Americans, on average, spend between six and ten seconds looking at individual artworks in museums or galleries. In our culture of distraction, how might we sustain attention to those artworks—and to what effect? Slow Art dwells upon various media—photography, painting, sculpture, “living pictures,” film, video, digital and performance art—and even light, time, and space, from both the present and past. Taken together, these works shape a new and distinct aesthetic field. Looking carefully at figures including Diderot, Emma Hamilton, Oscar Wilde, Jeff Wall, Sam Taylor-Johnson, Andy Warhol, and Richard Serra, Arden Reed sketches a history of looking that establishes the origins of slow art, changes over time, and kinships among its expressions. Slow Art models ways to extend and enrich acts of looking.
Arden Reed is Arthur and Fanny Dole Professor of English at Pomona College. He writes on the visual arts and literature, and his publications include Manet, Flaubert, and the Emergence of Modernism and Romantic Weather: The Climates of Coleridge and Baudelaire.
“The ‘slow’ artwork that arrests and doggedly holds our attention is the subject of Arden Reed’s original and rigorous study. Arguing that slow art triggers the contemplative experience once solicited by sacred images and texts, Reed traces the reemergence of the aesthetic of stillness in response to modernity’s escalating pace and animation, and the contemporary revival of this aesthetic in an era of instantaneous digital communication. His account moves across media and registers of high and low, from the historical tableau vivant and its contemporary iterations (such as Laguna Beach’s Pageant of the Masters) to the ‘black’ paintings of Ad Reinhardt, the Torque sculptures of Richard Serra, the photographs of Hiroshi Sugimoto, and the immersive installations of James Turrell. Reed has theorized an aesthetic category all his own.”—James Meyer, author of Minimalism: Art and Polemics in the Sixties
“Being on speed in rush hour, we may discover in the counter-aesthetic of slow art the unspeakable paradox of gravity: stillness in motion, in and out of time.”—Godfrey Reggio, director of the Qatsi trilogy (Koyaanisqatsi, Powaqqatsi, and Naqoyqatsi)
“Arden Reed teaches us to look—and then look again—in this book of radiant encounters, this hybrid study of how works of art unfold over time. Slow Art artfully enacts what it describes with a keen contemplative intellect and a rare spiritual poise.”—Edward Hirsch, author of How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry
“I don’t know if I’ve ever read a book about art as fresh, smart, lucid, illuminating, thought provoking, wide ranging, and altogether delightful as this one. Or more important. There’s a good chance Slow Art will change the way you look and think, and only for the better.”—Kurt Andersen, author of Fantasyland and host of Studio 360
“If you love art (or wonder why you don’t), this book is a must-read. You will learn how to see art, but you will also discover a new way to live in this speed-obsessed twenty-first century.”—Phil Terry, founder of Slow Art Day and coauthor of Customers Included: How to Transform Products, Companies, and the World—with a Single Step