Kinetic stone carving was Gabo’s first pure carving. It was begun in London in 1936 and completed in Cornwall towards the end of the Second World War. In the meantime Gabo had made a number of smaller works testing the properties of different kinds of stone, including Quartz Stone Carving, Alabaster Carving and Granite Carving. Such explorations were almost certainly stimulated by Gabo’s close contacts with British sculptors. At this time, to a much lager extent than their European contemporaries, Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth displayed a particular commitment to carving in stone and wood, allowing the graining and resistance of the materials to condition the eventual form of their sculptures. Gabo was evidently interested in this type of work, even before his move to London, as evinced by Ben Nicholson’s report of his conversations with Gabo in Paris:
He seems to hold a very high opinion of Barbara’s work – he said her sculpture is the most important being made today either abroad or in England. He then went on to say that in England he also admired Moore’s work very much & that he was bound to arrive at something very important but that he had not yet evolved his true ideas as Barbara has.
The model for stone with a collar was created soon after Gabo’s arrival in Paris, so it is unlikely that English sculpture provided the initial catalyst for Gabo’s exploration of carving. When it came to making the finished sculpture, however, Gabo must surely have benefited from talking to Hepworth and Moore about technical practicalities. Gabo had never trained as an artist and had virtually no previous experience of stone carving, Indeed, the formal inspiration of these sculptors’ work also seems evident in Kinetic Stone Carving, which recalls for instance, the 1935-6 sculpture by Moore which was illustrated in Circle, the survey of current constructive art and architecture produced in 1937 by Gabo, Nicholson and architect Leslie Martin.
In the sculpture section of Circle for which he was responsible , Gabo produced an essay on ‘Sculpture: Carving and Construction in space’ in which he sought to expand the ideas of The Realistic Manifesto and at the same time to acknowledge the validity of the kind of sculpture which he had rejected in 1920:’…in using the spatial element in sculpture I do not intend to deny the other elements… volume still remains one of the fundamental attributes of sculpture , and we still use it in out sculptures as often as the theme demands an expression of solidity.’ Gabo also seems to echo the current British discourse about ‘truth to materials’:
The genesis of a sculpture is determined by a material… There is no prohibition against a sculptor using any kind of material for the purpose of his plastic theme depending on how much his work accords with the properties of his chosen one…Carved or cast, moulded or constructed a sculpture does not cease to be a sculpture as long as the aesthetical qualities remain in accord with the substantial properties of the material.