Seeing Is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees: Expanded Edition / Edition 1

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"Seeing Is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees chronicles three decades of extraordinary conversation between Weschler and Light and Space master Irwin, taking us into the heart of what it can mean to be an artist." The original dialogues extend from the surf and cars of Irwin's L.A. youth through his passion for abstract expressionism, past his decision to abandon studio work altogether, up to and including the 1977 Whitney Museum of American Art retrospective. This lavishly expanded new edition surveys many of Irwin's subsequent site-conditioned projects - in particular the spectacularly realized Central Garden at the Getty Museum (the subject of an epic battle with the site's principal architect, Richard Meier) and the path-breaking design that transformed an abandoned Hudson Valley factory into Dia's stellar new Beacon campus - enhancing what many had already considered the best-ever book on an artist.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A magnetic (now expanded) biography."—San Diego Union-Tribune

"Seeing is Forgetting may not be just the best biography of an artist out there but also one of the best books on contemporary art-making."—Frieze

San Diego Union-Tribune - Robert L. Pincus
“A magnetic (now expanded) biography.”
Frieze - Eugenia Bell
“Seeing is Forgetting may not be just the best biography of an artist out there but also one of the best books on contemporary art-making.”
The Barnes & Noble Review
The first incarnation of this book was published a quarter century ago, its happily engrossing pages detailing conversations between the artist Robert Irwin and the tireless cultural sleuth Lawrence Weschler. Tracking the evolution of Irwin's artistic inspirations along a desultory path -- through high school memories of southwest Los Angeles (replete with cars and drive-ins and dance contests), early work as an abstract expressionist, the careful stripping down of his art to lines, dots, discs, and light, and a chapter on Irwin's income-sustaining trips to the racetrack -- Weschler opens all kinds of doors in the reader's understanding of not only creativity but also of the fundamental elements of perception. This richly expanded edition of the original book (it's half again as long, with two dozen color plates) adds subsequent conversations between author and artist, treating Irwin's work in conceiving and constructing the Central Garden of the Getty Musuem and in the shaping of the Hudson Valley site of Dia's Beacon campus, among other projects. In sum, it presents 30 years of an ongoing dialogue that never loses its easygoing edges of intellect and wonder. A companion volume, True to Life: Twenty-Five Years of Conversations with David Hockney, collects Weschler's equally enlightening pieces on artistic investigations of a very different stripe. Each book is filled with the seductive magic of watching private curiosity taking palpable shape before our eyes. --James Mustich
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520256088
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 2/2/2009
  • Edition description: First Edition, Over Thirty Years of Conversations with Robert Irwin
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 1.13 (d)

Meet the Author

Lawrence Weschler's many books include Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder, Vermeer in Bosnia, and Everything That Rises: A Book of Convergences, which won the 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

A Note On the Illustrations

A Further Note On the Drifting Present

In the Narrative that Follows

Seeing is forgetting the name of the thing one sees (1982)


Ch. 1 High School (1943-46) 7

Ch. 2 Childhood (1928-43) 26

Ch. 3 Army, Schooling, Europe, and Early Work (1946-57) 33

The Narrows (Part 1)

Ch. 4 Ferus (Los Angeles / New York) 45

Ch. 5 The Early Ferus Years: From Abstract Expressionism Through the Early Lines (1957-62) 56

Ch. 6 The Later Ferus Years: The Late Lines (1962-64) 70

The Narrows (Part 2)

Ch. 7 The Dots (1964-66) 89

Ch. 8 The Discs (1966-69) 101

Ch. 9 Post-Disc Experiments and Columns (1968-70) 113


Prelude 121

Ch. 10 Teaching 123

Ch. 11 Art and Science (1968-70) 127

Ch. 12 Playing the Horses 142

Ch. 13 The Room at the Museum of Modern Art (1970) 151

Debouchement 159


Ch. 14 The Desert 163

Ch. 15 Being Available in Response 166

Ch. 16 Some Situations (1970-76) 171

Ch. 17 Reading and Writing 179

Ch. 18 The Whitney Retrospective: Down to Point Zero (1977) 185

Ch. 19 Since the Whitney: Return to the World (1977-81) 192

Present all around (1985-2008)

Ch. 20 Seeing is Savoring (1985) 211

Ch. 21 Play It as It Lays and Keep It in Play: On Irwin's Retrospective at Moca in Los Angeles (1993) 216

Ch. 22 When Fountainheads Collide: Robert Irwin at Richard Meier's Getty (1997) 237

Ch. 23 Heaven: Irwin and Meyerowitz at the Dia (2000) 261

Ch. 24 Irwin in His Seventies (2007-8) 267

Afterword: On Robert Irwin and David Hockney 294

Bibliographic Note 299

Index 305

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