Art in Review

Érik Desmazières

Érik Desmazières: 'Borges's "Biblioteca de Babel" and Other Recent Work'
Art in Review, The New York Times, Friday, December 18, 1998, by Grace Glueck.

In his novella "The Library of Babel", the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) conjures up a vast storehouse of the world's learning, an allegorical library to which everyone holds a card. In its labyrinthine depths, seekers wander endlessly, forever in search of the particular book that will explain the enigma of existence.

Inspired by Borges's description of the library as "an indefinite and perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries," the French printmaker Érik Desmazières has done a suite of 11 etchings and aquatints to illustrate an edition of the Borges book.

Rendered in black and white, with cues from Piranesi and M.C. Escher, the prints are wonderful to behold. The multilevel library exterior, a profusion of portals and buttresses, is an improbable meld of medieval cathedral and the Tower of Babel. Views of its tiered and arched interiors, swarming with seekers, include the noble "Room of the Planets", a grandiose chamber dominated by a surreal sphere; the "Hexagonal Room", whose intricately constructed sides culminate in a hexagonal oculus, and a "Plunging View" that takes the eye a dizzying way down an infinitely tiered hexagonal shaft.

The entire project is a tour de force (or tower de force?) of drawing that sensitively captures the mystical spirit of Borges's text.

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