El Greco and Fernando Arrabal

El Greco and Fernando Arrabal

by Fernando Arrabal

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Arrabal ( Guernica and Other Plays ) begins his essay with a quote from Andy Warhol: ``El Greco did what I'm trying to do today--invert the relationship between man and art.'' Arrabal readily adopts inversion as the basis of his examination of El Greco's life and art. Of The Resurrection, he notes: ``A naked Nazarene, upside-down, trades the mystical state of ecstasy for carnal pleasure: the foot of another Nazarene has slipped between his cheeks in the act of . . . `foot-fucking.' '' Six other examples are almost equally provocative, setting the stage for what the reader hopes will be a no-holds-barred bit of art criticism. Unfortunately, the rest of the book is pretty straightforward, a kind of blithe biography told backward, ignoring the paintings almost completely, and informally charting El Greco's course from Crete to Venice to Rome to Toledo. He writes of the painter's time in Toledo: ``As he painted, high above the Tagus, he became fluid, light, as implacable as the breeze, in love with his lover and above all with love.'' Arrabal's text is entertaining if insubstantial, and although given short shift by the author, the paintings are a pleasure to behold. (Sept.)
Library Journal - Library Journal
These works are part of ``Secret Museums,'' a series available in four other languages (French, German, Italian, Spanish) that is being published for the first time in English. Located in Paris, the recently created Flohic Editions is an extension of the contemporary art series, ``Ninety,'' that has been in existence for the past seven years. The idea is for acclaimed literary authors to select a major artist, presumably one they like, and produce a creative and highly personal reaction essay from the author's own ``museum of the imaginary.'' Each work, uniformly 80 pages and 38 illustrations, has the writer's text printed as a facsimile of a novel's page on the left-hand pages, balanced by color plates of the artist's works on the right-hand pages. The essays read quickly and aim for wide audience appeal. A brief chronology, museums list, and bibliography of works by the same author are appended. Judging by the three works examined (the series promises eight new titles a year), this curious blend of literature and artistic rumination yields stream-of-consciousness effects that are by turns poetic, elegiac, metaphysical, and maudlin. While they can't be highly recommended as art criticism (they may make better gifts than library acquisitions), individual titles might be purchased on the strength of an author's reputation alone. El Greco & Fernando Arrabal is a panegyrical work that overdoes what Arrabal believes was the artist's deep sense of alienation--accursed for centuries, condemned to scorn and silence, excluded from museums and praise, a traveler on the ship of ambiguity, and so on. Replete with catch phrases and generalities, it offers occasional bright spots overshadowed by incessant romanticizing. Arrabal clearly makes a better playwright than he does an art historian and critic. Alberto Giacometti & Tahar ben Jelloun is a more focused and altogether more satisfying effort. A Moroccan novelist who won the Prix Goncourt in 1987, ben Jelloun writes prose that is eloquent and poetic even in translation. The essay centers on Giacometti's fixation with solitude and absence. It contains reflections on Giacometti by Jean Genet and Samuel Beckett and an interesting section that compares sculpting to writing--words as the writer's bronze. Quignard, literary director of Gallimard and a novelist and essayist, plays up de la Tour's mysticism by quoting liberally from texts of the period. Caught between the Lessons at Tenebrae in baroque music and the poems of Saint John of the Cross, de la Tour's paintings (``the Word made silent'') are seen as vast enigmas--spiritual exercises demanding a mental orison from those who view them. Thought provoking and tangential, the essay includes considerable biographical information as well.-- Russell T. Clement, Brigham Young Univ. Lib., Provo, Utah

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