Giacometti review – a spectacular hymn to human survival

By Jonathan Jones

Tate Modern, London
In the 1930s, his dildos and violent bronzes marked him as a nightmarish surrealist. Then war transformed Alberto Giacometti, and his art, forever

Midway through this exhibition, emotion hits you like a blast of heat from a furnace. The chill of irony thaws. The intellectual and erotic games are over. There is only one thing worth making art about, Alberto Giacometti has decided, and that is our common humanity.

What a slender thread humanity must have seemed in Europe in the 1940s. The thin figures that emerged like wisps of smoke out of Giacometti’s conscience in the second part of that murderous decade seem barely to exist. They are not so much statues as mirages of people glimpsed far away, shimmering on a horizon of ash. The human form, starved, bereft, but somehow standing tall.

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