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Gunther Gerzso Gallery Installation
From February 6th through the end of May, 2004, ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries is holding a world-premiere exhibition titled “Gunther Gerzso: Defining Mexican Abstractionism.” The 86 drawings and paintings are part of the collection of Thomas Ireland, an actor who became a close friend of Gerzso’s when he was a set and costume designer at the Cleveland Playhouse from 1935 to 1941. Included in the exhibition are several of Gerzso’s nonrepresentational, abstract art.
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Abstract Art
These luminous works done during the Mexican master’s mature period are suggestive of the stone walls and architecture of the Mayans and Aztecs, and their colors often subtly remind us of the way Mexico’s blue skies contrast with the greens of its jungles and the varied hues of its terracotta walls. When viewed with Guther Gerzso’s early works, the evolution of his art from costumed figures to the illusions of stage set backgrounds to his eventual architectonic abstract art becomes apparent.
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Gunther Gerzso Costumes
After years of schooling in languages and art history in Switzerland, Guther Gerzso had just graduated from high school in Mexico City when a visiting drama professor suggested to his mother that the young artist, who had a adolescent dream of being a set designer, should apply for an internship at the Cleveland Playhouse, one of this nation’s most important theatrical companies. After a year of doing odd jobs, Gunther Gerzso became the theater’s Assistant Technical Director. A month later, the theater’s set designer retired, and Gerzso began designing the company’s costumes and sets.
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Mexican Art
During his five years at the Cleveland Playhouse, Guther Gerzso spent summers in Mexico City. Although he was of European parentage and spent most of his childhood in Switzerland, he was proud of his birthplace, Mexico City, and always insisted his work were Mexican art. A number of his early works reflect his appreciation for such leading Mexican artists as Diego Rivera, Carlos Orozco Romero, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Julio Castellanos and Miguel Covarubbias. Click here to see the artwork.

Stage Sets
The set designs that Gunther Gerzso did while at the Cleveland Playhouse reflected his extensive background in art history. Some, such as his minimalist concepts for Georg Kaiser’s renowned trilogy, “Gas,” and for “Macbeth” and “Hamlet,” are exquisitely illuminated works of art. Gerzso’s stage sets were a key step in his evolution to producing Mexico’s first abstract art. He is considered the artist who led his nation’s visual art into modernism.
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Gunther Gerzso Surreal
In his exploration of various themes and artistic languages during his esthetic evolution, one of the movements that attracted the young artist was Surrealism. Later, when he returned to Mexico City, Gunther Gerzso began associating with a group of leading Surrealists, including Leonora Carrington and Remedios Varo, and during one period Gunther Gerzso was considered a leading Surrealist by Wolfgang Paalen, founder of the international Surrealist magazine, DYN.
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Mexican War
Some of Gunther Gerzso’s most powerful works during his formative period, when he was in his early 20s, are his anti-war statements. Gerzso’s father was Jewish and his mother German. News of the Nazis’ pogroms and Kristallnacht, their invasions of Czechoslovakia, Poland, Denmark, Norway, Holland and Belgium clearly were deeply disturbing to the young artist. Click here to see the artwork.

Mexican Women
Women were one of Gunther Gerzso’s favorite subjects, and one of his favorite models during this period was his new love, a young actress at the Playhouse named Rilla Gene Cady. Rilla Gene became one of Gunther Gerzso’s favorite models and posed for most of his drawings of nudes. In September 1940 they were wed. Their marriage lasted more than 60 years, until Gunther Gerzso’s death in 2000.
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Varied Artworks
Like all young artists, Gunther Gerzso tried his hand at drawing imaginative subjects as well as everyday activities. Items in the news, actors at the Playhouse, and works by other artists such as Matisse, George Grosz and the Mexican muralists caught his eye and were interpreted with his own stylistic touches, creating a visual diary of the evolution towards abstract art by a modern master artist. Click here to see the artwork.