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Pictures of Nothing: Abstract Art Since Pollock PDF, ePub eBook


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Title: Pictures of Nothing: Abstract Art Since Pollock
Author: Kirk Varnedoe
Publisher: Published October 29th 2006 by Princeton University Press (first published October 9th 2006)
ISBN: 9780691126784
Status : FREE Rating :
4.6 out of 5

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"What is abstract art good for? What's the use--for us as individuals, or for any society--of pictures of nothing, of paintings and sculptures or prints or drawings that do not seem to show anything except themselves?" In this invigorating account of abstract art since Jackson Pollock, eminent art historian Kirk Varnedoe, the former chief curator of painting and sculpture "What is abstract art good for? What's the use--for us as individuals, or for any society--of pictures of nothing, of paintings and sculptures or prints or drawings that do not seem to show anything except themselves?" In this invigorating account of abstract art since Jackson Pollock, eminent art historian Kirk Varnedoe, the former chief curator of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, asks these and other questions as he frankly confronts the uncertainties we may have about the nonrepresentational art produced in the last five decades. He makes a compelling argument for its history and value, much as E. H. Gombrich tackled representation fifty years ago in "Art and Illusion," another landmark A. W. Mellon Lectures volume. Realizing that these lectures might be his final work, Varnedoe conceived of them as a statement of his faith in modern art and as the culminating example of his lucidly pragmatic and philosophical approach to art history. He delivered the lectures, edited and reproduced here with their illustrations, to overflowing crowds at the National Gallery of Art in Washington in the spring of 2003, just months before his death. With brilliance, passion, and humor, Varnedoe addresses the skeptical attitudes and misunderstandings that we often bring to our experience of abstract art. Resisting grand generalizations, he makes a deliberate and scholarly case for abstraction--showing us that more than just pure looking is necessary to understand the self-made symbolic language of abstract art. Proceeding decade by decade, he brings alive the history and biography that inform the art while also challenging the received wisdom about distinctions between abstraction and representation, modernism and postmodernism, and minimalism and pop. The result is a fascinating and ultimately moving tour through a half century of abstract art, concluding with an unforgettable description of one of Varnedoe's favorite works.

30 review for Pictures of Nothing: Abstract Art Since Pollock

  1. 5 out of 5

    robert

    This was a surprisingly fun read the first time I found it-not so much the 2d and 3rd time I poked at it. Warning: its not academic, hermetic, and self important, not adverse to the spirit of art, unlike alot of writing about art. Art is not for cops- art including minimalism can be outrageous, ludicrous, wry, and ironic and fun. This book does that- hooray! Never mind. Take minimalist junk seriously, go ahead. Buy some for a million bucks. Put it in your bathroom and your lobby. Its good to emp This was a surprisingly fun read the first time I found it-not so much the 2d and 3rd time I poked at it. Warning: its not academic, hermetic, and self important, not adverse to the spirit of art, unlike alot of writing about art. Art is not for cops- art including minimalism can be outrageous, ludicrous, wry, and ironic and fun. This book does that- hooray! Never mind. Take minimalist junk seriously, go ahead. Buy some for a million bucks. Put it in your bathroom and your lobby. Its good to employ staring minimalist artists. You'd be lost in the morning without your map and your bus ticket.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Pat

    Perhaps the best book on abstraction I have ever read. Varnedoe is an excellent writer and a pleasure to read.

  3. 5 out of 5

    JabJo

    Beautiful book, lots of glossy colour photographs. Covers abstract art after the Pollock era for about the next 50 yrs. I particularly loved the journey through minimalism...why is a box made in New York different from a box made in West Texas? How can a pure white or a pure black canvas be art? How come bricks on the floor are considered sculpture? Somehow, Varnedoe makes me believe. He explains with a tender patience, his love for the art so true and apparent that it makes me love it too. The Beautiful book, lots of glossy colour photographs. Covers abstract art after the Pollock era for about the next 50 yrs. I particularly loved the journey through minimalism...why is a box made in New York different from a box made in West Texas? How can a pure white or a pure black canvas be art? How come bricks on the floor are considered sculpture? Somehow, Varnedoe makes me believe. He explains with a tender patience, his love for the art so true and apparent that it makes me love it too. The book is so gorgeous that I keep taking it out of the library again and again.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mia

    Fabulous treatment of a very elusive topic. Thanks, Sarah, for the recommendation!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Walter Andersons

    a great way to keep looking after most of the world would say painting was dead.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Beverly

    I'm overwhelmed by the erudition shown in this series of lectures. Being the text of lectures, it is quite accessible but so dense with ideas that I might have to go back and make a list of the main ideas and each artist evaluation to reinforce what I've learned. Varnedoe, in his last ever lectures -he died of cancer soon after- at the beginning of this century, recounts the history of abstract art by American artists from Pollock to the present. His arguments are convincing except I might quest I'm overwhelmed by the erudition shown in this series of lectures. Being the text of lectures, it is quite accessible but so dense with ideas that I might have to go back and make a list of the main ideas and each artist evaluation to reinforce what I've learned. Varnedoe, in his last ever lectures -he died of cancer soon after- at the beginning of this century, recounts the history of abstract art by American artists from Pollock to the present. His arguments are convincing except I might question his evaluation of the pop art period a little. He seems to be misreading one canvas by Andy Warhol (Orange Car Crash 1963), and while he brings forward the ideas of satire and irony in art, he does not seem entirely comfortable with them. Varnedoe's summary rejects the European spiritual idea that abstract art draws from ideal forms, but finds that in a modern, secular society art constructs symbols for the individual and familiar to make them strange and to "produce our fresh understanding of the world of culture as separate from nature, as separate from the clock of events in the rest of history...." yet eventually to bring us back to the traditions of the past.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lee Barry

    A book to explore if you want to expand your knowledge (or tolerance) for abstraction in art. Varnedoe really spoke up for it. I've always had an affinity for post ab-ex work, but Varnedoe made me like it even more. If you Google his name you will see he was not without critics. They panned his High & Low exhibition, and one has to wonder whether their opinions would have been swayed after hearing his lectures. You can follow along with the lectures here:

  8. 4 out of 5

    the gift

    there is only one problem, of the limitations of media, not the work itself. this is that to really follow this, you need to see these works in person. alas, i do not live in these places, so must live with reproductions. this is unfortunately most apparent with sculpture, with light, with extremes of abstraction that can look too literally as pictures of nothing. but otherwise really enjoyed this, able to see why i like minimalism, sharp edged, sometimes geometric forms, more than other sorts. there is only one problem, of the limitations of media, not the work itself. this is that to really follow this, you need to see these works in person. alas, i do not live in these places, so must live with reproductions. this is unfortunately most apparent with sculpture, with light, with extremes of abstraction that can look too literally as pictures of nothing. but otherwise really enjoyed this, able to see why i like minimalism, sharp edged, sometimes geometric forms, more than other sorts. and mirrors, i really like mirrors...

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    it's clear what a labor of love these lectures were. Varnedoe attempts to answer the question: what use is abstract art to a modern liberal society? his answer to the question valorizes the experience of surprise and the opportunity for projection and interpretation abstract art gives us. his lectures were generous and loving. i can only hope that at the end of my life, i will be able to say that i achieved the level of success in a lecture series that Varnedoe does here.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Efrat

    I was so excited when this book came out earlier this year. I had always revered Kirk Varnadoe from a distance and was really sad when he passed away a few years ago. I wish I had been at the Mellon lectures (and perhaps I'll track down tapes of them at some point) but for now this is the next best thing. Can't wait to start reading the lectures...

  11. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    A disappointment, given the genius of the author (his insights on Pollock, while talking to Charlie Rose, were priceless). Some of these pieces were written while he was battling a/his fatal disease and this, I suspect, contributed to the slightly distracted/unfocused, less than pristine critical thinking one usually can expect from this intellectually nimble curator.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jasonlosh

    Probably one of the best books on minimalism and abstract art out there. This is a must read! If you don't know about the Melon lecture series you should, Gombrich's "Art and Illusion" is directly from this series.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Nidhi Patel

    i want to read this book

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ayn

    lots of conceptual minimal art.

  15. 4 out of 5

    M Wiegers

    Fantastic overview of Abstract Expressionism and it's successors.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Caryn

    This was based on a lecture at the National Gallery in DC in the 1990s and so is very relavant to my tours there. Hope to get back to it.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Dmitry

    An extravagantly illustrated, amiable and erudite (practically rabbinical) tour through a half-century of abstract art.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Orin

    This will be a great help for anyone who is trying to find a vocabulary to express his appreciation of modern art.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Keith Climpson

    Brilliant!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mo

    Nice pictures. Shallow read.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Gnowzstxela

    You gotta read this. Epic plot. Snappy dialog. Sweet ending. Oh, and it'll teach you how to see. Pretty dang cool.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lucas

  23. 5 out of 5

    Qateef Hopeful

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tim Morin

  25. 4 out of 5

    Amira

  26. 4 out of 5

    J

  27. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

  28. 5 out of 5

    Soo La

  29. 4 out of 5

    Anima

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Earner

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