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Naum Gabo

(1890—1977) sculptor

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Russian-born US sculptor, who was one of the founders of European constructivism and a pioneer of kinetic art.

Born in Briansk, Russia, he was the brother of the painter and sculptor Antoine Pevsner (1886–1962) but he always signed his work Gabo. Gabo's training was in medicine, natural sciences, and then engineering, which he studied in Munich. At the same time he attended lectures on art history and in 1913 and 1914 he visited Paris, where his brother Antoine introduced him to avant-garde art movements, particularly cubism.

On the outbreak of World War I, the brothers went to Norway, where Gabo produced his first constructions. These heads constructed of metal and plastic sheets were superficially similar to some cubist sculpture but represented different intentions, which were later explained in the Realistic Manifesto of 1920. This manifesto of the principles of constructivism was published in Russia after Gabo's return there in 1917. Revolutionary Russia, however, was only interested in art with more obvious social usefulness than Gabo's abstract constructions, and so in 1922 he left for Berlin.

During his ten years in Berlin, Gabo exhibited in Europe and the USA and lectured on constructivist ideas. He was one of the first sculptors to use transparent materials (such as Perspex or Plexiglass) and he introduced the elements of time and movement into sculpture through his kinetic sculptures powered by electric motors. In 1932 he went to Paris and became a member of the Abstraction-Création association. With other constructivists Gabo moved to London in 1935 and to the USA after the beginning of World War II. He continued to lecture in the USA and to work on important commissions. He became a US citizen in 1952 and in 1971 he received an honorary KBE.

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