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Showing 1-10 of 19 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 24 reviews
on May 1, 2012
I've read on ton of books of art history and theory, and this one stands out as one of the best.

Through thirty years of friendship and discussions, Weschler traces Bob Irwin's career, from buffing car dashboards in high school to creating monumental gardens and installations in his old age. The benefit of this extended coverage is that we get to see how Irwin develops in every stage of his career, often as these developments are happening. We discover how relationships, environment, the art world, and philosophy influence Irwin's evolution and how each element manifests itself in his work.

Irwin typically deals with abstract, minimalist, and formalist art which is often considered "difficult", even by open minded art viewers. In these interviews, he extensively details his mental and physical process, offering an unparalleled look at just what goes into these works. He recounts staring at a canvas for weeks, trying to decide precisely where a line should go and what impact it will have on the finished work. Even if you don't find yourself mesmerized by the next Agnes Martin you come across after reading this book, you'll at least gain an appreciation of why some people find it interesting and what might have been going through the mind of the artist when he/she created it.

Part of what this makes this biography so compelling is that Irwin is an incredibly appealing character. Most successful artists are pigeonholed as shameless self-promoters or tortured geniuses. Irwin comes across as humble, brilliant, open minded, sincere, and indefatigably dedicated to his work. He seems like an art world version of Richard Feynman; the kind of curious guy you'd love to explore ideas with over a beer. He can talk about betting the ponies and Wittgenstein. He has a soft spot for Cadillacs but doesn't mind living a frugal, almost hermetic existence. He's fascinated by both the mind and the soul.

This book isn't a page turner (though Bob is an excellent story teller). It's really best savored and carefully considered. But, if you're interested in Irwin, abstract art, art theory, the artistic process, hope to increase your art appreciation, or are just looking for an interesting biography, this is well worth a read.
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on May 7, 2017
"…Irwin had arrived at his life themes—the explication of presence, an awareness of perception."

Irwin is an all-encompassing artist and human being. One of those few gifted people that through sheer curiosity and intellect is able to beat categories and bridge gaps, making new, much broader connections for us. The book beautifully portrays the rare paradoxes of the work and the man himself, somehow two sides of the same coin. His work, irreducible, ascetic, intentionally limited in its vocabulary; and the man, hyper-articulate and expansive ("…this man who shuns metaphors, and yet is so gifted by them"). Author of artworks avant-garde and obscure for most; Irwin is a pleasure to read as he reasons and works through his questions (I read this book as a 29 year-old, and I have no doubt Irwin would be able to explain his work to a 9 year old), interweaving art with philosophy, science, perception and consciousness as parts of the same grand whole.

Much credit is due to its author Lawrence Weschler, who writes with enviable ease and works through Irwin's life and work narrative with astounding poetry, adding lots to an already great story. The title alone gave me chills every time I grabbed the book. So did the beautiful opening quotes at each chapter. Weschler spent 30 years of his life documenting Irwin, and has dexterously condensed the best of it in 300 pages, greatly managing quotation and commentary.

One of the book's main threads and one of the great preoccupations of Irwin is perception and attention to what's already there. Reading this book, it seemed to me these topics are today more relevant than ever, when we seem in general insatiable and fragmented. The lifelong dedication of Irwin to such questions are not only enlightening to learning artists, like it's my case, but a general reminder to exercise the simple gifts of being human.
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on March 15, 2015
Whoever said that this is 'the best book on art ever written' is correct. I have read it three times and will probably continue to do so until I die. For me it was a page by page journey of discovery... about life, art and especially 'seeing'.
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on March 29, 2014
Next level. Beautifully written stories within a meta story about a genius who is incredibly inspiring. I wish more people would read this and be influenced by Irwin's approach to life. Savior the experience, the experience is the art, and the experience is whenever you decide to be present. Whenever you decide to perceive. Whether your eyes are open or closed, you can always see.
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on April 21, 2017
Good review of Robert Irwin's career. Interesting journey from high school through to his 80s. Since I never got to see any of his installations it's hard to appreciate the qualities he so avidly seeks out. I have only seen one of the disc works at the Stanford campus Anderson Collection, which does have a very ethereal quality diffusing the distinctions between object, surface and shadow. So, that was my real touchstone to the discussion of Irwin's work. I had read the Weschler book about the Getty Gardens (and saw the garden in its early stages), so I did have an understanding of Irwin's work on that project. The sections on Irwin's isolation in Ibiza, racetrack discipline and income, and his studying philosophy were pretty enlightening. Irwin's insistence on paying attention to the qualities right in front of our eyes is key. I'm now reading Daniel Kahneman's "Thinking, Fast & Slow" where WYSIATI (what you see is all there is) is a recurrent theme. I cannot help but compare the subtleties of Irwin's visual phenomena and Kahneman's conscious/unconscious thinking modes of reasoning. I hope to see Irwin's work at Dia Beacon and the Chinati Foundation some time soon.
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on October 19, 2016
Book came as described and its beautiful!! I dont have much to say about it because there is just nothing wrong with it. Love it!
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on August 6, 2016
Can I post 25 stars?
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on June 19, 2016
Simply extraordinary.
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on April 2, 2016
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on October 22, 2015
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