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Installation view, Elsa Gramcko, The Invisible Plot of Things, James Cohan, 48 Walker Street, January 6 - February 15, 2023

Installation view, Elsa Gramcko, The Invisible Plot of Things, James Cohan, 48 Walker Street, January 6 - February 15, 2023

 

Installation view, Elsa Gramcko, The Invisible Plot of Things, James Cohan, 48 Walker Street, January 6 - February 15, 2023

Installation view, Elsa Gramcko, The Invisible Plot of Things, James Cohan, 48 Walker Street, January 6 - February 15, 2023

Installation view, Elsa Gramcko, The Invisible Plot of Things, James Cohan, 48 Walker Street, January 6 - February 15, 2023

Installation view, Elsa Gramcko, The Invisible Plot of Things, James Cohan, 48 Walker Street, January 6 - February 15, 2023

Installation view, Elsa Gramcko, The Invisible Plot of Things, James Cohan, 48 Walker Street, January 6 - February 15, 2023

Installation view, Elsa Gramcko, The Invisible Plot of Things, James Cohan, 48 Walker Street, January 6 - February 15, 2023

Installation view, Elsa Gramcko, The Invisible Plot of Things, James Cohan, 48 Walker Street, January 6 - February 15, 2023

Installation view, Elsa Gramcko, The Invisible Plot of Things, James Cohan, 48 Walker Street, January 6 - February 15, 2023

Installation view, Elsa Gramcko, The Invisible Plot of Things, James Cohan, 48 Walker Street, January 6 - February 15, 2023

Installation view, Elsa Gramcko, The Invisible Plot of Things, James Cohan, 48 Walker Street, January 6 - February 15, 2023

Installation view, Elsa Gramcko, The Invisible Plot of Things, James Cohan, 48 Walker Street, January 6 - February 15, 2023

Installation view, Elsa Gramcko, The Invisible Plot of Things, James Cohan, 48 Walker Street, January 6 - February 15, 2023

Installation view, Elsa Gramcko, The Invisible Plot of Things, James Cohan, 48 Walker Street, January 6 - February 15, 2023

Installation view, Elsa Gramcko, The Invisible Plot of Things, James Cohan, 48 Walker Street, January 6 - February 15, 2023

Installation view, Elsa Gramcko, The Invisible Plot of Things, James Cohan, 48 Walker Street, January 6 - February 15, 2023

Installation view, Elsa Gramcko, The Invisible Plot of Things, James Cohan, 48 Walker Street, January 6 - February 15, 2023

Installation view, Elsa Gramcko, The Invisible Plot of Things, James Cohan, 48 Walker Street, January 6 - February 15, 2023

Installation view, Elsa Gramcko, The Invisible Plot of Things, James Cohan, 48 Walker Street, January 6 - February 15, 2023

Installation view, Elsa Gramcko, The Invisible Plot of Things, James Cohan, 48 Walker Street, January 6 - February 15, 2023

Installation view, Elsa Gramcko, The Invisible Plot of Things, James Cohan, 48 Walker Street, January 6 - February 15, 2023

Installation view, Elsa Gramcko, The Invisible Plot of Things, James Cohan, 48 Walker Street, January 6 - February 15, 2023

Installation view, Elsa Gramcko, The Invisible Plot of Things, James Cohan, 48 Walker Street, January 6 - February 15, 2023

Installation view, Elsa Gramcko, The Invisible Plot of Things, James Cohan, 48 Walker Street, January 6 - February 15, 2023

Installation view, Elsa Gramcko, The Invisible Plot of Things, James Cohan, 48 Walker Street, January 6 - February 15, 2023

Installation view, Elsa Gramcko, The Invisible Plot of Things, James Cohan, 48 Walker Street, January 6 - February 15, 2023

Installation view, Elsa Gramcko, The Invisible Plot of Things, James Cohan, 48 Walker Street, January 6, 2023 - February 15, 2023

Installation view, Elsa Gramcko, The Invisible Plot of Things, James Cohan, 48 Walker Street, January 6 - February 15, 2023

Installation view, Elsa Gramcko, The Invisible Plot of Things, James Cohan, 48 Walker Street, January 6, 2023 - February 15, 2023

Installation view, Elsa Gramcko, The Invisible Plot of Things, James Cohan, 48 Walker Street, January 6 - February 15, 2023

Installation view, Elsa Gramcko, The Invisible Plot of Things, James Cohan, 48 Walker Street, January 6, 2023 - February 15, 2023

Installation view, Elsa Gramcko, The Invisible Plot of Things, James Cohan, 48 Walker Street, January 6 - February 15, 2023

Installation view, Elsa Gramcko, The Invisible Plot of Things, James Cohan, 48 Walker Street, January 6, 2023 - February 15, 2023

Installation view, Elsa Gramcko, The Invisible Plot of Things, James Cohan, 48 Walker Street, January 6 - February 15, 2023

Installation view, Elsa Gramcko, The Invisible Plot of Things, James Cohan, 48 Walker Street, January 6 - February 15, 2023

Installation view, Elsa Gramcko, The Invisible Plot of Things, James Cohan, 48 Walker Street, January 6 - February 15, 2023

Installation view, Elsa Gramcko, The Invisible Plot of Things, James Cohan, 48 Walker Street, January 6, 2023 - February 15, 2023

Installation view, Elsa Gramcko, The Invisible Plot of Things, James Cohan, 48 Walker Street, January 6 - February 15, 2023

Installation view, Elsa Gramcko, The Invisible Plot of Things, James Cohan, 48 Walker Street, January 6 - February 15, 2023

Installation view, Elsa Gramcko, The Invisible Plot of Things, James Cohan, 48 Walker Street, January 6 - February 15, 2023

Installation view, Elsa Gramcko, The Invisible Plot of Things, James Cohan, 48 Walker Street, January 6 - February 15, 2023

Installation view, Elsa Gramcko, The Invisible Plot of Things, James Cohan, 48 Walker Street, January 6 - February 15, 2023

Installation view, Elsa Gramcko, The Invisible Plot of Things, James Cohan, 48 Walker Street, January 6 - February 15, 2023

Oil on canvas

ELSA GRAMCKO

No. 6, 1957

Oil on canvas

36 7/8 x 44 1/2 in.
93.5 x 112.9 cm

 

JCG13502

Oil on canvas

ELSA GRAMCKO

Sin título (Untitled), 1957

Oil on canvas

31 1/2 x 31 1/2 in.
80 x 80 cm

 

JCG14789

Oil, acrylic, and mixed media on canvas

ELSA GRAMCKO

R-33, Todo comienza aquí (R-33, It All Begins Here), 1960

Oil, acrylic, and mixed media on canvas

39 3/8 x 39 3/8 in.
100 x 100 cm

 

JCG14791

Acrylic with sand and mixed media on canvas

ELSA GRAMCKO

R-37, En el allá disparado desde ningún comienzo (R-37, There Within, Launched From No Beginning), 1960

Acrylic with sand and mixed media on canvas

13 3/4 x 35 3/8 in.
35 x 90 cm

 

JCG13653

 

Mixed media on wood

ELSA GRAMCKO

Sin título (Untitled), 1962

Mixed media on wood

11 3/4 x 11 1/4 in.
30 x 28 1/2 cm

 

JCG13659

Car battery cells, locks, and mixed media assemblage on wood

ELSA GRAMCKO

El castillo de los cerrojos (The Castle of Locks), 1964

Car battery cells, locks, and mixed media assemblage on wood

21 5/8 x 19 11/16 in.
55 x 50 cm

 

JCG13656

Mixed media on wood

ELSA GRAMCKO

Memoria (Remembrance), 1964

Mixed media on wood

29 1/2 x 21 5/8 in.
75 x 55 cm

 

JCG13525

Cement, car battery cells, and mixed media on wood

ELSA GRAMCKO

Sin título (Untitled), 1965

Cement, car battery cells, and mixed media on wood

33 1/2 x 29 3/8 in.
85 x 74.5 cm

 

JCG13522

Elsa Gramcko, Intima Libertad (Intimate Freedom), 1965

Elsa Gramcko

Intima Libertad (Intimate Freedom), 1965

Headlight, metal grate and mixed media on wood

13 3/4 x 13 3/4 in.
35 x 35 cm

 

JCG13512

Metal, comb, and mixed media on wood

ELSA GRAMCKO

Plenitud (Plenitude), 1966

Metal, comb, and mixed media on wood

13 3/4 x 13 3/4 in.
35 x 35 cm

 

JCG13658

Car clutch, mirrors, and mixed media on wood

ELSA GRAMCKO

Experiencia de luz (Experience of Light), 1966

Car clutch, mirrors, and mixed media on wood

21 5/8 x 21 5/8 in.
55 x 55 cm

 

JCG13518

Machinery gear and mixed media on Masonite

ELSA GRAMCKO

Paracelso (Paracelsus), 1969

Machinery gear and mixed media on Masonite

13 3/4 x 13 3/4 x 4 3/8 in.
35 x 35 x 11 cm

 

JCG13527

Painted iron

ELSA GRAMCKO

Sin título (Untitled), 1969

Painted iron

22 1/2 x 5 7/8 x 5 1/2 in.
57 x 14.9 x 14 cm

 

JCG13506

 

Painted Iron

ELSA GRAMCKO

Sin título, (Untitled), 1969

Painted iron

44 1/8 x 11 3/4 x 6 1/8 in.
112 x 30 x 15 1/2 cm

 

JCG13654

Organic material, casein plastic, and metal on Masonite

ELSA GRAMCKO

Tikihao, 1973

Organic material, casein plastic, and metal on Masonite

18 1/2 x 14 1/8 in.
47 x 36 cm

 

JCG13509

Elsa Gramcko, El Arquetipo de Héroe, 1975

Elsa Gramcko

El Arquetipo de Héroe, 1975

Sheet metal and various materials on wood

33 7/16 x 23 9/16 in.
85 x 60 cm

 

JCG13517

Car battery cells, mixed media, and wood assemblage on board

ELSA GRAMCKO

Identificación plástica con un centro interior (Plastic Identifications with an Intimate Center), 1975

Car battery cells, mixed media, and wood assemblage on board

27 9/16 x 27 9/16 in.
70 x 70 cm

 

JCG13513

Wood assemblage

ELSA GRAMCKO

Nº 5, de la serie bocetos para expresar nuestro tiempo (Nº 5, from the Series of Sketches to Express Our Time), 1976

Mixed media on wood

11 3/4 x 7 1/2 in.
30 x 19 cm

 

JCG13664

Wood assemblage

ELSA GRAMCKO

Tiempo, ego, drama (Time, Ego, Drama), 1976

Wood assemblage

11 3/4 x 19 5/8 in.
29.8 x 49.8 cm

 

JCG14063

Press Release

James Cohan is pleased to present Elsa Gramcko: The Invisible Plot of Things, an exhibition of works by Venezuelan artist Elsa Gramcko (b.1925 Puerto Cabello, Venezuela, d.1994 Caracas, Venezuela) on view at the gallery’s 48 Walker Street location from January 6 through February 15, 2023. Elsa Gramcko: The Invisible Plot of Things is a comprehensive survey of Gramcko’s artistic practice spanning three decades; from the mid-1950s through the mid-1970s. Curated by the Venezuelan curator, Gabriela Rangel, this revelatory exhibition positions Gramcko prominently within the canon of Latin American art, alongside influential women artists such as Gego (Gertrude Goldschmidt), Tecla Tofano, and Mercedes Pardo. More broadly, the presentation demonstrates her critical contributions to postwar global modernism.


Gramcko’s oeuvre defied classification; as her language of artmaking evolved from geometric abstraction to surrealism to informalism. Her explorations were driven by her keen sense of materiality and geometric form and her ability to embed objects with new meaning. Unlike her Venezuelan contemporaries, namely Alejandro Otero and Jesús Rafael Soto, she veered away from the Kinetic movement that prioritized constructivist art as a participatory process. Gramcko’s work is not participatory in the physical sense, but rather, it invites viewers to enter into a subconscious state and question what it means to look closely. Things, like knobs and locks, are given a transformed, sentient identity; painted bulbous and skeletal forms seem to hint at the body; and sculptural totems recall the ancient Americas. Her interests in German existentialist philosophy and Carl Jung’s meditations on memory and consciousness, along with her avid consumption of surrealist poetry--some of which was written by her sister, Ida--all influenced her paintings, assemblages, and sculptures.

 

Elsa Gramcko embraced gritty textures, rusted metals and car parts, working against the illusory optimism of the Kinetic movement. She recomposed these cast-off materials of modernity as a meditation on a country ruled by oil. Her art practice was a critical approach to what Rangel and art historian Aruna D’Souza describe as “petro-modernity”; a period of booming oil-extraction in Venezuela, coupled with rapid urban development in the capital city of Caracas in the 1960s and 70s. Gramcko affixed discarded industrial debris, such as car battery cells and headlights, directly onto masonite–emblematic symbols of the state of the country and its dependence on the automobile. In Gramcko’s words, “These works are questioning contemporary society..it’s really about trying to defend us against becoming automated machines, becoming the teeth on a gear, and it’s about privileging our individuality.” By reclaiming things, Gramcko imbued them with a sense of mystery and beauty as a silent protest to Venezuela's rampant modernization. 

 

Elsa Gramcko: The Invisible Plot of Things is presented in partnership with Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino in Houston, Texas and with the collaboration of Luis Felipe Farías. The exhibition is accompanied by the first-ever monograph dedicated to her work. The publication features essays by Gabriela Rangel and Aruna D'Souza, along with unpublished letters Gramcko wrote to the artist Alejandro Otero in the early 1960s.

 

Elsa Gramcko was born in 1925 in Puerto Cabello, the largest port in Venezuela. Gramcko was raised by polyglot German-immigrant parents, who were supportive of her intellectual and artistic development. She moved to Caracas with her parents and her sister Ida, who would later become an important surrealist poet. There, she attended courses in the Department of Humanities and Education at the Universidad Central de Venezuela. She married Carlos Puche, a modernist photographer and shortly thereafter, went on to study studio art at the Escuela de Artes Plásticas y Aplicadas. 

 

Throughout the artist’s lifetime, her work was exhibited widely in Latin America, the United States, and Europe including a group show at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and a solo show at the Pan-American Union in Washington, D.C.. Gramcko represented Venezuela in the 1959 São Paulo Art Biennial and in the 1964 Venice Biennale. In 1968 she was awarded the National Art Prize in Sculpture at the Official Salon of Venezuelan Art and in 1966 she became the first woman to obtain the first prize at the D'Empaire Salon held in Maracaibo, Zulia State, Venezuela. 

 

Her work is represented in private and public collections in Latin America and worldwide, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas; Art Museum of the Americas, Washington, D.C.; The Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island; The Denver Art Museum, Denver Colorado; Spencer Museum of Art, Lawrence, Kansas; Museum of Modern Art of Bogota, Colombia and Museum of Fine Arts, Caracas, Venezuela; among others. Elsa Gramcko died in 1994 in Caracas, Venezuela.


Explore the exhibition in our Online Viewing Room here. 

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