ARIKHA by Samuel & Others Beckett


Email this review


At the end of a lengthy interview, Avigdor Arikha, the Israeli artist who is the subject of this study, observes, ""The problem with art is that it is a mute experience about which one cannot talk."" The present volume is tangible proof of the falsity of that statement. One could perhaps agree if Arikha had said ""should not"" rather than ""cannot,"" but here Samuel Beckett, Robert Hughes, Jane Livingston, Barbara Rose, Richard Channin, AndrÉ Fermigier and Arikha himself talk and talk and talk, until the question inevitably arises, ""Can Arikha's works possibly support such a torrent of words?"" Unfortunately, the answer must be no. This is not to say the artist is undeserving of attention--far from it. The oils, watercolors, drawings and prints reproduced here reveal an original vision coupled with both assurance and sensitivity. Arikha's subjects are largely drawn from his domestic life: wife, children, friends, studio implements, kitchen vegetables, and he imbues them with a haunting ambiguity, never quite as disturbing or theatrical as Balthus', but powerful nonetheless. Since Arikha forswore abstraction more than 20 years ago, there is much talk here of the end of modernism, of returning to the image. But, lest they be accused of recidivism or worse, the commentators stress how this ""new realism"" avoids the banalties of late 19th-century academic painting. Clement Greenberg's dicta are examined and found wanting, and there is much talk of ""tactile experience"" as opposed to Greenberg's ""flatness."" In an effort to establish his credentials, Arikha cites the influences of Velázquez and Caravaggio on his work. Perhaps, but it all seems a bit of an overkill. The texts here range from several of Beckett's predictably arcane musings to the interview in which Rose leads her subject through the thickets of post-modernist theory. The most successful, possibly because it is the most straightforward, essay is Channin's discussion of Arikha's composition and meaning. While art lovers will be grateful for having this relatively little-known artist brought to their attention, they may be slightly skeptical of the claims to greatness proposed by his supporters. The book is illustrated with 189 plates, 106 in excellently balanced color. A comprehensive chronology of the artist's life and career is also included.

Pub Date: April 28th, 1986
Publisher: Thames and Hudson--dist. by Norton