An innovator in European sculpture

Well before the American sculptor David Smith became known for his welded iron sculptures or Anthony Caro joined industrial parts to make sculptural forms, a Spaniard from Catalonia by the name of Julio Gonzalez had pioneered welded iron as a medium for sculpture, thus opening the way to the developments which were to follow. Interestingly, Gonzalez turned to sculpture rather late in his career, when he was nearing 50. Years of working as a metalworker – first at the atelier of his father, a well-known metalworker in Barcelona who supposedly made some of the metalwork for Antoni Gaudi – helped him master his technique in handling various materials so that when he turned to sculpture, his technical freedom became one of his greatest expressive tools. This aspect of his work is recalled in an exhibition of his work organized by the National Gallery and opening at the National Glyptotheque in Goudi this coming Monday. The works belong to Valencia’s Institute of Modern Art, co-organizer of the exhibition. Totaling 140, they include mostly sculptures as well as several drawings. A skilled draftsman, Gonzalez produced at least 10 times as many drawings as he did sculptures. Many are not preparatory drawings but instead follow the making of his sculptures. «Dessiner dans l’espace» (Designing in Space) is actually how Gonzalez described his method of working as a sculptor. His sculptures, many made of long, iron rods that defy solid mass and instead seem like the outlines of a drawing in space, fit his self-description. The exhibition also includes a work by Picasso (from the Musee Picasso) as testimony to the great influence that Gonzalez had on Picasso, his collaborator and friend. Julio Gonzalez frequented the artistic circle of Picasso both in Barcelona (at the famous Els Quatre Gats cafe) but more so in Paris where Gonzalez’s family moved to in 1900. One of Gonzalez’s most famous works, the «Montserrat» (named after Spain’s holy mountain), showing a woman holding a child in her hands and commemorating the suffering of the Spanish people during the country’s civil war, was exhibited together with Picasso’s «Guernica» at Paris’s Universal Exposition in 1937. To emphasize the impact of Gonzalez, the exhibition also includes two drawings that the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava has made inspired by his compatriot’s work. At the National Glyptotheque (Alsos Stratou, Goudi) from 25/10 – 30/1/06.