Tags for: Toward the Ultimate Figure
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Toward the Ultimate Figure

Works in all media explore Alberto Giacometti's postwar years
William H. Robinson, Senior Curator of Modern Art
December 3, 2021

The Cleveland Museum of Art is the opening venue for Alberto Giacometti: Toward the Ultimate Figure, a large touring exhibition that focuses on the artist’s major achievements and creations of the postwar years, from 1945 to 1966.

Widely acclaimed as one of the most important artists of the 20th century, Giacometti reasserted the validity of the figure and figural representation at a time when abstract art had become dominant in the international art world. His works also became associated with existentialism, a philosophy that questions the nature of the human condition. To many, Giacometti’s emaciated figures—pervaded by feelings of alienation, fear, insignificance, and uncertainty—embodied the psychological complexities of the Cold War era that followed in the wake of World War II. Stripped to essentials, compressed, distorted, and eroded by air, these fragile beings presented themselves as expressions of a deep crisis facing art and humanity.

Combining works in all media, the exhibition examines a central, animating aspect of Giacometti’s oeuvre: his extraordinary, singular concern for the human figure. The elongation of an elemental body, its placement in space, and its relationship with the base are among the issues he confronted in trying to solve essential questions for modern sculpture in his continuous struggle with matter.

The exhibition also explores the enduring tension between abstraction and representation in Giacometti’s art and the origins of his mythic reputation as one of the seminal artists of the postwar avant-garde. Co-organized by the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Fondation Giacometti in Paris, the exhibition draws on the deep resources of the artist’s personal collection held in perpetuity by the Fondation and includes such masterworks of modern sculpture as The Nose (1947) and Walking Man I (1960).