Monday, July 14, 2008

Seeing is Forgetting - Robert Irwin

One of the great pleasures so far this summer has been finally (after years) getting around to reading Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees by Lawrence Weschler. This may well be the best book about an artist and their working method and evolution that I have ever read. If you interested in abstraction, this is pretty much required reading. You'll also get a nice little history on the formation of the L.A. art scene from the 1950's on which for an east coast artist, was quite intriguing and it certainly filled some gaps for me. This is a fast read (and great biography actually) with a lot of big ideas and I think some very fruitful fodder on how to approach one's work within your own studio dynamic. My interest and admiration for Irwin has gone off the charts to say the least, it has left a true and at times profound impression. If you teach, I think you need to get a copy of it.

Here's an excerpt regarding Irwin's relationship with his studio practice during his "late lines" period(1962-1964):

In the beginning all of this was not very considered. It was done very intuitively. My concentration was not real good. It was mostly a question of just staying in the studio and simply not going out. Whether I did anything or didn't do anything, whether I was able to work or not, I simply would not let myself leave. But after awhile, if you don't let yourself leave, then everything else begins to leave, that is, all of your other reasons or ambitions in being there; and if you're very fortunate, you might then reach a point of being completely alone in an intimate dialogue with yourself as acted out in the realm of the painting.

3 comments:

Steven LaRose said...

This is one of my all time favorite books. I was very impressed with Irwin's persona. He seemed so healthy. It was also my introduction to the writing of Lawrence Weschler. His pants are smarty. Wise and funny.

highlowbetween said...

he's a great writer. I really got into this. I can't believe that i have never read it until now. I wish there were more books like these on living artists.

so many books as they say...

cjagers said...

Oh yeah, that was my grad school Bible. There is a related documentary now: The Cool School. I think it can be downloaded for free somewhere?