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Alberto Giacometti, Galleria Borghese, Roma (February 5 -May 25 2014)
We thought that only architecture could make solids dialoguing with voids, and that the free interplay between matter and space, phenomenon and its Dasein would belong mainly to sculpture. One artist only could overturn the former idea, without excluding the latter, the sculptor for which no label is really appropriate, Alberto Giacometti, whose work comes back to Rome after the 1970’s exhibition in Villa Medici.
His work has been defined as dramatic and dramatic are those arms alongside the hips of L’homme qui marche (1947) and of L’homme qui chavire (1950), dramatic all the busts, undefined or spindly bodies. Dramatic is also Femme égorgée (1933) as well as Femme qui marche II (1932-1936), almost opposed to the other in terms of consistency and gravity. Giacometti is also the author of a public art project at Chase Manhattan Plaza, re-proposed in the hall of Museo Borghese, which gave him a hard time for many years, and which didn’t come to a complete synthesis. The sculptor elaborated figures bigger than the natural size which resemble the Etruscan masterpiece, L’ombra della sera, conserved in Volterra; unfortunately, the choice of a unique huge platform to detach the sculptures from the environment is controversial because they already get lost between the marble walls. Giacometti is the author of Femme couchée qui rêve (1929), of Tête qui regarde (1929) and of Femme couchée (1929), indefinable sculptures and very different between each other. The first one is located in the sala Paolina in chiastic pattern with the third and the Canova’s sculpture, in the middle of the room.
The comparison is overwhelming for Giacometti’s sculptures, and he was well conscious of the difficult interpretation of his work compared to the monumental and architecture (particularly in his already quoted public art project). The femmes by Giacometti, rather than being considered for themselves, are an interesting aid to reconsider Canova’s sculpture, of whom we perceive, as well as the curved lines, also the voids, the air passing through, while the sculptures of the Swiss stand slightly behind, probably also because of the heavy display cabinets. Tête qui regarde is, paradoxically, the one which more dialogues with Paolina: key work of the artist, synthesising Cubism and Primitive art in an original style, it maintains a mark of figurativeness emerging actually in the exchange of gazes with the Venus Vincitrix.
In David’s room, in the Emperors and in the Egyptian ones we find the liveliest conversations. In the first one, L’homme qui chavire presents itself as the opposite of the biblical hero identifying a tormented moment, which, though forming a curve, holds the figure on the ground. In the Emperors’ room it is cogent the dialogue between the Bernini’s group Plutone e Proserpina and the sculptures La main (1947) and La jambe (1958), so distant in time between each other but coherent with the idea of mutilation, fragment, dispersion, permanent features in Giacometti after the Second World War, which put him in contact with Existentialism but also with Phenomenology.
In the Egyptian room, the juxtaposition between the compactness and the smoothness expressed by Femme qui marche (II, 1932 c.a.) and the Egyptian sculptures is probably more expected than pertinent.
Finally, I would like to affirm that director’s aim (“Exhibitions are always opportunities to understand the permanent collection, an opportunity to study and not to speculate”) is not completely achieved. Connections between a 20th-century artist and an important noble collection should be deeper than easy aesthetic relationships, and maybe should include inner motivations, cultural exchanges, and relation with the context.