Michael Kimmelman, The Accidental Masterpiece: On the Art of Life and Vice Versa

(New York: Penguin, 2005).  Summary notes. 

The Art of Making a World.  Bonnard's odd and beautiful relationship with his wife, manifest in his paintings.

The Art of Being Artless.  Ordinary photos that turn out to have aesthetic value.

The Art of Having a Lofty Perspective.  Beauty in nature and art is not predictably findable in the expected mountain tops but "an organic, shifting elusive, and therefore more desirable goal of our devotion, which we must make an effort to grasp" (69).  Cf. the Kantian sublime: "awe and fear mingled with joy" (66-67).  Marjorie Hope Nicholson, Mountain Gloom and Mountain Glory: "Awe, compounded of mingled terror and exultation, once reserved for God, passed over in the 17th century first to an expanded cosmos, then from the macrocosm to the greatest objects in the geocosm—mountains, ocean, desert" (67). 

The Art of Making Art without Lifting a Finger.  Deliberately weird; suicide.  Anti-art, non-art, staged events [cf. the theatre of the absurd].  "'Art  has been veritably invaded by life, if life means flux, change, chance, time, unpredictability.  Sometimes the difference between the two is sheer consciousness, the awareness that what seemed to be a stain on the wall is in fact a work of art'"—sculptor Scott Burton in the 1960s (80).  "Be alert to the senses.  Elevate the ordinary.  Art is about a heightened state of awareness.  Try to treat everyday life, or at least part of it, as you would a work of art" (84 [not the author presenting his own view]).  John Cage's composition for piano titled 4:33; there is no sound for four minutes and thirty-three seconds, except such sounds as are made by the audience, come in from outside, etc.  Sol Lewitt gave to those who were to actualize his art works "instructions, which may be only a thought you are meant to contemplate, or plans for drawings or actions he devised that could be carried out or not" (84).  "The input of others—the joy, boredom, frustration, or whatever they feel—is part of his art; it accounts for how the same work may produce a variety of results."  Conceptual art.  Yoko Ono: "A tiny prod toward personal enlightenment, the art of positive consciousness.  Very Zen."

The Art of Collecting Light Bulbs.  Walter Benjamin collected books.  Collectors "take up arms against dispersal" (97).  Albert C. Barnes brought fine works and exhibited them in weird juxtapositions that led to insights; and he bequeathed his collection so that future audiences could see it on the condition that no changes be made in his arrangement of the art works; a judge overturned his will in Philadelphia in 2004.  Collections blur the separation of medical science and art "by dwelling in the marvelous."  The light bulb collection of a character in Ralph Ellison's novel, Invisible Man. 

The Art of Maximizing your Time.  Two women, one Jewish—d. Auschwitz, 1942—ambitiously devote themselves to making art beyond what they are capable of accomplishing with a passion that exhausts and consumes their lives.

The Art of Finding Yourself When You're Lost.  Taking photographs of a harrowing adventure in the Antarctic.  Embroidery representing baseball themes, done in prison.  Stunning quilts crafted in rural Alabama.

The Art of Staring Productively at Naked Bodies.  Sheer habitual persistence in painting "nudes."

The Art of the Pilgrimage.  From Grunewald's Isenheim altarpiece to earth art—iconoclastic and minimalist to the extreme.  You have to travel to see it!

The Art of Gum Ball Machines.  The wondrously striking found in the ordinary, from the French painter Chardin to Wayne Thiebault.

[If, as it seems, the perspective is finally non-religious, this is the gentlest version possible of such communication: or possibly the flat juxtaposition of the most deeply religious art next to art apparently without any spiritual vector is ironic, giving space to experience the value gradient.]

 

 

To learn a bit about the recipient for this year's Pritzker Prize for architecture, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5331826

 

 

In response to art history students' request for information about postmodernism:

 


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