Alberto Giacometti: The Art of Relation

Alberto Giacometti: The Art of Relation

Language: English

Pages: 304

ISBN: 1780767870

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Alberto Giacometti's attenuated figures of the human form are among the most significant artistic images of the twentieth century. Jean-Paul Sartre and André Breton are just two of the great thinkers whose thought has been nurtured by the graceful, harrowing work of Giacometti, which continues to resonate with artists, writers and audiences. Timothy Mathews explores fragility, trauma, space and relationality in Giacometti's art and writing and the capacity to relate that emerges. In doing so, he draws upon the novels of W.G. Sebald, Samuel Beckett and Cees Nooteboom and the theories of Maurice Blanchot and Bertolt Brecht; and recasts Giacometti's Le Chariot as Walter Benjamin's angel of history. This book invites readers on a voyage of discovery through Giacometti's deep concerns with memory, attachment and humanity. Both a critical study of Giacometti's work and an immersion in its affective power, it asks what encounters with Giacometti's pieces can tell us about our own time and our own ways of looking; and about the humility of relating to art.

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the relation of an object to its formal representation, and between that form and its affective content? How is such a question unique in the experience of Giacometti? How can it be unique? The question itself is an engagement with art as a whole. As if to emphasize that point, Giacometti seems to focus on situations and objects that challenge uniqueness, defy the idea of it; he seems to induce himself to confront situations that apply to all and not just to him. But what kind of ‘all’ is this?

language, and knows how to stay there, in that mist which also envelops people as they pass by these sculptures. Giacometti [. . .] now only looks for meaning at this profound level, and the more elemental it becomes, and the more evasive, the closer it comes to the mystery of being or not being. The evocativeness of this account and the power of its resort to metaphor together testify to the style of the thinking which it describes; and also to the way Beckett’s own writing seeps its way into

Giacometti’s figure might look like a monument. Such a monument would gain its expressive power from the place it marks, from marking its own indeterminacy in space. This is its presence over time, its there-ness in relation to innumerable vantage points that will not be made whole or one, as much there as not there. Let us imagine once again all the debris of Watt’s attempts to work out his relation to the powers that affect him, the debris of everything that can be known about the Master and

must have found for himself, of the Nazis burning books on the Kristallnacht.12 And as we do that, we might hear again the voices we ourselves have grown up with and grown up getting used to losing. Once again, the unconscious is not somewhere else, but here. Through evoking these voices formally and structurally, and through the various temporal digressions of the narrative, Sebald takes a step closer in the dark to indicating the traces of the overpowering sense of self-decay that has

applied scientist as well as the industrialist. But Giacometti’s most tactile of sculptures and his immersion in the problems of scale confronts him with what cannot be touched. The figures in Giacometti’s Quatre figurines sur base from 1950, to which I am drawn again here, are small not as a result of the visualization of distance: they are neither small nor large, neither clearly here nor there, neither definitively with us nor lost to us. Nor both. (See Figure 18.) Giacometti does not offer us

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