giacometti, guggenheim

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It had been a year, almost, since I had last set foot in a museum, which I hadn’t thought about until know, and it made me a bit sad to realize that. But this is New York, New York, and there are museums by the bucket, and so this morning I took myself to the Guggenheim.

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(The Guggenheim held a special place in my heart before I even saw it, because even though I had never been, I had been to the Bilbao Guggenheim; my grandparents visited, once, and randomly decided to make the ninety-minute drive down with me in the backseat, and I remember how it felt, that feeling of adventure shared with the two of them, and I am a sentimental fool who likes the idea of coming full circle, from one museum to the next.)

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There’s an exhibition on Giacometti, at the moment, whose work I don’t know well, but as soon as I read him – “I am very interested in art but I am instinctively more interested in truth” – I decided I might like him.

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Giacometti was unflinching in his portrayal of humanity at his most vulnerable, says the exhibit, and this. Just this. All of this.

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Almost as much as the sculptures I liked paying attention to their shadows; the ghost of them spread out once, twice onto the white stone, forming a bigger whole with the sculpture itself or creating new shapes and stories entierly.

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There is a sculpture called Woman cradling the void, and it might have been my favourite one just for that : for those delicate, bird-boned hands trying to grasp at the emptiness and the quiet anguish on her face. She felt like home; she felt like so many women.

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I remember reading this great article on a Cup of Jo several years ago. It sticks with me, after all this time, and most of the time that is what I look for : for the work of art that will make everything else slow down into nothingness. One of my most vivid memories of this, though not the most recent, is seeing Alexandre Cabanel’s L’Ange Déchu at an exhibition in Orsay; I remember seeing it, the breath slipping out of me. Sitting on the floor in front of it and for forty minutes that flew by. Holding back tiny tears.

This time around I looked at Black Annette, and it was nothing like that, but there was something mesmerizing about her nonetheless; the wide-open life of her eyes emerging from a palette of greys.

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The most difficult thing to do”, he says, “is to represent the curve of the eye”.

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I do not understand the people who take pictures of everything and observe nothing. There was a woman; she would walk up to every sculpture, lift up her phone, snap a picture, and walk to the next work. Rinse and repeat. It made me want to yell; I waited, instead. Gave her a head start so I wouldn’t have to watch her do her thing.

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Giacometti scultped and painted his brother, Diego, and his wife, Annette, amongst others, over and over again.

(A Japanese existentialist philosopher, too, and one of his mistresses, and, oh, artists and their mistresses – I can only hope that Annette too had her lovers.)

He did so after World War II, especially, to “record the faces of those who had long been absent” and I liked that : to portray again and again the faces of the people you love most. To try and capture their gaze amisdt thick smudges of plaster.

 

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