Optic Nerve by Gainza, Maria

$35.00 $31.50

ISBN 9781787300279 – Harvill/Secker – Random House UK 2019 Hardback 256 pp

Maria Gainza was born in Buenos Aires, where she still lives. She has worked as a correspondent for The New York Times in Buenos Aires, as well as for ArtNews. For more than ten years she was a regular contributor to the magazine Artforum and Radar, the cultural supplement of Pagina/12. She has given courses for artists and art critic workshops and was a co-editor of the collection Los Sentidos (The Senses) on Argentinean art.

Isn?t all artwork – or all decent art – a mirror? Might a great painting not even reformulate the question what is it about to what am I about?

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‘I was reminded of John Berger’s Ways of Seeing, enfolded in tender and exuberant personal narratives-it’s so sophisticated and fascinating, yet has a Calvino-esque light touch. . . . Rigorous and mercurial.’ -Claire Louise-Bennett, author of Pond The narrator of Optic Nerve is an Argentinian woman whose obsession is art. The story of her life is the story of the paintings, and painters, who matter to her. Her intimate, digressive voice guides us through a gallery of moments that have touched her. In these pages, El Greco visits the Sistine Chapel and is appalled by Michelangelo?s bodies. The mystery of Rothko’s refusal to finish murals for the Seagram Building in New York is blended with the story of a hospital in which a prostitute walks the halls while the narrator’s husband receives chemotherapy. Alfred de Dreux visits Gericault’s workshop; Gustave Courbet’s devilish seascapes incite viewers “to have sex, or to eat an apple”; Rousseau organizes a cruel banquet in Picasso?s honor. . . . All of these fascinating episodes in art history interact with the narrator’s life in Buenos Aires-her family and work; her loves and losses; her infatuations and disappointments. The effect is of a character refracted by environment, composed by the canvases she studies. Seductive and capricious, Optic Nerve is a book that captures, like no other, the mysterious connections between a work of art and the person who perceives it.