Geta Brătescu

Geta Brătescu, Untitled (2007), collage, colored pencil, and graphite on paper, 103 × 73 cm, courtesy Geta Brătescu and Ivan Gallery, Bucharest, photo: Ștefan Sava

Geta Brătescu, installation view, EMST—National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens, documenta 14, photo: Mathias Völzke

Geta Brătescu, Atelierul: Scenariul (The studio: The film script), 1978, charcoal, colored pencil, and pastel on paper
, collection The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Neue Galerie, Kassel, documenta 14, photo: Mathias Völzke

Every time I visit Geta Brătescu’s studio, I make the same journey. I board the train in Ploiești, the city where she was born in 1926, and alight in Bucharest, the city where she now lives and where, in the mid-1960s, she began her own singular journey as an artist.

Entering the artist’s studio, I discover a total space, an ahistorical space. The studio is central to Brătescu’s work—a space in motion, transformed by the conversion of image into action and vice versa, by the tension between play and acting, between self-analysis and self-erasure. The primacy of the studio in Brătescu’s practice leads her toward concise forms captured in their geometric simplicity, toward an exploration of the relationship between the artistic process and its physical environment, toward a choreography of “the hand’s visual gymnastics,” of the working material (the artist’s hands and face, papers, textiles), and toward the anthropomorphization of objects. The series entitled “Drawings with Eyes Closed” is the ultimate expression of this relationship to space: “The drawing gives me the feeling of freedom. I draw as if I were walking or flying through an empty space.”

The concept underlying Brătescu’s art is the abandonment of the mundane existence of the line. Whether drawings, lithographs, collages, book objects, self-portraits, or actions recorded on film or in photographs, her works involve a dramatic construct, an unleashing of rhythms, in which the actor’s gesture is revealed. Stimulated by modernity, her work plays out as staged performance and experience, recording, isolating, and spatializing the line’s play. In an attempt to make the line tangible, to distinguish its “corporeal movement through space,” Brătescu liberates it from the surface; she claims for herself its expressiveness and autonomy, making it “serve empty space.” Thus, “the line tells no story; it serves no image. The line itself is the image, from the low to the high, in the way in which it sings.”

The line is an action, a sign, the recording of a presence; it is the liberation of automatic gesture. Brătescu’s work detaches itself from traditional forms and reveals itself to be modulated by an Aesopian, Chaplin-esque destiny. It exists in a ludic, rudimentary world that resonates with the silent ingeniousness of circus acrobats, with the bittersweet playfulness of the commedia dell’arte or Tadeusz Kantor’s theater of the absurd.

—Alina Șerban

Posted in Public Exhibition
Excerpted from the documenta 14: Daybook