism movement and a pioneer of Kinetic Art.

Sourced[edit]

  • Either build functional houses and bridges or create pure art or both. Don't confuse one with the other. Such art is not pure constructive art, but merely an imitation of the machine
    • Naum Gabo (1919) as cited in: Ruth Latta (1948) Naum Gabo. Museum of Modern Art (New York, N.Y.), p.18
    • Here Gabo publicly criticized Tatlin's design for the Monument to the Third International (1919)
  • I have come to the conclusion that a work of art restricted to what the artist has put in it is only a part of itself. It only attains full stature with what people and time make of it. It involves the whole complex of human relation to life. It is a mode of thinking, acting, perceiving and living.
    • Naum Gabo (1937) in a letter to Herbert Read. Cited in: Cyril Connolly (1944) Horizon: a review of literature and art. Vol 9-10. p.58
  • We know only what we do, what we make, what we construct ; and all that we make, all that we construct, are realities. I call them images, not in Plato's sense (namely that they are only reflections of reality), but I hold that these images are the reality itself and that there is no reality beyond this reality except when in our creative process we change the images: then we have created new realities.
    • Gabo (1950) cited in: Eidos: a journal of painting, sculpture and design. Nr.1, p.31
  • If I were an academician... or a believer in a higher reality outside me, as most people are (lucky creatures!), I would have no need for any justification for painting landscapes, or portraits, or social realism. I would rely on my so-called common sense, on which I see and feel, and I would enjoy it. Or I would fix one point in the distant haze of that unknown reality, would try to approach it as nearly as I could, and would find solace in the fanatical belief that I am the only one who is portraying that reality which is the only truth.
    • Gabo (1950) cited in: Eidos: a journal of painting, sculpture and design. Nr.1, p.32 cited in: Herbert E. Read, Sir Herbert Edward Read (1971) The philosophy of modern art: collected essays. p.94
  • Art and Science are two different streams which rise from the same creative force and flow into the same ocean of the common culture, but the currents of these two streams flow in different directions.
    • Gabo (1957) Gabo: Construction, Sculpture, Paintings, Drawings, Engravings. p.164.
  • More often than not, [people] expect a painting to speak to them in terms other than visual, preferably in words, whereas when a painting or a sculpture needs to be supplemented and explained by words it means either that it has not fulfilled its function or that the public is deprived of vision,
    • Gabo (1962) as cited in: Joseph Goguen (1999) Art and the Brain. p.76
  • He (Piet Mondrian) couldn't look after himself properly. He was terrible [sic] thin, and seemed to live mostly on currants and vegetable stew, because he followed the Haye diet.
    • Gabo (1962) cited in: Carel Blotkamp, Piet Mondrian (1994) Mondriaan: destructie als kunst
  • There is no indication of success up to now in the bringing together of art and science. To achieve success the artist must be spiritually at home in the field of science so he can think and feel in the same way as the scientist. A spiritual union, not a technical one, is requested.
    • Gabo (1969) Studio international. Vol.178. p.64
  • It needs a poet like Schwitters to show us that unobserved elements of beauty are strewn and spread all around us and we can find them everywhere in the portentous as well as in the insignificant, if only we care to look, to choose and to fit them into a comely order.
  • From the very beginning of the Constructivist Movement it was clear to me that a constructed sculpture, by its very method and technique brings sculpture very near to architecture... My works of this time up to 1924... are all in the search for an image which would fuse the sculptural element with the architectural element in one unit. I consider this Column the culmination of that search.
    • Gabo cited in: Simon Wilson (1991), Tate Gallery: An Illustrated Companion, Tate Gallery, London, revised edition. p.146

Realistic Manifesto. 1920[edit]

Source: Naum Gabo and Antoine Pevsner (1920) Realistic Manifesto. Moscow : Second State Printing House. August 5, 1920.

  • Space and time are the only forms on which life is built and hence art must be constructed... 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... We renounce the thousand-year-old delusion in art that held the static rhythms as the only elements of the plastic and pictorial arts. We affirm in these arts a new element, the kinetic rhythms as the basic forms of our perception of real time.
    • As cited in: Fred Kleiner (2008) Intl Stdt Edition-Gardner's Art Thru/Ages: Globl Hist. Vol.2, p.949
  • No new artistic system will withstand the pressure of a growing new culture until the very foundation of Art will be erected on the real laws of life.
    Until all artists will say with us...
    All is a fiction... only life and its laws are authentic and in life only the active is beautiful and wise and strong and right, for life does not know beauty as an aesthetic measure... efficacious existence is the highest beauty.
    Life knows neither good nor bad nor justice as a measure of morals... need is the highest and most just of all morals.
    Life does not know rationally abstracted truths as a measure of cognizance, deed is the highest and surest of truths.
    Those are the laws of life. Can art withstand these laws if it is built on an abstraction, on mirage, and fiction?...
    • In: Naum Gabo, Michael Compton (1987) Naum Gabo: sixty years of constructivism. p.8
"Revolving Torsion" kinetic sculpture/fountain by Naum Gabo

Circle: International Survey of Constructive Art', 1937[edit]

Source: Leslie Martin, Ben Nicholson and N. Gabo (eds.) Circle: International Survey of Constructive Art. London: Faber and Faber.

  • [The Constructive idea...] has revealed a universal law that the elements of a visual art such as lines, colours, shapes, possess their own forces of expression independent of any association with the external aspects of the world; that their life and action are self-conditioned psychological phenomena rooted in human nature; that those elements are not chosen by convention by any utilitarian or other reason as words and figures are, they are not merely abstract signs, but they are immediately and organically bound up with human emotions. The revelation of this fundamental law has opened up a vast field in art giving the possibility of expression to those human impulses and emotions which have been neglected.
    • Naum Gabo (1937) "Editorial", p.7 as cited in: W. Rotzler (1989) Constructive Concepts-A History of Constructive Art from Cubism to the Present, Rizzoli.
  • Science looks and observes and art see and foresees. Every great scientist has experienced a moment when the artist in him saved the scientist.
    • Naum Gabo (1937) "Editorial", p.9
  • The shapes we are creating are not abstract, they are absolute.
    • Gabo (1937) "Sculpture and Construction in Space". p.109

Sculpture: Carving and Construction in Space (1937)[edit]

  • The growth of new ideas is more difficult and lengthy the deeper they are rotted in life. Resistance to them is the more obsitnate and exasperated the more persistent their growth is.
    • In: Herschel Browning Chipp (1968) Theories of Modern Art. p.330
  • Up to now sculptors have preferred the mass and neglected or paid little attention to such an important component of mass as space ... we consider it as an absolute sculptural element. I do not hesitate to affirm that the perception of space is a primary natural sense which belongs to the basic senses of our psychology
    • In: Herschel Browning Chipp (1968) Theories of Modern Art. p.332

Of divers arts, (1962)[edit]

  • I realized that the image I had been given by my teachers, the scientists... by their way of looking at Nature, was just another stage setting with all the magnificence and ingenuity that the genius of any artist produces in a work of art. I realized that in my scientific journey I had been under the power of a magic spell of a work of art whose reality was just as true as the verity of the image in an artist's vision."
    • p.21 cited in: Larisa V. Shavinina (2009) International Handbook on Giftedness. p.862
  • What we cannot express by the art of thinking, by the art of Science or philosophy or logic, we can and should express by the poetic, visual, or some other arts
    • p.191

About Naum Gabo[edit]

  • The true artist always refuses to conform to any standards others than his own. That’s why the attacks in Russia against Shostakovitch and Prokofiev are identical to the attacks that have been made here against American pioneers of abstract painting like Davis, Holty, or Morris. In Russia it was Malevich and Gabo, in this country at the moment it is people like Rothko, Baziotes, Pollock, my self and many others who are being attacked. The names may vary, but the methods, the motives; the objects of attack are essentially the same. Only meritocracy is forever immune, because it is forever ready to conform. (his comment on the attacks on artistic freedom in 1948.
    • Adolph Gottlieb (1948) in his lecture at Forum: the Artist Speaks, museum of Modern Art, New York, May 5, 1948
  • The point they (Lissitzky, Rodchenko, Tatlin, Gabo, the neo-Plasticists, and so on) all had in common was to be inside and outside at the same time... For me, to be inside and outside is to be in an unheated studio with broken windows in the winter, or taking a nap on somebody’s porch in the summer.
    • Willem de Kooning (1983) Willem de Kooning, MOMA Bull, pp. 7,6, as quoted in Abstract Expressionist Painting in America, W.C, Seitz, Cambridge Massachusetts, p. 134

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