Elsa Gramcko: The Invisible Plot of Things

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Open: Tue-Sat 10am-6pm

48 Walker St, NY 10013, New York, United States
Open: Tue-Sat 10am-6pm


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Elsa Gramcko: The Invisible Plot of Things

to Wed 15 Feb 2023

Artist: Elsa Gramcko

48 Walker St, NY 10013 Elsa Gramcko: The Invisible Plot of Things

Tue-Sat 10am-6pm


James Cohan presents 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). 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.

Artworks

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

Wood assemblage
498 × 298 mm
11 3/4 x 19 5/8 in. 29.8 x 49.8 cm
© Elsa Gramcko 2023. Courtesy James Cohan, New York and Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino. Photo: Phoebe d'Heurle and Paul Hester

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Sin título (Untitled), 1954

Oil on canvas
549 × 451 mm
17 3/4 x 21 5/8 in. 45.1 x 54.9 cm
© Elsa Gramcko 2023. Courtesy James Cohan, New York and Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino. Photo: Phoebe d'Heurle and Paul Hester

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Sin título (Untitled), 1957

Oil on canvas
800 × 800 mm
31 1/2 x 31 1/2 in. 80 x 80 cm
© Elsa Gramcko 2023. Courtesy James Cohan, New York and Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino. Photo: Phoebe d'Heurle and Paul Hester

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No. 6, 1957

Oil on canvas
1129 × 935 mm
36 7/8 x 44 1/2 in. 93.5 x 112.9 cm
© Elsa Gramcko 2023. Courtesy James Cohan, New York and Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino. Photo: Phoebe d'Heurle and Paul Hester

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Sin título (Untitled), 1957

Oil on canvas
649 × 810 mm
31 7/8 x 25 5/8 in. 81 x 64.9 cm
© Elsa Gramcko 2023. Courtesy James Cohan, New York and Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino. Photo: Phoebe d'Heurle and Paul Hester

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R-39, 1960

Acrylic with sand and mixed media on canvas
787 × 649 mm
25 5/8 x 31 in. 64.9 x 78.7 cm
© Elsa Gramcko 2023. Courtesy James Cohan, New York and Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino. Photo: Phoebe d'Heurle and Paul Hester

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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
900 × 350 mm
13 3/4 x 35 3/8 in. 35 x 90 cm
© Elsa Gramcko 2023. Courtesy James Cohan, New York and Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino. Photo: Phoebe d'Heurle and Paul Hester

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

Oil, acrylic, and mixed media on canvas
1000 × 1000 mm
39 3/8 x 39 3/8 in. 100 x 100 cm
© Elsa Gramcko 2023. Courtesy James Cohan, New York and Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino. Photo: Phoebe d'Heurle and Paul Hester

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Rueda de luz (Wheel of Light), 1966

Industrial parts and mixed media on Masonite
200 × 200 × 60 mm
7 7/8 x 7 7/8 x 2 3/8 in. 20 x 20 x 6 cm
© Elsa Gramcko 2023. Courtesy James Cohan, New York and Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino. Photo: Phoebe d'Heurle and Paul Hester

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Mundo que no ha nacido (World Not Yet Born), 1966

Gears, machinery parts and various materials on wood
550 × 550 mm
21 5/8 x 21 5/8 in. 55 x 55 cm
© Elsa Gramcko 2023. Courtesy James Cohan, New York and Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino. Photo: Phoebe d'Heurle and Paul Hester

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Plenitud (Plenitude), 1966

Metal, comb, and mixed media on wood
350 × 350 mm
13 3/4 x 13 3/4 in. 35 x 35 cm
© Elsa Gramcko 2023. Courtesy James Cohan, New York and Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino. Photo: Phoebe d'Heurle and Paul Hester

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Paracelso (Paracelsus), 1969

Machinery gear and mixed media on Masonite
350 × 350 × 110 mm
13 3/4 x 13 3/4 x 4 3/8 in. 35 x 35 x 11 cm
© Elsa Gramcko 2023. Courtesy James Cohan, New York and Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino. Photo: Phoebe d'Heurle and Paul Hester

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Experiencia de luz (Experience of Light), 1966

Car clutch, mirrors, and mixed media on wood
550 × 550 mm
21 5/8 x 21 5/8 in. 55 x 55 cm
© Elsa Gramcko 2023. Courtesy James Cohan, New York and Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino. Photo: Phoebe d'Heurle and Paul Hester

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Certera lumbre (Precise Brightness), 1966

Gears, industrial materials, and mixed media on wood
350 × 350 × 60 mm
13 3/4 x 13 3/4 x 2 3/8 in. 35 x 35 x 6 cm
© Elsa Gramcko 2023. Courtesy James Cohan, New York and Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino. Photo: Phoebe d'Heurle and Paul Hester

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Intima Libertad (Intimate Freedom), 1965

Headlight, metal grate and mixed media on wood
350 × 350 mm
13 3/4 x 13 3/4 in. 35 x 35 cm
© Elsa Gramcko 2023. Courtesy James Cohan, New York and Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino. Photo: Phoebe d'Heurle and Paul Hester

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R-49, 1960

Acrylic with sand and mixed media on canvas
908 × 1099 × 110 mm
43 1/4 x 35 3/4 x 4 3/8 in. 109.9 x 90.8 x 11 cm
© Elsa Gramcko 2023. Courtesy James Cohan, New York and Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino. Photo: Phoebe d'Heurle and Paul Hester

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Sin título - Chatarra (Untitled – Metal Scrap), 1962

Metal sheet and mixed media on canvas
460 × 629 mm
24 3/4 x 18 1/8 in. 62.9 x 46 cm
© Elsa Gramcko 2023. Courtesy James Cohan, New York and Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino. Photo: Phoebe d'Heurle and Paul Hester

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El castillo de Elsinor (Elsinore’s Castle), 1963

Car battery cells and mixed media on Masonite
651 × 619 mm
24 3/8 x 25 5/8 in. 61.9 x 65.1 cm
© Elsa Gramcko 2023. Courtesy James Cohan, New York and Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino. Photo: Phoebe d'Heurle and Paul Hester

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

Car battery cells, locks, and mixed media assemblage on wood
500 × 550 mm
21 5/8 x 19 11/16 in. 55 x 50 cm
© Elsa Gramcko 2023. Courtesy James Cohan, New York and Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino. Photo: Phoebe d'Heurle and Paul Hester

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El arquetipo del héroe (The Hero’s Archetype), 1975

Metal sheet and mixed media on wood
600 × 850 mm
33 7/16 x 23 9/16 in. 85 x 60 cm
© Elsa Gramcko 2023. Courtesy James Cohan, New York and Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino. Photo: Phoebe d'Heurle and Paul Hester

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Totem Nº 2, 1974

Organic material, casein plastic, and metal on Masonite
356 × 460 mm
18 1/16 x 14 in. 46 x 35.6 cm
© Elsa Gramcko 2023. Courtesy James Cohan, New York and Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino. Photo: Phoebe d'Heurle and Paul Hester

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Tikihao, 1973

Organic material, casein plastic, and metal on Masonite
360 × 470 mm
18 1/2 x 14 1/8 in. 47 x 36 cm
© Elsa Gramcko 2023. Courtesy James Cohan, New York and Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino. Photo: Phoebe d'Heurle and Paul Hester

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Sin título (Untitled), 1969

Painted iron
149 × 570 × 140 mm
22 1/2 x 5 7/8 x 5 1/2 in. 57 x 14.9 x 14 cm
© Elsa Gramcko 2023. Courtesy James Cohan, New York and Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino. Photo: Phoebe d'Heurle and Paul Hester

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Sin título (Untitled), 1969

Painted iron
300 × 650 × 120 mm
25 9/16 x 11 13/16 x 4 11/16 in. 65 x 30 x 12 cm
© Elsa Gramcko 2023. Courtesy James Cohan, New York and Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino. Photo: Phoebe d'Heurle and Paul Hester

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Motivación interior alrededor de un objeto (Inner Motivation Around an Object), 1977

Faucet and wood assemblage
380 × 480 mm
18 7/8 x 15 in. 48 x 38 cm
© Elsa Gramcko 2023. Courtesy James Cohan, New York and Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino. Photo: Phoebe d'Heurle and Paul Hester

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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
190 × 300 mm
11 3/4 x 7 1/2 in. 30 x 19 cm
© Elsa Gramcko 2023. Courtesy James Cohan, New York and Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino. Photo: Phoebe d'Heurle and Paul Hester

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Sin título (Untitled), 1965

Cement and mixed media on wood
451 × 930 mm
36 5/8 x 17 3/4 in. 93 x 45.1 cm
© Elsa Gramcko 2023. Courtesy James Cohan, New York and Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino. Photo: Phoebe d'Heurle and Paul Hester

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Memoria (Remembrance), 1964

Mixed media on wood
550 × 750 mm
29 1/2 x 21 5/8 in. 75 x 55 cm
© Elsa Gramcko 2023. Courtesy James Cohan, New York and Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino. Photo: Phoebe d'Heurle and Paul Hester

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Una pequeña edad (A Small Age), 1964

Diverse materials and mixed media on Masonite
500 × 750 mm
29 1/2 x 19 11/16 in. 75 x 50 cm
© Elsa Gramcko 2023. Courtesy James Cohan, New York and Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino. Photo: Phoebe d'Heurle and Paul Hester

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Cruz (Cross), 1966

Mixed media on Masonite
170 × 220 mm
8 5/8 x 6 3/4 in. 22 x 17 cm
© Elsa Gramcko 2023. Courtesy James Cohan, New York and Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino. Photo: Phoebe d'Heurle and Paul Hester

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Cerradura (Lock), 1969

Mixed media on masonite
170 × 220 mm
8 5/8 x 6 3/4 in. 22 x 17 cm
© Elsa Gramcko 2023. Courtesy James Cohan, New York and Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino. Photo: Phoebe d'Heurle and Paul Hester

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Cruz (Cross), 1966

Crosshead pipe and mixed media on Masonite
170 × 220 mm
8 5/8 x 6 3/4 in. 22 x 17 cm
© Elsa Gramcko 2023. Courtesy James Cohan, New York and Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino. Photo: Phoebe d'Heurle and Paul Hester

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Sin título (Untitled), 1966

Mixed media on Masonite
170 × 220 mm
8 5/8 x 6 3/4 in. 22 x 17 cm
© Elsa Gramcko 2023. Courtesy James Cohan, New York and Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino. Photo: Phoebe d'Heurle and Paul Hester

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Comportamiento ante lo real [Behavior Before the Real], 1966

Mixed media on wood
600 × 500 mm
19 5/8 x 23 5/8 in. 50 x 60 cm
© Elsa Gramcko 2023. Courtesy James Cohan, New York and Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino. Photo: Phoebe d'Heurle and Paul Hester

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Sin título (Untitled), 1965

Cement, car battery cells, and mixed media on wood
745 × 850 mm
33 1/2 x 29 3/8 in. 85 x 74.5 cm
© Elsa Gramcko 2023. Courtesy James Cohan, New York and Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino. Photo: Phoebe d'Heurle and Paul Hester

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

Car battery cells, mixed media, and wood assemblage on board
700 × 700 mm
27 9/16 x 27 9/16 in. 70 x 70 cm
© Elsa Gramcko 2023. Courtesy James Cohan, New York and Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino. Photo: Phoebe d'Heurle and Paul Hester

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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 Venezualan 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 1950s and 60s. 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.


© Elsa Gramcko 2023. Images courtesy James Cohan, New York and Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino. Photo: Phoebe d'Heurle


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