The Alan Cristea Gallery is devoting an entire exhibition to Naum Gabo's rare monoprints. The show will include over thirty works showing the full range of the artist's output in this medium. Naum Gabo was born in Russia in 1890. A pioneer of the Constructivist movement, he was one of the most important and influential sculptors of the twentieth century.
Gabo made his first prints in 1950. Having not shown any interest in this medium before, it was only after meeting William Ivins, formerly curator of prints at the Metropolitan Museum, that he became intrigued by the possibilities that printmaking offered. After an initial conversation, Ivins visited Gabo's studio with a printmaker's basic kit: a wood block, cutting tools, paper, and inks. He also offered practical advice. Encouraged, almost pushed, into making prints, Gabo began at once and went on for about twenty-five years, into the 1970s and the last months of his life.
Many of Gabo's monoprints are works of extraordinary delicacy. Their forms may be bold but they are carefully reconsidered between printings. Colours and tones can be varied almost infinitely, and the paper itself can invite refinement, especially when it is the Japanese paper he liked best, almost immaterial in its gossamer fineness. Different woods take engraving differently, and Gabo ranged widely here too, from professionally prepared boxwood to pearwood and cherrywood blocks, and to a piece of mahogany he sawed off a piece of furniture. The Japanese paper, being almost transparent, revealed the design as he hand-printed it, inviting him to press more on some portions of the print than on others, and allowing him to choose the reversed design as the final image.
In total he only made twelve images ('Opus') as well as a small number of printed variants. In each case none were editioned. Instead Gabo printed multiple copies from the same block, and in each case he showed how, by altering colour, tone, paper and orientation, he could radically change the nature and balance of a single composition.
The exhibition will be accompanied by an illustrated catalogue with an essay by Norbert Lynton.