Gertrude Louise Goldschmidt is one of the few Jewish students in Germany in 1938. At that time, the Technical University of Stuttgart was accepting “non-Aryans”. Goldschmidt, 26, has already passed all certifications in her architectural subject, and her final project has been completed. She was not allowed to attend the mandatory series of lectures on National Socialist ideology, such as “The Tasks and Objectives of Defense Policy”. She took English lessons at her lecturer’s home. Two weeks after the night of the Reich massacre, she passed her test. She was one of the last Jews to receive a certificate. The document saved her life.
Gertrude Goldschmidt’s applications for residence permits in England and Australia were refused, but Venezuela granted her a visa as an architect. And though she sent a desperate telegram to her parents in England “there are no poor French, Spanish, and Italian,” she traveled to Caracas via England on June 2, 1939. For Gertrude Goldschmid, this is the end of her German autobiography. Under the stage name Gego, she would become one of the most important South American artists of the 20th century.
An exhibition at the Stuttgart Museum of Art entitled “Gego. The Architecture of an Artist” deals again with the time when Gego was still Gertrud Goldschmidt. It is rare for a museum to research the early works of an exile whose work does not even form part of its private collection. However, Stuttgart – which was voted Museum of the Year this year – raised the funds and hired an art historian for three years to process a collection of more than 100 works from the property. The permanent loan remained in the house after the historical exhibition “Gego. Line as an Object”, which was shown in Hamburg and Stuttgart and finally made the work of the artist, who died in 1994, known again in her homeland, including in economically poor Caracas difficult to present and certainly not It is scientifically processed.
For people from Stuttgart of all places, there is a lot to discover on offer
But since studies of the early 1930s have also come under close scrutiny of the sketches, drawings, and objects, there are some surprises for the Stuttgart public. For example, the curricula of the university in which the student, born in Hamburg in 1912, entered for the first time was analyzed, perhaps because this university was one of the most advanced in Germany after the closure of the Bauhaus. On the index card, there is a red and yellow bar that identifies the student as a woman and a Jew.
However, Gertrude Goldschmidt allowed herself to be photographed confidently in a suit and tie for “Belegbuch”. Her studies were supported by dedicated professors – including Paul Bonatz, now famous for being a traditionalist. Teachers know that this is the only way their students will have one last chance for legal immigration. And in the city, where one of the most important housing projects in the Weimar Republic was created through ownership of the Weissenhof model, the student also finds inspiring mentors: she takes courses with painter and graphic artist Karl Schmoll von Eisenwerth, and has worked as a director-trained with Bodo Rasch, a self-taught and visionary designer. Not only does he research cantilever chair design, but he also participates in Kurt Schwitters’ “Ursonate” shows and is traded with Buckminster Fuller. Even after she emigrated, she remained in close contact with Rush by letters until the 1970s.
Above all, Gertrude Goldschmidt learned spatial thinking, how to work with technical materials and the medium of painting, and how to use calligraphy when it came to putting ideas and thoughts on paper. Later you will write in Spanish about the value of the font, which you then call “Sabiduras”. Die Kuratorin und Kunsthistorikerin Stefanie Reisinger führt das spätere Werk der Künstlerin nachdrücklich auch auf diesen Teil der Ausbildung zurück: “Lange bevor Gego sich Mitte der 1950er Jahre in Venezuela entsünscheidet sürück e in Venezuela entsüreland spürschidet Kürück carrying out.”
Designed “Art in Construction” before it even had a name
Indeed, Goldschmidt trained excellently upon her arrival in Caracas, where the promised position had already been filled. But the town that ended up somewhat by chance is a stroke of luck. Caracas will become a bourgeois city under a comprehensive reform. The money is in: Venezuela has just become the world’s second largest oil supplier. The wave of modernization brought mainly immigrants from Europe to the country. Gego is about to witness how colonial buildings and farms disappear and in their place breathtaking projects such as the Ciudad Universitaria de Caracas are created. Carlos Villanueva, the leading architect, also includes art in his “new synthesis of various forms of expression” – for him, crystal is a symbol.
Gego will initially accompany the construction boom as an interior designer with designs for restaurants, bars and nightclubs. At the end of the 1940s, she also designed a villa for her family, married German businessman Ernst Guns, and together they opened a workshop for lamps and furniture. But in the 1950s, a qualified engineer took a different path and became an artist. Working on Parallel Architectures, Gego designs early 1960s works that can be defined today as art in architecture, such as its “aluminum staircase,” which appears to merge with the surrounding building.
These major projects have made her famous throughout South America, and she is also influential as a teacher – including her core course “Taller Gego”. Above all, her sculptures in urban space are based on the fact that she studied not only scale and construction, but also construction techniques and materials. As early as 1974, Latin American art critic Marta Traba admitted: “Without this technical and professional foundation she would not have realized her work.”
Gego. Artist architecture. Stuttgart Art Museum. Until July 10. The cost of the catalog is 35 euros.