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Seeing Is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees: A Life of Contemporary Artist Robert Irwin Paperback – March 10, 1982
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Shipped promptly, good condition.
I still often think of it,tell stories from it and give it as a gift. I always say "skip the first chapter-it gets much better." If I remember right, the book begins with a description of Irwin's perfectionism when cleaning the engine of his car. I figure that will bore my friends.
I tell my students about Irwin's many years attempt to make the perfect line, to his wife's chagrin and his painting the back side of his paintings because it matters to him. They like the story of the riots that occured in South America due to the disorientation of his discs-concave and convex-the viewers couldn't tell where the wall started and the disc stopped. I have given the book as a graduation present.
I thought about this book at the mechanic the other day. My engine is very, very dirty.
I will never forget,forgetting. Great book.
I set up a camera across the street and every 30 seconds for 10 hours either I or an assistant took a picture of the light shifting and changing through the scrim on the front of the gallery.
Irwin had removed the front window and had replaced it with a white scrim. Light filtering through the skylight and the front of the gallery subtley changed the appearance of the work. I had intended to make a 60 second time-lapse film but Irwin asked for the pictures and so that work remains uncompleted.
What was gratifying that in the week the installation was in place no one disturbed it.
I am fascinated by the creative process. I am fascinated by physical manifestations born from the spark of an idea. I am fascinated by the complex psychology, rigorous philosophy and simple backbone evinced by those devotees of method. And I am blown-away by Robert Irwin.
My first contact with Robert Irwin's work came in graduate school when a few friends and I drove from Philadelphia to Manhattan to visit the Dia Center for the Arts. There on an upper floor I encountered a truly shocking, yet subduing, experience. Irwin had taken over the entire level and divided into rooms demarcated with translucent scrim. I walked slowly, from space to space, enclosed but not, silent in presence yet bursting with internal applause, and in awe. I marveled at the solidity of light that slid through the Dia's industrial steel windows, tracing its way across two layers of the thin white fabric and gently landing on the concrete floor. My eyes were tickled by the subtlety of color emanating from the vertical fluorescent lights wrapped in gels. There must have been thirty others there at the same time, meandering like ghosts whitened by one, two, three layers of scrim, yet the space was absolutely quiet. This was the first time that I truly understood the word ?perception.? It came in a space filled with exacted simplicity.
Since then I have tried to follow Irwin's work, both past and present, only to find that it is rarely photographed, as the medium cannot do the work justice. However, Lawrence Weschler's biography on the artist is a tremendous piece of writing that will give you much more appreciation for Irwin than any catalog ever could. Weschler spent years interviewing the artist, tracking down collaborators and researching the works. He exhibits an amazing understanding of Irwin's intentions and adds much needed commentary to keep the story straight while tracing the complex and highly personal evolution of the man and his art. From descriptions of Irwin's self-imposed eight month exile in Ibiza, to his two year long rigorous exercise (and again, exile) to create what amounted to twenty lines, Weschler gives us an in depth look at the zen-like disposition of the artist in his search for the perceptual (and hence, not conceptual). Irwin's diligence and rigor will stupefy even those most devoted to their process, and discussion of his material experimentation will act to spur imaginations. Robert Irwin supplies the majority of storytelling, however, and lets the reader in on often humorous tales of the art world from the point of view of a very personable and highly influential artist.
In short, I highly recommend that anyone devoted to design, be it fine art or architecture, read this book. I also recommend that you travel to San Diego to see the first major exhibition of Irwin?s work since 1993, "Robert Irwin: Primaries and Secondaries" at the MCASD through February 23rd.
Note: The installation at the Dia Center was reviewed thoroughly, with an included history of the artist?s work, in an article entitled "Robert Irwin?s Doors of Perception" by Carol Diehl in Art in America magazine, December, 1999, findarticles.com