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Slow Art

The Experience of Looking, Sacred Images to James Turrell

Arden Reed (Author)

Available worldwide

Hardcover, 352 pages
ISBN: 9780520285507
June 2017
$60.00, £50.00
Other Formats Available:
Americans, on average, spend between six and ten seconds with individual artworks in museums or galleries—hardly time enough. But how, in our culture of distraction, might we extend attention? Slow Art models sustained ways of looking, through encounters with various media both present and past—including photography, painting, sculpture, “living pictures,” film, video, digital and performance art—even light and space. Works by Diderot, Emma Hamilton, Oscar Wilde, Jeff Wall, Sam Taylor-Johnson, Andy Warhol, and Richard Serra, among others, shape a new and distinct aesthetic field. But rather than a collection of objects, slow art is participatory—it directly engages beholders to bring artworks to life. Against current orthodoxy, Arden Reed argues that, for contemporary viewers, the contemplation of slow art is akin to religious practices during the ages of faith.
List of Illustrations
List of Video Examples

Introduction: Marking Time


1. What Is Slow Art? (When Images Swell into Events and Events Condense into Images)
2. Living(?) Pictures


3. Before Slow Art
4. Slow Art Emerges in Modernity I: Secularization from Diderot to Wilde
5. Slow Art Emerges in Modernity II: The Great Age of Speed


6. Slow Fiction, Film, Video, Performance Art, 1960 to 2010
7. Slow Photography, Painting, Installation Art, Sculpture, 1960 to 2010
8. Angel and Devil of Slow Art

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.
"...what in another writer’s hands might have been a dry academic treatise turns out to be a lively ramble through high and low culture, touching on the likes of Diderot, Goethe, David Foster Wallace, Susan Sontag, Sleeping Beauty, the Countess de Castiglione and Andy Warhol."—Wall Street Journal
"Reed seeds his profundities throughout Slow Art in example after example, weaving them into compelling histories that get you thinking about art in new ways."—The Santa Fe New Mexican
“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

“Reed asks us to enter and engage in immersive experiences. His book is a thoughtful—indeed passionate—reminder of art’s conversion of the material into the experiential. Since the Greek painter Zeuxis, art has attempted alchemical and often optical transformation. Reed moves the needle from Zeuxis’s trompe l’oeil deception to recent art in which physical sensation and intellectual inquiry hold the viewer captive.”—Norman L. Kleeblatt, Susan and Elihu Rose Chief Curator of The Jewish Museum, New York
“Displaying historical breadth and contemporary depth, Reed explores the capacity of art to create a space and time for thoughtful meditation in today’s high-speed world. Slow Art takes readers on a pilgrimage from ancient icons to the Middle Ages to the deserts of today’s American West to discover the sacred in what usually appears to be profane. An important book that deserves to be read slowly.”—Mark C. Taylor, author of Speed Limits: Where Time Went and Why We Have So Little Left

“Reed’s book makes a thrilling case for art that slows us down, and for slowing down in front of art. In an age of relentless acceleration, Reed helps us re-learn the art of the dawdle. He is our first master of aesthetic deceleration.”—Blake Gopnik, author of Andy Warhol: A Life in Art
“Arden Reed brings us to our senses.”—Virginia Dwan, art patron and gallerist
“In an art world in which crossing the finish line is paramount, Reed’s book—written in a clear and passionate way—reminds us to value the opposite. I hope this unique work will be read and understood by those studying, teaching, and participating in my ecosystem. We need to reboot, and Slow Art may just be the catalyst for this new paradigm.”—Lance M. Fung, curator
“In this supremely intelligent and moving book, Reed invites the reader to experience the temporal distortions—the fields of relativity—that works of visual art sometimes create around themselves. That is one of the joys of Slow Art. But another joy—and a rare one—is simply looking at art with Reed, who turns ‘slow’ into a word of praise and contemplation. This is a highly readable, and a highly thinkable and lookable book.”—Verlyn Klinkenborg, Lecturer in English at Yale University and author of More Scenes from the Rural Life
“Exceptional gifts of insight emanate from Arden Reed’s contemplative encounters in Slow Art. He offers us an array of strategies for deep-diving engagement across diverse forms of creative expression. Distilled from twenty-five years of cunning observation, Slow Art makes a timely intervention in contemporary culture’s near-epidemic rise in short attention spans. With this book in hand, take a long, rejuvenating breath and savor the pleasures of prolonged exposure to works of art.”—Tom Joyce, sculptor, MacArthur Fellow

1. Matthew Rolston, video, Pageant of the Masters, Laguna Beach, 2015

2. Edwin S. Porter, silent film, The Animated Painting, 1904

3. J. Stuart Blackton, silent film, The Artist’s Dilemma, 1901

4. Anonymous, silent film, Animated Picture Studio, 1903

5. J. Stuart Blackton, silent film, The Enchanted Drawing, 1900

6. Eve Sussman, video, 89 Seconds at Alcázar, 2004

7. Sam Taylor-Johnson, video, The Last Century, 2005

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