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Posted May 8, 2011
Interrelated essays aim to work out at least the preliminaries of a reconceptualization of the groundbreaking sculptor Giacometti (1901-66). He continues to be a major figure in modernist art for his striking originality. This book however does not take up his revolutionary changes, his techniques, or their aesthetic effects as do the many other books on this artist of perennial interest. Instead, this book of Giacometti goes into the relationship between his sculptors and ideas about space; which ideas have become much more refined with progress in physics and technology and also with the semiotics and popular arts (e. g., film, fashion) of postmodernism.
The text takes off on Giacometti's remark made about 1949 that "space does not exist, you have to invent it" by applying twentieth-century physics' conceptualizations of space as "multiform typology" and the philosophical field of phenomenology to realize what he was getting at with this remark. With respect to space, "multiform typology" involves seeing space not as a continuous medium, but as composed of "different places or localities" which can be "inhabited" by different structures or modes, among these the energetic or moving, the static, and the dream. One sees how this view of space as granular-like applies to Giacometti's sculptures having rough surfaces and unnatural shapes.
The visual component of the book goes with the intellectually engaging and illuminating texts ideally. Display and photography of Giacometti's works is especially important to bring in his artistic idea about inventing space. There's a section of photographs of "installation views" of sculptures from an exhibition (ended March 2011) at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg in Germany. (The exhibition is at the Museum der Moderne Monchsberg, Salzburg thru July 2011.) The large part of the visual matter is works from the exhibition plus others photographed individually. Shown mostly one per page in the middle of the oversize pages with wide margins around the respective photograph, this recreates as much as possible the unique museum exhibition meant to bring out Giacometti's ideas about his sculptures and ideas of space.
Other visual matter includes color photos of Giacometti in his studio, scenes from his studio, photos from his life, and mixed with the photos of sculptures, photos of preliminary drawings. In the essays, one encounters pertinent ideas by Walter Benjamin, Martin Heidegger, and other artists such as Rodin and Barnett Newman; and two essays by Sartre follow the regular content. Giacometti is both put within the context of the aesthetic and philosophical ideas and bearings of his time and also distinguished for the ways he accomplished his artistic inspiration and aim of inventing space.
Considering the many art books on this sculptor of perennial interest, it's hard for any new book to stand out--but this one does stand out for the new dimensions it opens on Giacometti's work and also for its outstanding presentation of many of his sculptures.