Posts Tagged ‘Robert Irwin’

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Uta Barth’s Distrust of Narrative/Cause and Effect

April 10, 2009

Writing is most alive when directly engaged in the experience—as a cartography of an encounter or inner space. Recently I stumbled across an interview with photographer Uta Barth where she was asked why narrative annoyed her. Barth’s response captures a lot of what I’ve been thinking:

Narrative holds out for a certain inevitability, it places deep faith in cause and effect. Narrative is about reconstructing a chain of meaningful events based on a known outcome. I’m curious about visual art that’s about the visual. Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees is the title of Robert Irwin’s biography. Originally, it was a line in a Zen text. Narrative in art makes us think about all sorts of interesting things, but it derails the engagement with a visual experience.

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Weschler’s Robert Irwin

February 8, 2008

Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees is a chronicling of the life and work of Southern California based artist Robert Irwin written by Lawrence Weschler. The work documents the evolution of Irwin’s early work as it congealed into Abstract Expressionism in the late 1950s on through to his later Conceptual work in the 1970s. Honed from extensive interviews with the artist, Weschler gets inside of the artists head, exploring interior motivation and contextualizing the work and evolution of ideas into the fabric of Irwin’s daily life. Weschler’s writing so fully inhabits Irwin’s work that at certain points I half expected to discover I was reading some sort of Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, where I would later discover Irwin had in fact written the biography himself as some statement on artist’s presence. Obviously this is just my fancy, but it illustrates the author’s ability to connect his prose with the ideas the artist was discussing and illuminate the process. The work glides seamlessly through the artist’s words and ideas, so that one is almost unaware of the synthesis of multiple interviews and source material taking place. It reads smooth almost like a novel, even in chapters that were more theory based.

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