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Lawrence Weschler

Lawrence Weschler, a contributing editor to VQR, is the former director of the New York Institute for the Humanities and artistic director emeritus of the Chicago Humanities Festival. His books include Uncanny Valley: Adventures in the Narrative (Counterpoint, 2011) and Everything That Rises: A Book of Convergences (McSweeney’s, 2006), winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism. He is the author of a set of paired biographies of Robert Irwin (the revised edition of Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees) and David Hockney (True to Life), both released in 2009 from the University of California Press.


Stephen Spender, April 9th 1982. Composite Polaroid, 34.75 x 30". Images courtesy of David Hockney, inc. unless credited otherwise. (Richard Schmidt)

David Hockney’s Timescapes

Fall 2013 | Essays

Hockney’s entire production over the three decades since 1982 has been shadowed by death and in many ways can be seen as a direct response to all of that dying—​a defiant celebration of life (“Love life!”) in the face of annihilation, the assertion of an almost aching tenderness in the very craw of mortality.

The Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef

Summer 2011 | Essays

The more they've been shrinking, the bigger it's been getting, though maybe that's the wrong way to put it. The world's great coral reefs, that is, and in particular Australia's Great Barrier Reef, on the one hand—and, on the other, the Great Hyperbolic Crocheted Reef, brainspawn originally of a pair of Brisbane twins, transplanted to Los Angeles, alarmed at the harrowing fate of that beloved natural wonder and national treasure back home.

David Hockney: A Return to Painting

He is painting again. Aye, is he painting. With a zest and a passion and a confidence I haven’t witnessed in the nearly two and a half decades that I’ve been dropping over to visit with him, David Hockney has returned to the wide empty canva [...]

Window at Dia:Beacon in the Hudson River Valley.

Embeddedness: Robert Irwin in His Seventies

Spring 2008 | Profiles

Hard to believe how I myself am now older, older by far, than Robert Irwin was when we first began having our conversations, coming on thirty years ago. Fresh out of college, a classic, overstuffed instance of surplus education, I had been working at the UCLA Oral History Program, editing other people’s oral histories of various local luminaries in the context of an NEH-sponsored series, “L.A. Art Scene: A Group Portrait,” when, working my way through someone else’s interview with this artist I had up to that point barely even heard of (which, granted, said more about me at the time than about him), increasingly engrossed, I decided to hazard writing the guy a note, which read, in its entirety, “Have you ever read Merleau-Ponty’s The Primacy of Perception?”

The Emperor’s Deathbed: An Exchange

Kapuścińskito Symposium Introduction Jerzy Nowak Breyten Breytenbach Werner Herzog Salman Rushdie & Lawrence Weschler Daniel Alarcón Weschler: Ryszard Kapuściński was a master at jousting with the censors, perhaps [...]

A Berlin Epiphany

Fall 2006 | Essays

And now, there it came looming into view: an austere block-wide low-slung hive of graphite-gray monoliths: monoface rectangular plinths arrayed in a regular perpendicular grid over gently undulating terrain—more than three thousand of them spread across nearly five acres, some (near the perimeter) as low as a foot and a half, some farther into the hive (where the terrain fell away into some of its deeper undulations) as high as ten feet, the entire expanse crisscrossed by narrow paths between the parallel rows of vaguely pitched concrete plinths, paths that veritably beckoned those above on the busy city sidewalks into this uncanny maze of vaguely determinate remembrance.


The Graphics of Solidarity

Winter 2006 | Essays

The Solidarity logo was designed by J. and K. Janiszewski, two marginally employed graphic artists living in Gdansk, during the second week of the August 1980 strike at their hometown’s mammoth Lenin Shipyards. Within a month it had become the ubiquitous emblem of a national worker’s movement. In this particular case we do have some knowledge of the graphic’s origins. With many of Solidarity’s posters, no such documentation exists. Some of Solidarity’s most powerful images, for that matter, are no longer available in any form. In the heat of confrontation, Solidarity didn’t have much time or interest in archival documentation. Paper and ink were scarce: what little could be foraged was quickly used and the resultant posters immediately slapped onto public walls, where they belonged. Weather, and in some cases official sabotage, took their toll before anybody realized that no record had been kept. The next day’s crisis—the next day’s occasion—was in any case already at hand.


Unfinished: On Vincent Desiderio’s Sleep

Fall 2005 | Articles

The painting—a stunningly ambitious tableau, eight feet high, fully twenty-four feet long, and portraying twelve mostly naked figures, as visioned from above, arrayed, recumbent, one beside the next, knotted up in sheets and tossed by sleep (or maybe unconscious, or maybe even dead, it was hard to tell)—had been one of the stand-out triumphs of Vincent Desiderio’s singularly impressive show at Manhattan’s Marlborough Gallery in January 2004. Despite its forbiddingly unwieldy dimensions, the piece had sold off the floor, to a private museum in Connecticut, on condition, however, that Desiderio would first be allowed to take the canvas back with him to his Ossining studio. For all its highly burnished finish, the work had been listed as still “in progress” in the exhibition’s catalog. And now, over a year later, with its new owners clamoring for the painting’s already frequently postponed final delivery, it was still very much a work in progress, changing dramatically from day to day. Dramatically, and yet hardly at all: for Desiderio had achieved one of those images of such layered complexity and tautly interwoven cross-reference that the slightest tweak—here, say, the new way light was being made to fall across this woman’s shoulder, or there, the manner in which that man’s arm had been stretched ever so slightly higher—reverberated across the entire panel, as if across a tightly stretched drum skin.