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The Art of Looking

The Art of Looking

How to Read Modern and Contemporary Art

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

A hand-signed porcelain urinal. An abstract drip painting. A silent 700 hour performance.

Art has changed since the days of Giotto, Michelangelo, and even Picasso–and many of us are perplexed. Do modern and contemporary artists such as Marcel Duchamp, Jackson Pollock, and Marina Abramovic represent civilization’s highest achievements? Or is something else afoot? In The Art of Looking, art critic Lance Esplund demonstrates that works of modern and contemporary art are not as indecipherable as they seem to be. He reveals the threads that weave the art of the past with that of the present, and shows us how to separate the genuine article from mere rags–not to mention the emperor’s new clothes.

With patience, insight, and wit, Esplund guides us through a century of art, and empowers us to understand and appreciate all art with new eyes.
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Genre: Nonfiction / Art / Criticism & Theory

On Sale: November 27th 2018

Price: $30 / $39 (CAD)

Page Count: 288

ISBN-13: 9780465094660

What's Inside

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"Everybody who cares about the art of our time will want to own this brilliant book. Lance Esplund brings ease, elegance, and incisiveness to his passionate encounters with creative spirits old and new. His essential belief, presented in prose by turns tough-minded and tenderhearted, is that contemporary practice must be grounded in timeless, universal values. The Art of Looking shines a strong and steady light. We need it."—Jed Perl, author of Calder: The Conquest of Time and New Art City: Manhattan at Mid-Century
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"This important, unconventional book begins as a terrific first-aid manual, highly accessible and full of great common sense, for those for whom modern or contemporary art is puzzling or off-putting. It evolves into a dazzling, jargon-free display of the exercise of slow, close, curious looking at all kinds of art. Those seeking relief from the plague of art-speak will find it in this insightful, unashamedly personal volume."—John Elderfield, Chief Curator Emeritus of Painting and Sculpture, The Museum of Modern Art
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"In a friendly and conversational tone, Esplund shares his insights honed during a long career...Inviting and informative."—Kirkus
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Presenting itself as an introductory volume to help orient beginners, The Art of Looking opens with a brisk, illuminating historical sweep before zooming in on specific works by ten dissimilar artists spanning nearly a century. An intensive exercise in meticulous observation and close reading, the book offers a personal overview that should interest art-world sophisticates as well as newcomers to the field.

Elizabeth C. Baker, editor-at-large, Art in America
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"The Art of Looking is a wonderful book, filled with remarkable insights about experiencing whatever it is that we mean by the word 'art.' Whether it is Balthus and the Me Too Movement or walking through Richard Serra's enormous curving rust colored sculptures -- there is always something new and exciting to be discovered."—Robert Benton
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"If you've never understood contemporary art, or fear you've understood it all too well, then this book is ready to be your secret friend. In lucid prose that has the loft of poetry, Lance Esplund lifts the burden of 'art appreciation' to reveal that the subject of all great art is how it appreciates you for the way you look at it. His own encounters with exemplary work-by Joan Mitchell, James Turrell, and Marina Abramovic among others-are related in terms so complete, courageous, and physically convincing they make you want to see art as he has seen it, a giant step toward seeing it for oneself."—Douglas Crase, author of The Revisionist
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Meet The Author: Lance Esplund

Lance Esplund is an art critic for the Wall Street Journal. Trained as a painter, he has taught at the Parsons School of Design and the New York Studio School. His essays have appeared in Art in America, Harper’s, and The New Republic among others. Esplund lives in Milton, Pennsylvania, and Brooklyn, New York.

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