Never before exhibited unique woodblock prints by Russian artist Naum Gabo (1890 - 1977), from the personal collection of Gabo's daughter Nina Williams and her husband, will go on show at the Alan Cristea Gallery from 4 February - 12 March 2016. The display of over 30 works, the majority of which are rare examples, many personally dedicated, include the first print ever made by Gabo. The exhibition reveals new insights into the development of Gabo's printmaking, from the first woodblock prints he made in the immediate post-war era to images the artist produced just a few weeks before he died.
At the age of sixty Gabo was persuaded by William Ivins, retired curator of prints at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, to make prints. Ivins presented tools, a roller and tube of ink to Gabo who made his first engraving on a round piece of wood sawed from an old table leg. When Gabo complained to Ivins that he also needed paper, Ivins reminded him of 'the paper in the toilet.' Opus I, 1950, Gabo's first ever print, is a small circular image on a piece of tissue inscribed 'first prouf ever tried'. Gabo shortly made another print from this woodblock, and gave it to his daughter on her ninth birthday, inscribing it, 'For my daughter Nina with much love Gabo May 26th 1950'.
From this moment Gabo went on to make a significant body of woodcuts, for a quarter of a century, until his death in 1977. His focus centred on twelve images, entitled Opus I - XXII, of which he made a number of unique variants, each varying in orientation, tone and texture.
The Opus prints gifted to Nina (pictured with Gabo in Cornwall in 1943) include those inscribed to her by her father on birthdays and at Christmas. Her favourite work is Opus VIII (date unknown), pictured, an image of floating translucent planes printed in azure blue. She comments that this was "always my absolute favourite. It is so sculptural and sits in space. It speaks to me always." Gabo's daughter and her husband have affectionately attached their own personal family names to some of the prints; The Pillow, The Milky Way, The Constellations and The Satellite.
Gabo, one of the most important and influential sculptors of the twentieth century, studied engineering before he began making constructions in 1915. A pioneer of the Constructivist movement, he was interested in wave motion, field theory and the geometry of curved lines. Gabo's experimentation of movement in his prints echo his models, sculptures or commissions, such as Torsion, the rotating fountain outside St Thomas's Hospital, London, and stone carvings he made in Cornwall in the 1940s.
Opus I - XXII are displayed alongside untitled works that were a gift from Gabo to his wife Miriam Gabo. The exhibition of over 30 works is accompanied by a fully illustrated publication, with an introductory essay and commentary from Graham Williams.
The Alan Cristea Gallery is the exclusive worldwide representative for the prints from the Naum Gabo Estate.