Zolman Locher—nicknamed "Zola" by his friends at the University of Bucharest, where he studied chemistry for two years—took the name Gherasim Luca, "archimandrite of Mount Athos and emeritus linguist," from a newspaper obituary, when signing his very first text. His pseudonym was the kind of found object the surrealists cherished. In 1930 he participated with Jules Perahim in founding Alge (Algae), a "dithyrambic review" that published Luca's engraved portrait in its second issue, then offered an explosion of poems whose dominant theme was "First, the Revolution." His pamphlet Muci (Mucus), from February 1931, earned him and its four other editors nine days in jail. Luca published two stories of social criticism and exacerbated eroticism, Roman d'amour (1933) and Fata Morgana (1937), before visiting Paris in 1939, where Victor Brauner introduced him to André Breton. On his return to Bucharest in June 1940, Luca wrote his first book in French, Le Vampire passif, and founded the Romanian surrealist group, accompanied by the poets Gellu Naum and Virgil Theodorescu, the physician Paul Paun, and the Doctor of Law Delfi Trost. The group, whose slogan was "knowledge through lack of knowledge," carried non-literature and non-art to extremes. Luca and Trost, in Dialectique de la dialectique (1945), "a message addressed to the International Surrealist movement," proclaimed the necessity of using new methods to destroy esthetics, and to express these methods, held a joint exhibition in Bucharest, in January 1945, titled Présentation de graphies colorées, de cubomanies et d'objets. It was here that Luca showed his first cubomanias—original collages composed by cutting out illustrations in 6 x 6 cm squares and reassembling them according to whim or at random. He asserted, "Cubomania negates. Cubomania makes the known unknown." In 1946, when Trost published Le Profil navigable, "a concrete negation of painting," with fourteen illustrations, Luca published Les Orgies des quanta, a collection of thirty-three cubomanias with misleadingly poetic captions. Luca saw his cubomanias and objects as exteriorizations of his unconscious. Regarding his object Fétiche Défine, he declared that at last he could see himself as he was internally: "I've always had the impression of being imagined, like Lautréamont and Rimbaud, but it never happened to me that this other, who imagines me, would come out of myself and appear be-fore me in a concrete, tangible way, just like any other exterior object."
After Luca moved to Paris in 1952, he gradually became a leading figure of the avant-grade in poetry, with his books, Héros-Limite, L'Extrême Occidentale, APostroph’Apocalypse, Le Chant de la Carpe, Théâtre de Bouche, La Proie s'ombre, and his public readings. Yet he always accompanied his verbal creations with concrete experiments. His remarkable colored cubomanias were shown in a gallery on the Rue de Seine, and he assembled others in Maison d'Yeux. He illustrated Le Tourbillon qui se repose (1973) with his drawings, and Paralipomènes (1974) with an etching and a cubomania, and composed a portfolio of his graphic works titled, Crier taire sourire fou.
At the end of his life, he began to make meticulous drawings formed with large and small dots, spending hours on them as if they were ascetic exercises. Sometimes he would even dedicate one of his books to a friend with a spiral of dots in pencil. These "hieroglyphs of silence" are particularly impressive in his posthumous book, La Voici la voix silanxieuse (1997), where they resemble observances of the kabbala. In March 1994 Luca leapt into the Seine, committing suicide at the age of eighty-one. Since his death, he has been admired as a titan of modern poetry. His drawings and cubomanias were shown in an exhibition at the Centre International de Poésie in Marseille, in June 1991. A retrospective of his work at the Musée de l'Abbaye de Sainte-Croix at Sables d'Olonne, from December 2007 to March 2008, featured a catalog describing the poetic aspect of his personality.
Born 1913 in Bucharest, Romania; died 1994 in Paris.
Untitled, Collage, n.d.