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How to See: Looking, Talking, and Thinking about Art Hardcover – October 18, 2016
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“If John Berger’s Ways of Seeing is a classic of art criticism, looking at the ‘what’ of art, then David Salle’s How to See is the artist’s reply, a brilliant series of reflections on how artists think when they make their work. The ‘how’ of art has perhaps never been better explored.”
- Salman Rushdie
“David Salle’s brilliant canvases changed everything, and now his luminescent eye and voice have married in a book that is destined to alter not only how we look at art, but the language we use to describe it. His essays are a gift that, in addition to feeding one’s process of intellection, nourishes one’s art loving soul. Transcendent.”
- Hilton Als
“David Salle is widely known as one of our most daring and intelligent painters, but he is also an eloquent critic. How to See is a marvel of incisive and intimate observation. For all his audacity as a painter, Salle seems touchingly proud to be a part of the family of art and to derive his pictorial forms from what he calls the ‘the shared DNA of art,’ raising the possibility that all masterworks are in fact a group project.”
- Deborah Solomon
“David Salle’s thoughtful, intelligent, beautifully written essays inspire us to think about, and look at, art in wholly new ways. He makes difficult subjects (and artists) seem effortless, transparent, and he wears the depth and breadth of his knowledge of art and art history so lightly that we hardly notice how much we are learning. How to See is a pure pleasure to read.”
- Francine Prose
“David Salle writes about art with a joyous lucidity that is both bracing―nothing, absolutely nothing, escapes his notice―and utterly disarming. He guides his readers through the complex world of contemporary art with a rare generosity of spirit, a dazzling skill at description, and a radiant honesty that are as challenging as they are irresistible.”
- Ingrid Rowland
“David Salle asks of other art not, where does this belong? but, what does this make me feel and think about? Salle subtly and persuasively reminds us that all art, even the most seemingly recalcitrant, is there to be looked at, and that what artists do is, exactly, teach us how to see.”
- Adam Gopnik
“David Salle has a sharp, thrilling eye and an uncanny ability to reorder and make new the act of seeing. These perceptive, far-ranging essays are drawn from deep knowledge and experience―reading this book feels like having a conversation about art with the smartest person in the room.”
- Emma Cline
- Joan Juliet Buck
“Lovely to read… [How to See] is serious but never solemn, alert to pleasure, a boulevardier’s crisp stroll through the visual world.”
- Dwight Garner, New York Times
“An upbeat, non-combative approach to art criticism… [F]resh, engaging.”
- Roger White, New York Times Book Review
“Witty, chatty, intimate, sharp.”
- Lorin Stein, The Paris Review
“[Salle] writes about art that he admires with passion and a discerning eye… Illuminating.”
- Glen Roven, Los Angeles Review of Books
“A trenchant and light-on-its-feet collection of critical essays... about art, artists, fame, and, if you read it closely enough, what it’s like to have been David Salle for all these years.””
- Carl Swanson, New York Magazine
“A remarkable painter whose writing is as fresh, vital, and startling as his canvases, Salle… talks about artists and their work in witty, jargon-free, and eminently accessible prose.”
- Tirdad Derakhshani, Philadelphia Inquirer
“How to See is an exhilarating and cathartic experience… an offering of passion and generosity, and a pulsing invitation to the reader to find the same in the act of seeing.”
- Simone Grace Seol, The National Book Review
“[A] breath of fresh air… Salle is the perfect art tour guide: literate, thoroughly entertaining, and insightful.”
“Sharp insights and an affable tone make this collection equivalent to a hearty discussion with a mentor―recommended for anyone interested in visual arts.”
- Publishers Weekly
About the Author
David Salle’s paintings are in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery in Washington, DC, the Los Angeles County Art Museum, Tate Modern, the National Galerie Berlin, and many others. He lives in New York City.
Top customer reviews
The book's interior layout is lovely... very smooth reading experience.
This book is recommended, with the following reservations.
- His pontifications go on for too long. He'll use a whole batch of adjectives for certain
bits, and it's not helpful. It feels like Salle is over-reaching to impress the reader.
- The book is structured in 4 parts. The first 3 parts are essays on individual artists.
He writes about nearly 30 artists, but only about 4 women are included. Why? (rhetorical)
- He gives John Baldessari two essays (this man was his former Prof at Cal Arts). I felt like certain choices
the author made echoed the norms of the Old Boys Club. Maybe Salle felt a need to give due allegiance to
his chums and the mentors who he greatly respects. While this is understandable, it undercuts the
possibility of being even bolder.
One more criticism: Each chapter has 1 reproduction but all are black-and-white. Would it have cost that much more to publish them in color?
But does 30 seconds warrant an actual review? My review is justified because in addition to my brief perusal at the bookstore I caught a PBS news expose on Salle and his new book, whose title is just as obvious and anti-clever-thinking-it’s-clever as the precepts in his painting. In fact, the news report may have been more penetrating and telling, because here we see the artist and author himself attempting to espouse on his visual belief system. And trust me, it was painful to view. I call it a ‘belief system’ only because that is how Salle presents himself and his ideas- as though now he is a seasoned master, willing to pass down wisdom and insight to the masses, who cannot see. Salle fashions himself the new John Berger.
Also telling was that he, like the hordes of hipster wannabees, moved to Brooklyn (Myrtle Avenue of all places) and rode the wave of gentrification that now makes it safe for elderly white people to stroll down the avenue, a street that only twenty-five years ago was nicknamed “Murder Avenue.” Interestingly, the news report, approximately 7-8 minutes in length, seemed to focus more on Salle and his new Bohemian Brooklyn life than the book itself, though clearly it was a plug for the book. It is almost fitting that Salle and Fort Greene, Brooklyn should have married like this, because both suffer from an equally high degree of manipulation and lie.
No, David Salle is still the predictable and marginal painter hoisted up by a heavyweight dealer 30 years ago and who must now have his price point maintained so as not to collapse the art market. Not at all dissimilar to Julian Schnabel’s predicament. However, I believe that sooner or later people will eventually wake up and wonder, “What is this hunk of broken crockery and shlock on my wall?”