Important Art by Julio González
Gonzalez depicts the introspective mood of a young woman through the way her head leans forward, her calm facial expression, and her closed eyes. He draws upon his technical expertise in repoussé in these early small busts. This metalworking technique allowed for greater plasticity, as can be seen in the shape of the woman's head, an enclosed globe, the soft modeling of her face, the texture of her hair. The palpable sense of form not only anticipates his abstract, cubist heads of the 1930s, it also evokes Rodin's emphasis on corporeality. Gonzalez thus took his first step towards dissolving the fully plastic round volume into geometric form. He would rely more and more on the viewer's perception to associate the abstracted forms, a globe (head) and cylinder (neck), surfaces and lines, as referencing the head, face, or figure of a woman. Yet parallel to Rodin, Gonzalez reveals his process of making. He leaves exposed the marks of beating the metal sheets into the shape of the head to capture a simple human moment, a young woman lost in thought.
In this small sculpture, only 7 1/2 inches long, a couple reclines, embracing each other. Yet, these figures are essentially abstract forms. It is the sense of interlocking and enclosed spaces rather than volume that contribute a human quality to these forms. The linear and geometric surfaces of the welded unmodified scrap iron pieces make apparent the influence of Cubism; the way scrap iron bars become arms and legs, flat slabs become the torso. The stylized heads reflect Gonzalez's fascination with the Etruscan couple reclining on a sarcophagus that he studied in visits to the Louvre. The influence of Luca Cambiaso, an Italian 16th-century artist who often sketched human figures geometrically, reducing them to cube forms, can also be seen in the work. The spatial construction of line and surfaces create a feeling that these two figures, this couple, are not only welded together physically, but emotionally.
At the time he created The Couple, the artist also made a similar sculpture of a woman alone, a work that was purchased by the American painter and art dealer, John Graham. Graham was a friend of David Smith, the American sculptor whose first works of forged sculpture in 1933 included a figure based upon González's reclining woman.
From a series of approximately ten drawings, this collage-drawing depicts a female figure with red spiraling curved legs that connect to a penciled skeletal torso supported by a thick inked black line that rises and contracts into a thin line to intersect with a sketched winged right arm. The figure's left arm is delicately hinged and held in place by a line extending out to suggest a shoulder. This same line defines the curve of the neck that ends in a circle for the head with two black dots for eyes. The left arm extends forward in a bold gesture, underscored by its wide, black and green curving shape. At its extremity, a hand seems to curve upward in the gesture of holding something. A white rectangular paper, symbolizing a mirror, hovers near the left hand.
This drawing of a woman and mirror comes closest to the sculpture he welded in iron of the same name. Gonzalez's sketches of a woman and mirror show how the artist continuously drew from his experience of reality, continuously putting his ideas on paper and then, realizing them in abstract sculptural forms.
In contrast to his sculptures, Gonzalez's drawings can be seen as a "visual diary," according to the art historian Valerie Fletcher. The drawings are "the sensitive barometer of Julio Gonzalez's way of thinking," as the art historian Josephine Whiters has commented. Gonzalez precisely dated most of his drawings with day, month, and year, unlike his sculptures that he left undated. In general, these studies in color only present visual exercises that have a tangential relation to the realized sculptures. They serve instead as a laboratory for Gonzalez's creativity, especially during the onset of the second World War when welding became impossible due to the scarcity of materials and supplies.