Lot 278
  • 278

Gunther Gerzso

150,000 - 200,000 USD
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  • Gunther Gerzso
  • Triad
  • signed and dated 64; signed, titled and dated X. 64 on the reverse
  • oil on Masonite
  • 21 3/4 by 18 1/4 in. 55.2 by 46.4 cm.


Private Collection, Colorado (acquired directly from the artist circa 1964)
Thence by descent to the present owner


Luis Cardoza y Aragón, Gunther Gerzso, Mexico City 1972, no. 57, illustrated 


This work is in very good condition. The Masonite is flat, and the paint layer is stable. The work is clean and shows no visible damages. Under ultraviolet light, a few tiny spots of retouching can be seen around the extreme edges, but these are covered by the frame. The painting otherwise has no retouches. The work should be hung as is. (This condition report has been provided courtesy of Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc.)
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Considered as the pioneer of Mexican abstract painting, Gunther Gerzso “became the most important [artist] in Mexico of the immediate post-World War II period" (Diana C. Du Pont, “Gerzso: Pioneering the Abstract in Mexico,” Risking the Abstract: Mexican Modernism and the Art of Gunther Gerzso, 2003, p.114). His contribution to the story of abstraction, however, had repercussions beyond a regional/nationalistic classification. The complex matrix of influences that serve as the foundation for Gerzso’s aesthetic iconography—ancient architecture, the landscape of his homeland, his unconventional upbringing and eventual fate as a painter—endow his work with a greater universal tone. Above all, it is this last quality which ultimately lead him to create an “American art par excellence” (ibid, p. 114).

Executed in 1964, Triad is a canonical example of Gerzso’s aesthetic lexicon: rhythmic, mystical, deliberately precise and sensibly precarious. His fascination with ancient architectural principles coupled with his wondrous vision of the spiritual and emotional power of the Mexican landscape are hereby poetically articulated. Executed at the height of his artistic career, the painting is rendered with a masterful showcase of technical prowess. Obsessed with precision, Gerzso studied old master painting meticulously. Of particular interest to him was their rigorous application of radiant color to build luminous layers of paint. His treatment of Masonite, specifically the smooth surface of the reverse, allowed him to yield silken and porcelain-like surfaces.

The influential underpinnings of Gerzso’s aesthetic ethos are also vividly outlined in Triad. At the age of twelve, Gerzso received a copy of Le Corbusier’s 1923 polemic book, Vers une architecture nouvelle (Towards a New Architecture) from his Swiss uncle, Hans Wendland, an art dealer and collector. In this foundational book, the modernist architect celebrates geometry as the building block for the construction of the new modern city. Vers une architecture nouvelle permanently marked Gerzso's understanding of abstraction. Years later, he would likewise recall that “the discovery of Pre-Columbian architecture [was my] point of departure" (ibid, p. 110).

Triad presents a dramatic interplay of small pockets of geometric shapes set within vast planes of deep saturated hues. A stunning glowing orange back-drop harmonizes the jewel-toned greens and crisp whimsical blues—an allusion to the earth, vegetation and Pre-Columbian edifices. While Gerzso constructs these prisms of color with a careful and tensile placement of lines that impose a controlled rigidity, we find a sensually-shaped fissure line, known as “la grieta,” in the upper right of the painting. Suggestive of both a crack in the earth and a rupture in stone, “la grieta” is Gerzso’s last provocation; a final release of emotion. In this dazzling and controlled expression of color and form, Gerzso’s abstract language conjures an ethereal reality reminding the viewer of the “necessity for mystery and poetry in art" (ibid, p. 139).