The Art of Looking: How to Read Modern and Contemporary Art

by: Lance Esplund (0)

A veteran art critic helps us make sense of modern and contemporary art

The landscape of contemporary art has changed dramatically during the last hundred years: from Malevich's 1915 painting of a single black square and Duchamp's 1917 signed porcelain urinal to Jackson Pollock's midcentury "drip" paintings; Chris Burden's "Shoot" (1971), in which the artist was voluntarily shot in the arm with a rifle; Urs Fischer's "You" (2007), a giant hole dug in the floor of a New York gallery; and the conceptual and performance art of today's Ai Weiwei and Marina Abramovic. The shifts have left the art-viewing public (understandably) perplexed.

The Art of Looking, renowned art critic Lance Esplund demonstrates that works of modern and contemporary art are not as indecipherable as they might seem. With patience, insight, and wit, Esplund guides us through the last century of art and empowers us to approach and appreciate it with new eyes. Eager to democratize genres that can feel inaccessible, Esplund encourages viewers to trust their own taste, guts, and common sense. The Art of Looking will open the eyes of viewers who think that recent art is obtuse, nonsensical, and irrelevant, as well as the eyes of those who believe that the art of the past has nothing to say to our present.

The Reviews

I enjoyed the book. It fits well into an art criticism void: readable, well paced, makes the large connections for the reader across the centuries. But the images he decided best demonstrated his points, the ones he featured in the plates, are all male artists. All. Male. Artists.All.That significantly diminishes this writer's otherwise good work. What was the writer, the editor, the publisher all thinking? This reflects poorly on everyone, at each stage of this book. Do better.

What sort of visual art is it that, I would say, requires such a book to communicate visual meanings? That is the central question The Art of Looking implicitly asks. And following, what sort of culture welcomes a visual art that requires such a book, permitting the incomprehensible to replace the comprehensible in its "modernism"? And lastly what is the psychology of artists who produce such art, which is to say, what delusions of effective communication and social advancement do they hold that motivates them to make the art that they do? These questions are the great take-away from reading Lance Esplund's The Art of Looking.

I love this book! It’s intelligent, inspiring, inviting, and I can’t wait to look at art with new eyes after reading it. Every time I read a few pages it elevates my day, and I plan to refer back to it often. The author’s wealth of knowledge and open perspective is a valuable tool for readers to use their own wisdom their own way. If you want to enjoy art more or understand it better on your own terms; treat yourself! Everyone interested in art should have this book.

Wonderful book. I purchased this as a gift for my mother. After reading the intro I couldn't put it down and wound up getting another copy for myself. Anyone with even a cursory interest in the arts will find useful and often fascinating information in this book. It will literally change the way you look at art.

I purchased this based on the Kindle sample showing hyperlinks to the figures of artworks that were being discussed. The sample would not let me hyperlink.However, I found out that after purchasing the Kindle, there were no hyperlinks and no figures at all.Quickly returned it.

Joan Mitchell and Marina Abramovic each have their own chapter. I hope readers are not turned off the book by the erroneous review claiming only male artists are included. Take a look at the table of contents- an interesting mix of artists with a focus on one or two of their works (photos at end of book in the kindle edition, with highlighted links to fig. 1,2, etc. in each chapter). Esplund's insights into the mindset of a working artist ring true. A very good read.

Discovered many things I did not know regarding abstract art. Very helpful and gave me guidance to appreciate modern art.

Mr. Esplund writes compellingly about modern, contemporary (and not so contemporary) art, and really helps you to understand how to approach it. He discusses the "language" of art and how artists think, and he beautifully and earnestly describes his own experiences in front of art. It helps to look up the artworks he mentions (if they're not in the book) to see what he's getting at. This book is full of deep thinking and wonderful insights.

The Art of Looking: How to Read Modern and Contemporary Art
⭐ 4.2 💛 46
kindle: $3.99
hardcover: $29.83
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