Monday, July 21, 2008

What do you think is essential reading for the artist?

So this in an open call for a discussion about what you consider essential reading for the contemporary artist. Let's limit it to 5 titles - books or essays. These can be historic, contemporary, of any discipline. You can also include an artists monograph if you can explain why it is essential beyond your affinity to that artist's work, like perhaps the guest essay of that title.

I'd like to see what parallels are out there for artists that are online regularly via blogs, etc.
Also, I'm personally interested in uncovering any educational gaps that I might have. So please impress me with something other than total silence on the subject ;)


Dilettante Ventures said...

Here's my perhaps predictable list:

1. Essays on the Blurring of Art and Life - Allan Kaprow
2. Pragmatist Aesthetics - Richard Shusterman
3. The Art of Living - Crispin Sartwell
4. Let's Talk About Love - Carl Wilson
5. Everyday Aesthetics - Yuriko Saito

Bonus Pick: Art, an Enemy of the People - Roger Taylor

Steven LaRose said...

1. Labyrinths: Selected Stories & Other Writings - Borges, Jorge Luis.
2. Infinite Jest: A Novel - Wallace, David Foster.
3. Sometimes a Great Notion - Kesey, Ken.
4. My Name Is Asher Lev - Potok, Chaim.
5. Watchmen - Moore, Alan and Gibbons, Dave.

wait, this is silly, I can't do this. I picked five books that I still think about, and look where that has got me.

You might enjoy joining Goodreads.

highlowbetween said...

S that's the point kind of- what books inform you regularly. thanks DV - knew Kaprow would be there :)

Steven LaRose said...

Inform regularly? Is that the same as "think about often, even over 25 years?"

There are a couple of images from John Irving's "The World According to Garp that I think about to this day.

Jim Carroll's 1978 book "The Basketball Diaries" has a few moments branded into my psyche.

But, when I'm in the studio, I can only imagine that Jack Kerouac is holding hands with Herman Hesse.

Can books about painting really help?

Mike Lee said...

1. Henry Miller Tropic of Cancer
2. Dave Hickey The Invisble Dragon: 4 Essays on Beauty
3. Borges' Labyrinths for sure
4. Calvin Tomkins The Banquet Years

highlowbetween said...

S - sure what books made you a better artist is basically the point where do you find refuge.
I think some books about painting might be of use, but again that is probably too narrow. My list is coming hopefully we get some more titles here.

Some good ones from Mike!

highlowbetween said...

Here's my list. I decided to go with books that had a big impact on me at various stages, and I made a rule of no philosophy or individual essay. Far too many to choose from. I wanted to include popular culture as well. So in no particular order.

1. Andrei Rublev (screenplay) - Andrei Tarkovsky
2. The Invisible Dragon - Dave Hickey
3. Landscape and Memory - Simon Schama
4.Chronicles - Bob Dylan
5.The Lure of the Local - Lucy Lippard

I could easily have a dozen more, I mean Sebald himself could be the full 5 along with many other novelists. In particular his account of the painter in The Emigrants, which is basically a depiction of Frank Auerbach. The 5 above are titles that came along over a 15 year cycle that for whatever reason ignited something inside and made me look around a little bit differently.

Honorable mentions could be
After Theory - Terry Eagleton
Representing Place - Edward Casey

Steven LaRose said...

Now I'm thinking of it as a portrait or a reading list for a class. Here, for better or for worse, are five books that are related to painting that have touched me at various times and would make a great/weird course list:

1. Robert Henri's "The Art Spirit"
2. Peyton E. Richter's collected essays "Perspectives In Aesthetics"
3. Gilbert-Rolfe's "Beauty and the Contemporary Sublime"
4. Craig Owen's "Beyond Recognition"
5. Suzi Gablik's "Has Modernism Failed?"

CAP said...

This is tricky because it assumes there’s just one kind of painter to be catered for, that reading is always necessary or an inspiration. In my experience it as often gets in the way or distracts. I think I probably get as much stimulus from music or movies (cinema or TV) and then comics of all kinds, everywhere.

When I’m painting what I usually look for from books is pictures, I’m afraid to say.

I have a fairly good library of art books and magazines and when things are not going well down on the coal face, I often use them just to kind of rehabilitate my eyes. I just lie around, scanning the things; noticing how different they look for my ill-rewarded labors, hoping they will reciprocate Then again I often buy second hand junk like The Playboy Illustrated History of Organized Crime or Thirty Years of Unforgettable Images From The National Enquirer. Well you know, they’re remaindered and really cheap and I often find myself imagining what it must have been like to be the photographer. So books for me as a painter, are mostly just a library of pictures to devour when hungry.

Similarly I’m forever cutting things out of old magazines, scanning or photocopying them (deliberately roughly!) and sticking them on my walls. I ‘read’ these all the time. These are my craziest, psychic sources, pure magick.

My favorite art books are almost always monographs. I’ve been collecting them since the 60s. I have lots of books on Rauschenberg, but not the best book, which came out in the 90s or early 00s and was huge and unaffordable. But I can look at his stuff pretty much endlessly. But I don’t think my work is anything like his – I just like the way he collects/connects so many things. I try and do that in a different way, as a figurative artist.

I don’t get that much inspiration from poetry or prose anymore, although I did in my youth. I guess if I wanted a parallel in literature to my painting (strictly as an ideal of course) it would be someone like Donald Barthelme or Richard Brautigan, for the most part.

I also like those old John Irving novels though, Steven! And Kurt Vonnegut, naturally.

There’s lots of other literature I like as well (especially humor), but I was trying to get at a certain attitude in those two (DB + RB) I find inspiring, that sort of helps me hit my stride.

Like CS, I’ll leave the philosophy to one side – it is important obviously, but it comes either well before or after painting. It answers a lot of big questions, but leaves me fighting over day-to-day matters.

So for me, as a painter, 5 reliable books/sources would be –

1 -Richard Roud – Godard
2 - Mogwai – Government Commissions
3 - Maurice Tuchman, Esti Dunow & Klaus Perls – Soutine – Catalogue RaisonnĂ©
4 - Kenneth Anger – Hollywood Babylon
5 – Spacemen 3 - Playing with Fire

highlowbetween said...

CAP - well it was really an attempt to get some good titles that could be applied to the individual or even considered important in the context of the classroom. Obviously 5 is a very tiny number but a barometer of sorts I'd hoped.

I concur that most artists are reading material for images or colors or situations. This seems the natural tendency for most.

As to the philosophy or hard critical texts/reviews, etc. I definitely agree as well that this kind of research is a different part of the overall process and certainly to the side or for consideration after the physical work has been done. For me, a fairly avid researcher, it helps place things in the broader idea world and I think it gives an artist a which to articulate their work to others. at least to a particular audience. I think that is another critical process all it's own - what language to speak and to whom?

It's interesting though that poetry and prose have sort of dead ended for you. I wonder about that.
whether that is a cyclical thing or not. For me Sebald is happening big time for me but I can't point to anyone else really at the moment. We may be related in this regard. Although Paul Celan and Dave Berman (Actual Air) seem to be at my finger tips through the years.

I think the monograph things is huge but I wanted to avoid it because it would get us into the trenches of influences, tastes, etc. But Perhaps another post because there are certain monographs that rise above that, which become encyclopedias of sorts. For me Richter's Atlas - the original publication does that.

As to music, well we'll have to get into arena later. That is a huge topic I think. But I like that you go for big space and drone in the studio! Sonic Boom forever ;)

CAP said...

I'll try and think about a classroom context...

CAP said...

OK Here are five (in no particular order) that would be suitable for students of painting. But none of them are very new, and I suspect all are pretty familiar.

But I just haven’t come across anything newer I’d honestly recommend.

☺ John Willats - Art and Representation Princeton 1997 – Excellent on basic categories of picture, the difference between perspective and projections, on development and history of uses. I disagree with many of his assumptions about visual perception, but a lot of the technical framework is still excellent. All painters need to know this stuff.

☺ John Gage - Color and Culture Thames & Hudson 1993 – If this is not a stock text it ought to be mandatory reading for all painters – whether interested in color, line, tone, depth, etc. This is my one concession to abstraction in the list. It’s long and very detailed, but great for dipping into at random or leisure (note especially closing chapters on 20th century painting).

☺ Nelson Goodman – The essay ‘The Status of Style’ from Ways of Worldmaking Hackett 1978. I know I’m in a small minority here - having recommended this many times to other artists who remain indifferent – but I still find it one of the best short introductions to what style is and why it’s so important (not just in paintings).

☺ Richard Wollheim – Painting as an Art T&H 1984 – This creeps even closer to philosophy than Goodman, but for those who want to take the psychological-personal route into pictorial meaning this pretty much has set the bar for later and lesser vaults like Julian Bell’s What is Painting and Elkins’ What Painting Is. Building on stuff like Gombrich’s Art and Illusion and The Image and The Eye the opening chapters in particular would make pretty good class lectures/lessons on pictures/meaning/reference. It walks through interpretation of various paintings and styles – Cezanne, Ingres, Poussin and De Kooning being highlights.

☺ Mark Roskill (ed) The Letters of Van Gogh (Fontana 1979). Proof – if proof were needed – that you can overdo it. Art can swallow you up, become 24-7 obsession and can only end in tears. Still, for anyone who thinks Vince was some kind of crazy outsider, a lesson in just how dedicated, literary and sophisticated his interests, how systematic, critical, market and art history aware he and his brother were. And they almost made it! Recognition/sales coming only months too late, sadly.

BTW - I wouldn't discourage literature - I just don't happen to have read anything recently that really fired me.

highlowbetween said...

Thanks CAP. These look really good. I have never read a single one, but have definite interest.

lucazoid said...

Hi there. I came across this blog entry while googling for connections between Kaprow and Shusterman. Of course Dilettante Ventures has made that connection here. So I have to agree with him on some of his choices. My own are:

Allan Kaprow - Essays on the Blurring of Art and Life

Lucy Lippard - Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object

John Dewey - Art as Experience

Hermann Melville - Moby Dick

Kazuo Ishiguro - The Unconsoled

The last two (novels) I have included because I think they are incredible examples of the use of narrative as an art in itself. Narrative (storytelling as a relational way of embodying and creating experiences) is important in my own art practice.