Lawrence Weschler on Robert Irwin 2009 Talk

Lawrence Weschler on Robert Irwin

On Tuesday, September 8, 2009 at 7:30 PM, the Chinati Foundation will host a free lecture by writer Lawrence Weschler at the Crowley Theatre. Admission is free and everyone is invited to attend.

Lawrence Weschler is the author of two books recently published by the University of California Press, both biographical studies of contemporary artists: Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees: Thirty Years of Conversations with Robert Irwin (an expanded reissue of his 1982 classic) and True to Life: Twenty-Five Years of Conversations with David Hockney.

Weschler’s 1982 edition of Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees tracked the evolution of Robert Irwin’s approach to art-making as the artist sought, in the 1960s and ’70s, to pare his work down to the simplest and purest elements of perception. The book is now widely regarded as one of the best ever written about an artist. Following its publication, Weschler was contacted by David Hockney, who had read the book and wanted to discuss it with the author. While Hockney was at pains to dispute almost every one of Irwin’s beliefs about art and perception as reported in Seeing is Forgetting, he was nevertheless sufficiently impressed by the book to engage Weschler to write about his own current work with photography.

Weschler has continued to write extensively about Irwin and Hockney over the years, with the two artists, who have never met face to face, conducting a sort of running argument via the author. As Weschler described it in the November/December 2008 issue of The Believer: “[F]or some twenty-five years now, whenever I have written about one or the other of these two giants of contemporary art (arguably the two most significant artists to come out of the late-twentieth-century California art milieu), the other one has called effectively to tell me, “Wrong, wrong, wrong.” The two have never met or conversed in person (straddling that Southern California scene like Schoenberg and Stravinsky before them, each seemingly oblivious to the other’s existence though in fact deeply seized by the work); instead they have been carrying on this quite vivid argument for over two decades, through me, as it were.”

Weschler’s talk at the Crowley Theatre will describe what it has been like, these past twenty-five years, to mediate the ongoing “debate” between Irwin and Hockney.

Lawrence Weschler was a staff writer at The New Yorker from 1981 to 2002. He is the author of many books, including Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder (1995), which was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Everything that Rises: A Book of Convergences (2006) won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism. Weschler has been the director of the New York Institute for the Humanities at New York University since 2001.


Irwing and Hockeny