Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giacometti and Martino: Azione Creativa [Creative Action]

“All the sculptures of today, like those of the past, will end one day in pieces …. So it is important to fashion one’s work carefully in its smallest recess and charge every particle of matter with life.”
- Alberto Giacometti

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

Alberto Giacometti was a painter and a sculptor who lived from 1901-1966. The editorial staff at JazzProfiles came to an awareness and appreciation of his work at an early age in its life, but at a later point in his.  On our part, it was an affinity for Alberto’s art at first sight.

About a decade after this initial encounter, I received as Christmas gifts, a copy of Herbert Lust’s Giacometti – The Complete Graphics and 15 Drawings [Tudor, 1970] and Jazz guitarist Pat Martino’s [then] latest LP -  Pat Martino/ Consciousness [Muse 5039/1974].

After the rug rats went to bed on that Christmas evening, I remember looking at photographic images of Giacometti’s art well into the night while listening to the beautiful music on Pat’s Muse LP to the point where the two became synonymous in our mind; a sort of artistic symbiosis or “creative action,” a phrase favored by Giacometti. Hence this feature and its title.

Pat’s original composition, Willow, seemed to work particularly well with viewing Alberto’s art and we have used it as the soundtrack to the following video tribute to Giacometti.

One of the most universally admired artists of the 20th century, the Swiss-born Giacometti is best known for a series of bronzes depicting ghostly, attenuated figures made during a burst of intense, and, if you will, creative activity inspired partly by the cataclysmic events of World War II.

In 1922, Giacometti attended the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in the Montparnasse section of Paris where he studied with the sculptor Antoine Bourdelle, a colleague of Auguste Rodin.

While living in Montparnasse, he associated with artists such as Joan Miró, Max Ernst, Pablo Picasso, and Balthus, plus writers, Samuel Beckett, Jean-Paul Sartre, Paul Eluard and Andre’ Breton.  Some jam session!

In the 1930’s Giacometti began the practice of concentrating his sculpting on the human head, focusing on the model’s gaze. This was followed by an artistic phase that became his signature “look:” his statues became more and more stretched out – their limbs elongated. [Examples are available in the video tribute].

By the early 1950’s, the use of bronze had become affordable [all metals were “precious” during WW II], and Giacometti began to cast his sculptures in bronze and in other alloyed metals. 

He was obsessed with creating his sculptures exactly as he envisioned through his unique view of reality, carving some of them to the point that they were as thin as nails. A friend said that Giacometti’s sculptures “had heads the size of a knife blade!”

Giacometti’s work resists easy categorization.  Perhaps the best description of them is what Delueze calls “blocs of sensation.”

The esteemed writer on Jazz, Gary Giddins, described Pat Martino’s work in this manner in his liner notes to the Muse LP:

“Perhaps the first thing one responds to in Pat’s music, is commitment. He plays like he means it. One aspect of his style consists of multi-noted patterns plucked with tremendous facility (and time) over the harmonic contour. The notes are never throwaways: the patterns take on their own mesmerizing force. Serving to enhance the pieces as judiciously as the melodic variations of which Pat is a master. … Pat has clearly honed his immense technique closely to what he most personally wants to express. His music is private but richly communicative; it commands attention with its integrity – it does not call attention to itself with excessive violence or gimmicks. Pat Martino doesn’t have time for jive, he’s a musician.”

As Richard Cook and Brian Morton have commented in The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, 6th Ed.,: “Although seldom recognized as an influence, Pat Martino has been a distinctive and resourceful figure in Jazz guitar for many years, and his fine technique and determination have inspired many players.”

Perhaps the same can be said of Alberto Giacometti in the world of sculpture and art?