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Seeing Is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees: A Life of Contemporary Artist Robert Irwin

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Traces the life and career of the California artist, who currently works with pure light and the subtle modulation of empty space.


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Traces the life and career of the California artist, who currently works with pure light and the subtle modulation of empty space.

30 review for Seeing Is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees: A Life of Contemporary Artist Robert Irwin

  1. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Completely fascinating. It's a biography of Robert Irwin, a contemporary artist, and one whose rather minimal works (a canvas with two lines! an apparently empty room!) I'd previously have been inclined to dismiss unthinkingly. Irwin is a thoroughly amazing character, and Weschler subtly but expertly brings him out, largely through Irwin's own words. What feels to me like the core of the book -- and, if the biography is as honest as it feels, the artist -- is the dynamic between certainty, dedic Completely fascinating. It's a biography of Robert Irwin, a contemporary artist, and one whose rather minimal works (a canvas with two lines! an apparently empty room!) I'd previously have been inclined to dismiss unthinkingly. Irwin is a thoroughly amazing character, and Weschler subtly but expertly brings him out, largely through Irwin's own words. What feels to me like the core of the book -- and, if the biography is as honest as it feels, the artist -- is the dynamic between certainty, dedication, and bullheaded effort on the one side, and, on the other, perception, full awareness, surrender. Weschler gets this beautifully in a couple of paragraphs where he describes two recurring gestures of Irwin's. In one, his bunched hands spread out, blossoming, as he speaks of wonder and observation. And then he's talking about nailing it, doing it right, getting it down, and he twists his arm, clenched and determined, turning an invisible screw. Opening up, forcing determinedly ahead. And the combination, as I read this book, felt a lot like grace.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kayl Parker

    Firstly, I read this book at the recommendation of my Senior Seminar professor, who, instead of telling me to read the lengthened version, encouraged me to get the first edition with 100 less pages because it was cheaper. Instead, I figured if I was going to read it, I might as well read it all, and found the extended edition in the Harold Washington library which I have promptly renewed seven or eight times. I would highly suggest reading the extended version, as I didn't start gleaning pieces Firstly, I read this book at the recommendation of my Senior Seminar professor, who, instead of telling me to read the lengthened version, encouraged me to get the first edition with 100 less pages because it was cheaper. Instead, I figured if I was going to read it, I might as well read it all, and found the extended edition in the Harold Washington library which I have promptly renewed seven or eight times. I would highly suggest reading the extended version, as I didn't start gleaning pieces of information that were useful until after the lengthy introduction (yes, two hundred pages) to Robert Irwin. After three hundred pages, I still don't know how I feel about the minimal artist, whose personality is not one that seems recognizable. He seems foreign, but I must admit, also a genius. Seriously, I think this guy has it all figured out and he's just laughing at the rest of us, or trying to help us figure out the secret to life, since he's so far ahead of us in that region. Maybe this is why it took so long for me to start collecting useful information from the book for my own practice, because Irwin is such a strange, unearthly character. Weschler perhaps describes Irwin perfectly when he states that his "egolessness...can at times seem positively egomaniacal." And this is precisely why Irwin is so hard to connect with. He is at once completely humble while also remaining completely stuck-up. And maybe this is also why people have such a hard time approaching his work as well. Because no one can tell if he is sitting behind the curtain laughing at our stupidity, our need to find meaning, or honestly asking us to experience. I would have to say, this book is definitely not for everyone. Though I think it would be a nice introduction to contemporary art, I would also caution that it is a nice re-introduction for those of us who are well versed in conceptual art aesthetics and theory. For me, this book came at the most perfect time. I was just finishing up my final undergraduate courses and emerging into the world. I'll be the first to tell you, I am completely disillusioned, especially when it comes to "art." I am completely stuck-up and have a hard time trusting in the mantra "anyone can make art." This book is perfect for the disillusioned. In many ways, Irwin reminded me why I make art, why anyone makes art. I didn't enjoy every page of this book. Sometimes it's really hard to continue reading it. But I'd urge any young artist to power through it. You will be frustrated, mostly by the fact the Irwin is a living paradigm, constantly shifting and seemingly contradicting himself every turn. But somehow it all makes sense. Seriously, this guy's figured it out, all of it. "Irwin's sensibility is immensely playful, but the play is absolutely serious." I'll probably come to a point in my career when I'll need this book again, but I certainly hope I won't have to trudge through the heaviness of it for at least ten years. With that said, I should also say, read it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Albert

    “It is precisely because Irwin insists that each progressive abstraction from perception to formalized truth implies a loss rather than a gain that he sees his own progressive deletions of the formalized requirements of the art object as a gain rather than a loss.” 184 “Art exists not in objects but in a way of seeing.” 190 “‘Duchamp bluntly illustrated that any object could be art if so called,’ [wrote Roberta Smith]. ‘Irwin’s work has been suggesting, with increasing insistence, that any situati “It is precisely because Irwin insists that each progressive abstraction from perception to formalized truth implies a loss rather than a gain that he sees his own progressive deletions of the formalized requirements of the art object as a gain rather than a loss.” 184 “Art exists not in objects but in a way of seeing.” 190 “‘Duchamp bluntly illustrated that any object could be art if so called,’ [wrote Roberta Smith]. ‘Irwin’s work has been suggesting, with increasing insistence, that any situation is art, if so experienced’” 192 “There’s a tendency to think that the ordinary has been weighted down by all the biases which ensnare it, but in another sense, it was never part of those biases. The presence of something, anything, everything, is untainted. The ordinary, could we but see it, is just as extraordinary as the highest consciousness imaginable.” Irwin 193 “Even revolutions don’t cause change: change causes revolutions.” Irwin 204 “Turning people on to the world, in this view, means turning them on to the single most beautiful thing in the world: the human capacity, the human responsibility, for perception.” 227 259 “Who cares about virtuality when there’s all this reality—this incredible, inexhaustible, insatiable, astonishing reality—present all around!” Irwin 292

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kyle

    Probably the best book about an artist you'll ever read (assuming you ever do read one). Weschler does what any/every greater writer should do. That is, to coax the reader to invest (and perhaps even "care" about) a subject heretofore (yes, I just used heretofore in a sentence --- correctly?) thought/felt to be uninteresting. If you're not reading Weschler, you're just not reading.* *With god (intentional lower case) on my side (thanks Zimmerman) I'll be able to take a graduate course with Mr. Wes Probably the best book about an artist you'll ever read (assuming you ever do read one). Weschler does what any/every greater writer should do. That is, to coax the reader to invest (and perhaps even "care" about) a subject heretofore (yes, I just used heretofore in a sentence --- correctly?) thought/felt to be uninteresting. If you're not reading Weschler, you're just not reading.* *With god (intentional lower case) on my side (thanks Zimmerman) I'll be able to take a graduate course with Mr. Weschler next spring --- which he has already "personally approved." How do you say? Fucking A!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    "There are things I've undertaken as an artist that I will never accomplish in my lifetime," Irwin told me one afternoon. "It's just not possible. The kind of change I'm envisioning, the ideas I'm entertaining, simply don't enter society whole. There's always a process of mediation, overlapping, intermeshing, threading into the fabric. But we're headed there: the complexity of consciousness, its capacity to sustain being in presence in all its rich variety will be growing with each generation. S "There are things I've undertaken as an artist that I will never accomplish in my lifetime," Irwin told me one afternoon. "It's just not possible. The kind of change I'm envisioning, the ideas I'm entertaining, simply don't enter society whole. There's always a process of mediation, overlapping, intermeshing, threading into the fabric. But we're headed there: the complexity of consciousness, its capacity to sustain being in presence in all its rich variety will be growing with each generation. Sometimes I feel on the verge of that."

  6. 4 out of 5

    Michael Feldman

    Inspiring read tracing the trajectory of someone who thought more deeply about their art than almost anyone else I'm aware of. An absolutely incredible look into Robert Irwin's work. Inspiring read tracing the trajectory of someone who thought more deeply about their art than almost anyone else I'm aware of. An absolutely incredible look into Robert Irwin's work.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Maya Man

    So the name of this book is really intriguing and I was super excited to read it but I didn't know anything about Robert Irwin. Well now I not only know a lot a out him but I am like WOW his mind was in a GOOD PLACE. I would say I am a person who likes art, but sometimes with the SUPER abstract contemporary stuff I am like hmmmmmm what! is! the deal! but now I realize the significance of conceptual art and how narrow mindedly I've perceived what is art for so long. This biography is beautifully So the name of this book is really intriguing and I was super excited to read it but I didn't know anything about Robert Irwin. Well now I not only know a lot a out him but I am like WOW his mind was in a GOOD PLACE. I would say I am a person who likes art, but sometimes with the SUPER abstract contemporary stuff I am like hmmmmmm what! is! the deal! but now I realize the significance of conceptual art and how narrow mindedly I've perceived what is art for so long. This biography is beautifully written and read like fiction as you followed Irwin from reflecting on his carefree LA high school days to his settled times late in life where he was imagining and (less often) producing pieces that covered a variety of mediums yet were always so sound in concept. Perception and presence. His art focused on the first part of the perception process and the whole idea of awareness as art is :,) There were so many times I wanted to mark up the book with underlines and annotations, but this was from the creative lab library so wasn't sure if I was allowed so instead I wrote all my notes/quotes on paper here are some: "curiously came to supersede ambition as his primary motivation" the ENTIRE art and technology section but specifically: "our interest is in a form where you realize that the media are just perception. the experience is the 'thing', experiencing is the 'object'" his concept of being available in response "boredom is a very good tool" "art existed not in objects, but in a way of seeing" on compounding perception => abstrsction: "each new whole is less than a fun of it's parts" "even if there is a God: fine, so what? That wouldn't replace your responsibility to act on your own unique potential" "but, at another level, the presence is always there. you can see it in the most restricted things, but you can see it in the most elaborate things, too, so long as you're attending to it"

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rob

    An amazing portrait of Robert Irwin, a modern artist who I wasn't aware of until I began this book. The title of this book captivated me when I came across it via a random link somewhere on the net. I found as I dug in that many of the themes Irwin deals with are the same I love to ponder: the abstract vs the concrete. The role of perception and thought in how one experiences the world. Spirituality and mysticism, and of course zen and buddhism. A fascinating book, and I _really_ want to find so An amazing portrait of Robert Irwin, a modern artist who I wasn't aware of until I began this book. The title of this book captivated me when I came across it via a random link somewhere on the net. I found as I dug in that many of the themes Irwin deals with are the same I love to ponder: the abstract vs the concrete. The role of perception and thought in how one experiences the world. Spirituality and mysticism, and of course zen and buddhism. A fascinating book, and I _really_ want to find some of Irwin's installations if any museums still happen to have them displayed properly somewhere.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    I read this book on after reading an article about it online (I can't remember if it was NY Times or LA Times). Anyway, I've never really understood Irwin's type of art, that is until I read this book. I really wish that I could see some of the paintings that are described, the early ones that he wouldn't allow to be photographed. I read this book on after reading an article about it online (I can't remember if it was NY Times or LA Times). Anyway, I've never really understood Irwin's type of art, that is until I read this book. I really wish that I could see some of the paintings that are described, the early ones that he wouldn't allow to be photographed.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    A TRILLION STARS

  11. 5 out of 5

    Chris Beiser

    This is one of very few books on art, especially from the high-arts perspective, that I’ve found that are, indeed, phenomenologically rigorous. Despite a definite Deweyan twist to the proceedings (at one point, Irwin and Turrell, along with collaborator Ed Wortz, write out that “If we define art as part of the realm of experience, we can assume that after a viewer looks at a piece, he “leaves” with the art, because the “art” has been experienced…All art is experience, yet not all experience is a This is one of very few books on art, especially from the high-arts perspective, that I’ve found that are, indeed, phenomenologically rigorous. Despite a definite Deweyan twist to the proceedings (at one point, Irwin and Turrell, along with collaborator Ed Wortz, write out that “If we define art as part of the realm of experience, we can assume that after a viewer looks at a piece, he “leaves” with the art, because the “art” has been experienced…All art is experience, yet not all experience is art,”), Irwin cites Husserl, Ponty, and others much more frequently. It’s a rambling book, largely biographical in nature, and somehow intensely relatable. in one memorable scene, Irwin, arguing with a Marxist art critic who denies that customized cars can act as a sort of folk art, finds himself at an impasse, and leaves the critic on the side of the highway. There is deft deconstruction of art-world shibbolethology, and out in its place, extremely clear ideas on being human, experiencing, and creating work.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Trilety

    I wish I could recall how I happened upon this book. . . . who gifted it to me or who recommended it. After a biography on Duchamp written by Tomkins, this is easily my next favorite biography. Thirty years. . . and you feel as if you are sitting shotgun the entire way. It is a love letter to Irwin, a love letter to L.A, a love letter to the automobile, a love letter to abstract art, and a love letter to change. So many moments stick with me from this book, but one specifically about a young Afr I wish I could recall how I happened upon this book. . . . who gifted it to me or who recommended it. After a biography on Duchamp written by Tomkins, this is easily my next favorite biography. Thirty years. . . and you feel as if you are sitting shotgun the entire way. It is a love letter to Irwin, a love letter to L.A, a love letter to the automobile, a love letter to abstract art, and a love letter to change. So many moments stick with me from this book, but one specifically about a young African American teen who came into an exhibit in process (maybe in the 70s or 80s in NY) and understood it on a level that Irwin said the critics and curators never would. If I had't lent my book to a good friend, I would find the passage, but instead I encourage you to pick up the book and read it for yourself.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jill conner

    what i enjoyed about this books was that instead of it reading as just another biography it reads more as a documentation of the artist as an interview as oppose to anything else......you learn not just about him and his thought process but the little silly things that somehow actually matter even though usually they are kept out....it brings up interesting ideas...its funny and serious i recommend it to anyone...as a book that is written about an artist...reading things like this articles and s what i enjoyed about this books was that instead of it reading as just another biography it reads more as a documentation of the artist as an interview as oppose to anything else......you learn not just about him and his thought process but the little silly things that somehow actually matter even though usually they are kept out....it brings up interesting ideas...its funny and serious i recommend it to anyone...as a book that is written about an artist...reading things like this articles and such and seeing movies like this in classes all the time i will say this is definately(sp) for me one of the more successful ones....i really enjoyed..

  14. 4 out of 5

    Crystal S.

    Wow. Apparently it took me a year and a a half to read this. I recall it being a slow start. A third of the way through it really began to pick up though and once I was half way through, I felt like I was flying. Concepts introduced in the beginning were useful for me to consider over time. In some ways, I felt that I had to digest the information. It is over thirty years of dialogue between the author and artist of course. If you enjoy art, philosophy, light and human perception, you will most l Wow. Apparently it took me a year and a a half to read this. I recall it being a slow start. A third of the way through it really began to pick up though and once I was half way through, I felt like I was flying. Concepts introduced in the beginning were useful for me to consider over time. In some ways, I felt that I had to digest the information. It is over thirty years of dialogue between the author and artist of course. If you enjoy art, philosophy, light and human perception, you will most likely find something of interest in this book.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dave Summers

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. The unique character and energy of Robert Irwin shines brightly throughout this amazing collection of conversations between the subject and his author. So many great takeaways, not just about art, but about life (which, I imagine Irwin would note wryly, is the same thing in the end). Highly Recommended!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Bob

    A friend had recommended this to me for the early descriptions of Los Angeles in the 40's and 50's, but I read on, fascinated by Robert Irwin's dedication to an art that teaches us how we experience our world. The title comes from a poem by Paul Valery. A friend had recommended this to me for the early descriptions of Los Angeles in the 40's and 50's, but I read on, fascinated by Robert Irwin's dedication to an art that teaches us how we experience our world. The title comes from a poem by Paul Valery.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Will

    This book blew my mind a few times, and in between was super interesting. Recommended for anyone who makes art or is interested in understanding the past 75 years or so of visual art.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jono

    Such an interesting look at an artist I didnt even know I was into! Thanks Austin Kleon for the suggestion (via his newsletter)

  19. 5 out of 5

    Omar

    there's something very Californian about this, in a way that I both resent and admire there's something very Californian about this, in a way that I both resent and admire

  20. 5 out of 5

    BrellowB

    I believe I got the recommendation to read this from listening to Adam Savage from Mythbusters. I can't be certain though. All I remember is having heard the title, and knowing that it would be good because of that. It is a perfect title. I had already at the time been writing in my journal about seeing versus labeling versus presence and the question of how those aspects of being aware work for me. I heard the title and was just awed at it, it states so succinctly the way that art can be captiv I believe I got the recommendation to read this from listening to Adam Savage from Mythbusters. I can't be certain though. All I remember is having heard the title, and knowing that it would be good because of that. It is a perfect title. I had already at the time been writing in my journal about seeing versus labeling versus presence and the question of how those aspects of being aware work for me. I heard the title and was just awed at it, it states so succinctly the way that art can be captivating, making you captured to it for a moment. I didn't know anything of Robert Irwin before I read this and I don't think that you need to. The book does a great job of giving you the outline of the process of how Irwin's art career formed and then transformed over time. Weschler does a good job of asking questions that you might want answers to about the way Irwin matured and struggled to express more with less. I distinctly remember being in awe at the level of intense dedication when it came to getting the lighting in a room right so that someone might see the exact pigments in the exact way that he desired them to be seen. I think that it is a good look at a type of artistic process carried out by an interesting man. I would recommend it, and I have to some people, but I do think that the book goes farther with people who have creative hobbies or have a fondness for making art of a kind.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jason , etc.

    Had anyone told me 2 to 30 years ago that I would 1) read a biography about a contemporary artist and 2) gave it 5 stars, I would've been HIGHLY skeptical. After having seen and heard this book mentioned and recommended multiple times in numerous types of media, I bit the bullet, found a used copy, and was astonished to find myself engrossed every time I picked it up. Weschler's writing style is straightforward, conversational, and a pleasure to read. And this was incredibly important, because i Had anyone told me 2 to 30 years ago that I would 1) read a biography about a contemporary artist and 2) gave it 5 stars, I would've been HIGHLY skeptical. After having seen and heard this book mentioned and recommended multiple times in numerous types of media, I bit the bullet, found a used copy, and was astonished to find myself engrossed every time I picked it up. Weschler's writing style is straightforward, conversational, and a pleasure to read. And this was incredibly important, because it effectively transferred the message transmitted by Irwin in his ridiculously well-spoken and uniquely capable method of describing his creative process in ways that are both engaging and completely unpretentious. At the risk of unmasking my inadequacy to the task of trying to boil this message down, my translation is that Irwin wanted people to see the world around them in a way that that forced them to be present in that place and time along with an accountability to what they were seeing (or not seeing). His art exists in your perception of it, which means that the definition varies from person to person, but for those who “get it”, the impact is profound. “Minimalist” seems like an apt description, in that sometimes a work might just be the way light hit a canvas or a room with certain items situated specific to the time of day. Interestingly, I think that had I gone to one of his exhibits when I was younger, there’s no chance that I would’ve appreciated it, which would’ve been in line with my likely apprehension to reading about it. Maybe the enjoyment wasn’t in the descriptions of his process but rather how outwardly ordinary he came across as being. I’d give anything to lie in a field and listen to him describe what he sees in the clouds, just because I know that I’d never see it on my own.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Adam Peterson

    Robert Irwin changed my life, as I'm sure he has for many others with this book. I don't know how this book ended up on my list. It was probably due to some online collection of books artists should read or some other clickbait garbage. Nevertheless, I committed the enigmatic title to memory after seeing it on my Amazon wishlist every so often. During a vacation to DC in 2015, I saw this book in the gift shop at the Hirshhorn Museum and had to purchase. That same summer I moved to San Diego and s Robert Irwin changed my life, as I'm sure he has for many others with this book. I don't know how this book ended up on my list. It was probably due to some online collection of books artists should read or some other clickbait garbage. Nevertheless, I committed the enigmatic title to memory after seeing it on my Amazon wishlist every so often. During a vacation to DC in 2015, I saw this book in the gift shop at the Hirshhorn Museum and had to purchase. That same summer I moved to San Diego and spent a lot of time musing over it at the beach. Funny thing is, my first visit to San Diego (years before moving there) involved going to MCASD where the great Irwin piece “1° 2° 3° 4°” exists. It was a favorite of mine then even before I discovered Irwin through this book. As it turns out, San Diego is Irwin's home city and he has quite a few pieces there. The book found me the same year I found Irwin and my life and its pages melted together quite well. Irwin is a great artist and I can't hammer that adjective enough. Unlike science, a lot of art stagnates and it is often enough that recycled technique draws in attention. Irwin realized this early on and purged repeating history from his work. Instead he chose to exhibit great creativity and challenge our perceptions. If you enjoy art for art's sake (why else wouldn't you), and are looking to visit where axioms and the arts collide, look no further.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Danella Yaptinchay

    “If … you asked me, ‘What is your ambition?’ … basically, the answer is just to make you a little more aware than you were the day before of how beautiful the world is … What artists do is teach you how to exercise your own potential.” I have to admit, I didn’t know who Robert Irwin was before this. And now, he’s one of my heroes. Reading his insights made me understand myself as an artist: I’m not crazy or obsessed, there really is a process and things really do take time. It also just made me “If … you asked me, ‘What is your ambition?’ … basically, the answer is just to make you a little more aware than you were the day before of how beautiful the world is … What artists do is teach you how to exercise your own potential.” I have to admit, I didn’t know who Robert Irwin was before this. And now, he’s one of my heroes. Reading his insights made me understand myself as an artist: I’m not crazy or obsessed, there really is a process and things really do take time. It also just made me appreciate being human. I am amazed at the dedication of Lawrence Weschler to keep up his conversations with Bob Irwin for over thirty years. Reading this book is like taking a live peek into a brilliant mind. HIs thought process and eloquence is just so impressive. “How I handle information … how I hold it all in a state of suspense while I examine it before I select what I will let into my life. Because for me, ideas are very potent elements that can radically change your life. Nothing is the same once you accept an idea, and you can never return to the place you left. So I proceed very cautiously in the realm of ideas and information.” The paperback carries its impact and gravitas in the weight of its glossy paper. I highly, highly, recommend reading this book if you’re looking for ways to shake up the way you think and the way you see the world. Absolutely profound.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Gina

    I'm reading this A: Because I looooooved Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonders and B: Because I most often find myself writing about art and artists, and always want the writing to stand on its own, as just that: writing. The reviews of this book give it real merit as a great story brilliantly told, period. So I'm excited to really get into it. I just got my hands on it, and then some new shelves arrived, so the book is currently lost in my "to reshelve" piles. Drat. OK, I tried. I really did. But this I'm reading this A: Because I looooooved Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonders and B: Because I most often find myself writing about art and artists, and always want the writing to stand on its own, as just that: writing. The reviews of this book give it real merit as a great story brilliantly told, period. So I'm excited to really get into it. I just got my hands on it, and then some new shelves arrived, so the book is currently lost in my "to reshelve" piles. Drat. OK, I tried. I really did. But this book just wasn't that exciting. There were some fun personality-profile-esque passages, but even those were more quirky than riveting. I think that this artist's life must have been really interesting to the author, and maybe if you get to the end (which I did not), you discover why. According to the reviews, this book is life-changing, so I think that's pretty likely. Either that, or the reviews were written by nimrods. I'll probably give SIFTNOTTOS another chance in the future, because I recognize that maybe this just isn't the book I want to be reading right now. I do love Lawrence Weschler... Alas.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Tracy

    This was a difficult book to read becausse of my separate reaction to Robert Irwin as a person and a thinker. Before reading 20 pages, I had the opinion that Irwin is a self-involved prat. But, his ideas about art and experience dovetail nicely with my recent meditations. Due to my recent introduction to traditional African art (where the question whether what is displayed in museums is art divorced as it is from its performance context--especially in regards to the masks), I've been examining w This was a difficult book to read becausse of my separate reaction to Robert Irwin as a person and a thinker. Before reading 20 pages, I had the opinion that Irwin is a self-involved prat. But, his ideas about art and experience dovetail nicely with my recent meditations. Due to my recent introduction to traditional African art (where the question whether what is displayed in museums is art divorced as it is from its performance context--especially in regards to the masks), I've been examining what "art" is. What Irwin posits in this book resonates with me and provides satisfaction. But, then he'll state something that irritates me as I perceive a lot of male ego and quite a bit of white male privilege. Weschler does a good job of presenting Irwin with warts and all. You won't get an in-depth history of the man, but you'll be allowed to see how his process has unfolded over decades--as well as his awareness of that process. This is a must-read for students of art and art history. This is a good read for students of philosophy, and this is a fascinating read for people who build hot rods, drink Coke, or vacation in Ibiza during the winter.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    Was a life-changing event when I picked this book up. Irwin is a reason I still paint and observe. You will be affected by this book in one way or another, but in my way I found joy in not just the making and painting, but thinking about what I was making and painting. If you've never seen an Irwin in person, especially one of the light and shadow works go to Fort Worth Museum of Modern Art I know there is one there right now. I read this before I had seen a piece and it made it that much more o Was a life-changing event when I picked this book up. Irwin is a reason I still paint and observe. You will be affected by this book in one way or another, but in my way I found joy in not just the making and painting, but thinking about what I was making and painting. If you've never seen an Irwin in person, especially one of the light and shadow works go to Fort Worth Museum of Modern Art I know there is one there right now. I read this before I had seen a piece and it made it that much more of an intriguing encounter when I saw that one. My five star rating does not just apply towards the biographical information about Irwin, but also the writing that Weschler provides. His inquisition is well performed and organized so as to almost create a conversation between reader and Irwin himself. We can almost see them both talking and in doing this we can get a better idea of the man behind the words.

  27. 4 out of 5

    TinHouseBooks

    Allyson Paty (Editorial Intern, Tin House Magazine): Lawrence Weschler’s biography of artist Robert Irwin, Seeing Is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees follows Irwin’s artistic practice and interests over the course of his entire career. Irwin states that he “one day got hooked on [his] own curiosity and decided to live it,” and the book tracks the trajectory of Irwin’s thinking about formal elements art—beginning with questions of the canvas, figuration, and line, and gradually giving wa Allyson Paty (Editorial Intern, Tin House Magazine): Lawrence Weschler’s biography of artist Robert Irwin, Seeing Is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees follows Irwin’s artistic practice and interests over the course of his entire career. Irwin states that he “one day got hooked on [his] own curiosity and decided to live it,” and the book tracks the trajectory of Irwin’s thinking about formal elements art—beginning with questions of the canvas, figuration, and line, and gradually giving way to essential questions of light, space, and presence—which in turn informs the trajectory of his life. Originally published in 1982 and updated in 2009, the book grew out of a series of conversations between Weschler and Irwin, which gives the text a grounded, spoken feel. To see a life propelled by a continuing line of artistic inquiry is, I think, hugely seductive for a creative person working in any medium.

  28. 5 out of 5

    TinHouseBooks

    Tony Perez (Editor, Tin House Books): As if she hasn’t given me enough already, last time I saw Darcey Steinke, she gave me a copy of Lawrence Weschler’s book on Robert Irwin: Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees. I knew Irwin’s work, but was by no means an aficionado; I don’t know how Darcey knew it would, but this book absolutely captivated me. Weschler is succinct but almost chatty as he takes us through Irwin’s early life and the post-war west coast art-scene, and as he walks Tony Perez (Editor, Tin House Books): As if she hasn’t given me enough already, last time I saw Darcey Steinke, she gave me a copy of Lawrence Weschler’s book on Robert Irwin: Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees. I knew Irwin’s work, but was by no means an aficionado; I don’t know how Darcey knew it would, but this book absolutely captivated me. Weschler is succinct but almost chatty as he takes us through Irwin’s early life and the post-war west coast art-scene, and as he walks us through each step of Irwin’s move from abstract expressionism to his minimal instillations experimenting with light and perspective. Irwin patiently and painstakingly pushed his project forward, leaving each success behind him just as the public, and even the art world, was catching up. I haven’t stopped thinking about the book—Irwin’s process and his worldview (I also learned that Carlsberg Elephant Beer tastes best when drunk within the aural context of a 650 Hz tone).

  29. 4 out of 5

    Charlie

    I'm supposed to be all totally in love with this book being an art man, but I'm not. I can see why some folks are, but it's just not for me. There's plenty of interesting stuff in there though, and I wouldn't go so far as to dissuade an artist from reading it. In fact I could easily see it being & know that it has been inspiring for many of certain types of artists. I'm just not the type of artist that is super stoked on hyper cerebral art/visual/phenomenological theory. I also just think I wasn I'm supposed to be all totally in love with this book being an art man, but I'm not. I can see why some folks are, but it's just not for me. There's plenty of interesting stuff in there though, and I wouldn't go so far as to dissuade an artist from reading it. In fact I could easily see it being & know that it has been inspiring for many of certain types of artists. I'm just not the type of artist that is super stoked on hyper cerebral art/visual/phenomenological theory. I also just think I wasn't as charmed by his personality and all the glorious 50's (or whatever, who cares) LA car stuff Americana crap as whoever wanted me to be. But that's just me, and besides all that, still a decent read with high upside.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    what i enjoyed about this books was that instead of it reading as just another biography it reads more as a documentation of the artist as an interview as oppose to anything else......you learn not just about him and his thought process but the little silly things that somehow actually matter even though usually they are kept out....it brings up interesting ideas...its funny and serious i recommend it to anyone...as a book that is written about an artist...reading things like this articles and s what i enjoyed about this books was that instead of it reading as just another biography it reads more as a documentation of the artist as an interview as oppose to anything else......you learn not just about him and his thought process but the little silly things that somehow actually matter even though usually they are kept out....it brings up interesting ideas...its funny and serious i recommend it to anyone...as a book that is written about an artist...reading things like this articles and such and seeing movies like this in classes all the time i will say this is definately(sp) for me one of the more successful ones....i really enjoyed...

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