Alberto Giacometti / Ali Cherri: Envisagement
The Institut Giacometti in Paris presents “Envisagement”, a new exhibition that places the work of the artist and filmmaker Ali Cherri in dialogue with Alberto Giacometti. The exhibition is on view through March 24, 2024.
“Envisagement” is a term that refers both to the act of envisaging something and the evocation of the face (visage, in French). It serves as the title and the theme for a unique exhibition in which Paris-based artist and filmmaker Ali Cherri (b. 1976 Beirut), presents a series of work in dialogue with sculptures and paintings of Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966) at the Institut Giacometti.
For “Envisagement,” Cherri, who has worked on previous exhibitions that engage with important museum collections, questioning issues around cultural artefacts, ownership and museum displays, here sets up a dialogue with Giacometti around the representation of the human head. Both artists have captured the human face and body in very poignant and powerful ways in their work, using it as a way to explore questions about fragility, displacement, history and human suffering, among other themes. “The question of the face (visage) is central to my sculptural work but also to several of my films, for cinema also means looking at a face. I’m interested in the way a face is revealed, but above all, how it is read. It is not just a shape, a nose, two eyes, ears, it goes beyond. It can be deciphered. It tells us something else,” Cherri states in an interview with curator Roman Pellerin.
Cherri’s work is deeply connected as well to ancient civilizations and archaeology, a subject on which Giacometti was also very engaged with. Cherri was interested in a comment Giacometti made in 1965: “All the art of the past, of all eras, of all civilisations, suddenly appeared before me, all was simultaneous, as if space was taking the place of time”. This breakdown of time and space is reflected in the engaging installation of sculptural works by both artists, including plaster models of Giacometti’s that show marks and slashes by the artist while he was working towards the final artwork. These pieces, which have rarely, if ever before been exhibited, reveal fascinating insight into the Giacometti’s process and his ongoing engagement with the face and its transformations. These plaster models connect as well to the process Cherri often uses in making his own sculptural works, including new works never before exhibited. Cherri often begins his sculptures from fragments of an ancient object purchased in an antique store or auction, onto which he builds or ‘grafts’ other materials such as mud, to create a new sculpture. Like Giacometti, there is a type of transformation in the artistic process in which objects take on new life and meaning.
“When I see some of Giacometti’s œuvres, I notice that there are two stages. There’s first the stage of the creation of the head, that is, for him, famously asking himself “what is a head?”. Then there’s a second stage in which he questions again his sculpture by adding marks in pencil, paint or by making cuts with a penknife, lines that give the character a face. The head becomes the support that helps bringing out something else and revealing things that didn’t exist without those lines.
I thought it was a little similar to my way of working with some of my sculptures,” explains Cherri in his interview with Pellerin.
The exhibition not only includes sculptural works by both artists, but paintings and drawings by Giacometti and a film by Cherri titled “Retrouver la face.” “Envisagement” was curated by Roman Perrin. An illustrated exhibition catalogue has also been published on the occasion with new and historical texts and images of several of Cherri’s new sculptures made specifically for the exhibition.
“Envisagement” is on view at the Institut Giacometti through March 24, 2024.