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Gunther Gerzso
ArtSpace/Virginia Miller
Miami(Coral Gables) Florida

ARTnews, June, 2004

This handsome survey of early drawings by Mexican modernist Gunther Gerzso (1915–2000) brought together some 80 rarely exhibited drawings made between 1935 and 1941, while the artist was a set designer at the progressive Cleveland Play House, in Ohio. Also on view were a few of his brilliantly colored geometric abstract paintings.

Held for years in the collection of Thomas Ireland, who befriended Gerzso while working as an actor at the Cleveland Play House, these drawings, depicting everything from cotume and set designs to battle scenes, were little known to scholars until discussed in the catalogue for "Risking the Abstract: Mexican Modernism and the Art of Gunther Gerzso," organized by the Santa Barbara Museum of Art last year.

They revealed the young, European-educated Gerzso (born in Mexico to German and Hungarian parents) as an artist torn between Mexican influences and European Modernism. Indeed, when he showed his paintings in Mexico City in the 1950s, they were quickly criticized for not being "Mexican enough" compared with the politically charged works of the muralists. His paintings reflect, in particular, the spare, geometric style of Le Corbusier, one of his favorite architects, while his drawings reveal his successful experiments with Surrealism and German Expressionism. Still, a Mexican presence was clear in drawings such as Causes and Consequences of War (1935-41), in which a naked man rises victoriously from a heap of skeletons and scuffling soldiers, rendered in the tense, muscular style of elder compatriots such as Jose Clemente Orozco.

Gerzso's rectangular stage sets most accurately prefigure his later abstractions. Kaiser's Gas (1935-40), a white gouache-and-watercolor on black paper, shows the artist's interest in the esthetic possibilities of the hard-edge forms of architecture. A glowing oil painting, Verde-Azul-Blanco (1978), best exemplified the evolution of his sophisticated use of geometry. Suffused with radiant greens and blues, the painting also brought to mind Mexico's lush landscape.


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