Exploring the Invisible: Art, Science, and the Spiritual

Exploring the Invisible: Art, Science, and the Spiritual

by Lynn Gamwell
     
 

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This sumptuous and stunningly illustrated book shows through words and images how directly, profoundly, and indisputably modern science has transformed modern art.

Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, a strange and exciting new world came into focus--a world of microorganisms in myriad shapes and colors, prehistoric fossils, bizarre undersea creatures,

Overview

This sumptuous and stunningly illustrated book shows through words and images how directly, profoundly, and indisputably modern science has transformed modern art.

Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, a strange and exciting new world came into focus--a world of microorganisms in myriad shapes and colors, prehistoric fossils, bizarre undersea creatures, spectrums of light and sound, molecules of water, and atomic particles. Exploring the Invisible reveals that the world beyond the naked eye--made visible by advances in science--has been a major inspiration for artists ever since, influencing the subjects they choose as well as their techniques and modes of representation.

Lynn Gamwell traces the evolution of abstract art through several waves, beginning with Romanticism. She shows how new windows into telescopic and microscopic realms--combined with the growing explanatory importance of mathematics and new definitions of beauty derived from science--broadly and profoundly influenced Western art. Art increasingly reflected our more complex understanding of reality through increasing abstraction. For example, a German physiologist's famous demonstration that color is not in the world but in the mind influenced Monet's revolutionary painting with light. As the first wave of enthusiasm for science crested, abstract art emerged in Brussels and Munich. By 1914, it could be found from Moscow to Paris.

Throughout the book are beautiful images from both science and art--some well known, others rare--that reveal the scientific sources mined by Impressionist and Symbolist painters, Art Nouveau sculptors and architects, Cubists, and other nineteenth- and twentieth-century artists.

With a foreword by astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson, Exploring the Invisible appears in an age when both artists and scientists are exploring the deepest meanings of life, consciousness, and the universe.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2003

"Sumptuously illustrated--the illustrations being an active part of the argument--Lynn Gamwell's Exploring the Invisible is a major contribution."--George Steiner, Times Literary Supplement

"This beautifully illustrated volume is a surprising synthesis of two seemingly disparate cultures: a revealing look at more than a century of science and the art it has influenced. Gamwell . . . brings her rare and expansive view of creativity to bear on the impulses common to both pursuits. . . . Ultimately, Gamwell argues for the direct relationship between scientific knowledge and abstract art, and after such an eloquent and visually exciting journey, the link is perfectly clear."--Publishers Weekly

"Exploring the Invisible: Art, Science, and the Spiritual is an extremely handsome and well-produced volume. . . . When all is said and done, Gamwell succeeds in making her case that the science, the culture, and the art move and change together."--Ezra Shahn, Science

"Gamwell deals deftly with both the art and the science. With 364 illustrations and an unusual linkage of art and science, her book stimulates both the eye and the mind."--Scientific American

"Text and images flow nicely from epoch to epoch, as Gamwell illustrates the zeitgeists that created some of the world's great ideas."--Library Journal

"Rich in detail, and sumptuously illustrated and produced; it displays a lifetime of knowledge."--Philip J. Davis, SIAM News

"Gamwell, a very well-informed author, offers an innovative and stimulating work. . . . Exceptionally well written, eminently readable, and lavishly illustrated with color and black-and-white plates that significantly illuminate the points made in the text."--Choice

"The phrase 'lavishly illustrated' is bandied around too freely, but here it is more than justified. Ms. Gamwell and her picture editor have come up with a combination of classic works of art along with ones a bit more off the beaten track that makes up for a very appealing mixture. . . . A book that would be an ideal present for anyone whose interests traverse the arts and sciences."--Tom Cobbe, The Art Newspaper

"Exploring the Invisible is not just a coherent history of two centuries of scientific discoveries of the invisible world (although maybe visible through microscope or telescope). It is also a history of ideas expressed either through philosophy or articulated by artists. . . . [After reading it] the scope of one's imagination has taken a sudden leap, able to embrace the plethora of structures in the natural and cosmic worlds because a coherent picture has been painted, theories of science made understandable and integrated into an artistic search for the reality of a beautiful and ordered universe."--Patricia Railing, The Art Book

"This sumptuously illustrated book can rightly claim to be the definitive introduction to the territory between science and art, in particular visual art. The author . . . may well be [the] world's most qualified guide to that territory. . . . Skeptics should not be spooked by the word spiritual. Gamwell uses it to mean a mystic's engagement with the unknown or ineffable."--Austin Dacey, Skeptical Inquirer

Publishers Weekly
This beautifully illustrated volume is a surprising synthesis of two seemingly disparate cultures: a revealing look at more than a century of science and the art it has influenced. Gamwell, curator of the Gallery of Art and Science at the New York Academy of Sciences, brings her rare and expansive view of creativity to bear on the impulses common to both pursuits. Opening with a consideration of Romanticism, illustrated by Caspar David Friedrich's lonely "Wanderer above a Sea of Fog," and J.M.W Turner's paintings of light and darkness, Gamwell gently tugs readers along on a tour of the Western mind. She sees Darwinism as the beginning of a "pursuit of the absolute" destined to obsess both scientists and artists. From there, Gamwell tracks the explosive rise of the scientific worldview with hundreds of artworks from the major movements, pieces that reflect a fascination with exploration and discovery, as well as mixed feelings about technological advancement. While the influence of science is easier to see in Wassily Kandinsky's amoeba-like forms or Alexander Calder's constellation mobiles than it is in Jackson Pollock's energetic splashes, the author draws careful lines from science to painting and sculpture, allowing even art (or science) novices to appreciate her argument. Ultimately, Gamwell argues for the direct relationship between scientific knowledge and abstract art, and after such an eloquent and visually exciting journey, the link is perfectly clear. 156 color and 208 b&w illustrations. (Nov.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
The director of the art museum at SUNY at Binghampton and adjunct science professor at the School of Visual Arts, Gamwell attempts to enumerate what we've suspected all along: art, science, and religion are entwined in a dance, each affecting the others. Text and images flow nicely from epoch to epoch, as Gamwell illustrates the zeitgeists that created some of the world's great ideas. One of the first images in the book is a painting by Caspar David Friedrich, Wanderer Above a Sea of Fog, which perfectly illustrates the essence of life on the brink of the modern scientific era. From there, the reader moves through various art movements and scientific discoveries, culminating in (of course) an image of a cone nebula from the Hubble Space Telescope. Following the text are notes, a chronology of events, a broad list of suggestions for further reading, and a functional index. Small problems of perception occur, such as listing the diagnosis of anorexia nervosa in the "spiritual" realm, and there is a lack of spiritual emphasis in general; however, these issues do not detract from the book as a whole. Recommended for academic and larger public libraries.-Nadine Dalton Speidel, Cuyahoga Cty. P.L., Parma, OH Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691121123
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
08/29/2005
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
344
Product dimensions:
9.52(w) x 10.84(h) x 0.77(d)

Meet the Author

Lynn Gamwell is Director of the Art Museum at Binghamton University; Curator of the Gallery of Art and Science at the New York Academy of Sciences; and Adjunct Professor of Science at the School of Visual Arts, New York. She is the coauthor of "Dreams 1900-2000: Art, Science, and the Unconscious Mind" and "Madness in America: Cultural and Medical Perceptions of Mental Illness Before 1914". Neil deGrasse Tyson is Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History. His books include "The Sky Is Not the Limit" and "One Universe".

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