"To draw in space": that, for González, was the exciting possibility in the art of his time. A painter and draftsman as well as a sculptor, González realized that by cutting, rolling, and bending metal, or fusing found metal pieces into an assemblage, he could draw images not on paper but in air, his instrument not a pencil but a welding torch. He often worked in iron, a tough, unyielding material utterly lacking in the fine sinuosity of the precious metals. The stiff spine, shallow curves, and spiky, spearlike lines and points of Woman Combing Her Hair seem integral to the medium itself, but the work tempers its austerity with a subtle eroticism.
González himself associated iron with weaponry and with engineering, but wanted to direct it elsewhere. "It is high time," he wrote, "that this metal cease to be a murderer and the simple instrument of an overly mechanical science. Today, the door is opened wide to this material to be . . . forged and hammered by the peaceful hands of artists." Decorative ironwork is a Spanish tradition, and González learned it as a young man, but considered it only a craft until, in 1928, he began to advise Pablo Picasso on making iron sculpture—an experience that inspired him to become a sculptor himself.
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 168