LOOKING AT GIACOMETTI by David Sylvester

LOOKING AT GIACOMETTI

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This study is so dominated by the personality of its author that it offers only a pretentious peak at the artist himself. Art critic Sylvester (Rend Magritte, not reviewed, etc.) draws on his personal association with the Swiss painter and sculptor Alberto Giacometti (1901-66) in this compilation of disparate but often overlapping essays on the artist and his work. Neither biography nor art critical study, this book is more of an ""appreciation of the artist,"" a genre that today seems tired and dated. The old-fashioned feel extends not only to Sylvester's hushed and reverent writing but to his approach to his subject matter. Exploring issues of form and process (to the exclusion of just about everything else) in Giacometti's art, Sylvester takes on the role of the privileged intercessor. His relationship with the artist takes on an air of exclusivity as he translates for us Giacometti's intentions and musings. Self-consciously poetic and unchronological (covering a 40-year time period), these essays never really anchor Giacometti's career historically and only vaguely touch upon his personal history and brief association with the surrealist movement. Sylvester goes into great detail in his discussions of Giacometti's work, but cannot resist frequent interjections of his own presence: ""I feel within my muscles the stance of the figure, feel I am adopting the same stance, feel this so strongly that sometimes I find myself doing so in reality--holding myself more taut and upright, squaring my shoulders, placing my hands straight down my sides."" Giacometti as a personality begins to come alive in a chapter that recounts Sylvester's experience of sitting for a portrait. Unfortunately, this recollection pales in comparison to James Lord's far more engaging account of posing for Giacometti. Alas, the strongest suit in this otherwise outmoded study is its conclusion: an interview with Giacometti that finally allows the artist to speak for himself.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1996
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Henry Holt