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Are art and science separated by an unbridgeable divide? Can they find common ground? In this new book, neuroscientist Eric R. Kandel, whose remarkable scientific career and deep interest in art give him a unique perspective, demonstrates how science can inform the way we experience a work of art and seek to understand its meaning. Kandel illustrates how reductionism―the d Are art and science separated by an unbridgeable divide? Can they find common ground? In this new book, neuroscientist Eric R. Kandel, whose remarkable scientific career and deep interest in art give him a unique perspective, demonstrates how science can inform the way we experience a work of art and seek to understand its meaning. Kandel illustrates how reductionism―the distillation of larger scientific or aesthetic concepts into smaller, more tractable components―has been used by scientists and artists alike to pursue their respective truths. He draws on his Nobel Prize-winning work revealing the neurobiological underpinnings of learning and memory in sea slugs to shed light on the complex workings of the mental processes of higher animals. In Reductionism in Art and Brain Science, Kandel shows how this radically reductionist approach, applied to the most complex puzzle of our time―the brain―has been employed by modern artists who distill their subjective world into color, form, and light. Kandel demonstrates through bottom-up sensory and top-down cognitive functions how science can explore the complexities of human perception and help us to perceive, appreciate, and understand great works of art. At the heart of the book is an elegant elucidation of the contribution of reductionism to the evolution of modern art and its role in a monumental shift in artistic perspective. Reductionism steered the transition from figurative art to the first explorations of abstract art reflected in the works of Turner, Monet, Kandinsky, Schoenberg, and Mondrian. Kandel explains how, in the postwar era, Pollock, de Kooning, Rothko, Louis, Turrell, and Flavin used a reductionist approach to arrive at their abstract expressionism and how Katz, Warhol, Close, and Sandback built upon the advances of the New York School to reimagine figurative and minimal art. Featuring captivating drawings of the brain alongside full-color reproductions of modern art masterpieces, this book draws out the common concerns of science and art and how they illuminate each other.


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Are art and science separated by an unbridgeable divide? Can they find common ground? In this new book, neuroscientist Eric R. Kandel, whose remarkable scientific career and deep interest in art give him a unique perspective, demonstrates how science can inform the way we experience a work of art and seek to understand its meaning. Kandel illustrates how reductionism―the d Are art and science separated by an unbridgeable divide? Can they find common ground? In this new book, neuroscientist Eric R. Kandel, whose remarkable scientific career and deep interest in art give him a unique perspective, demonstrates how science can inform the way we experience a work of art and seek to understand its meaning. Kandel illustrates how reductionism―the distillation of larger scientific or aesthetic concepts into smaller, more tractable components―has been used by scientists and artists alike to pursue their respective truths. He draws on his Nobel Prize-winning work revealing the neurobiological underpinnings of learning and memory in sea slugs to shed light on the complex workings of the mental processes of higher animals. In Reductionism in Art and Brain Science, Kandel shows how this radically reductionist approach, applied to the most complex puzzle of our time―the brain―has been employed by modern artists who distill their subjective world into color, form, and light. Kandel demonstrates through bottom-up sensory and top-down cognitive functions how science can explore the complexities of human perception and help us to perceive, appreciate, and understand great works of art. At the heart of the book is an elegant elucidation of the contribution of reductionism to the evolution of modern art and its role in a monumental shift in artistic perspective. Reductionism steered the transition from figurative art to the first explorations of abstract art reflected in the works of Turner, Monet, Kandinsky, Schoenberg, and Mondrian. Kandel explains how, in the postwar era, Pollock, de Kooning, Rothko, Louis, Turrell, and Flavin used a reductionist approach to arrive at their abstract expressionism and how Katz, Warhol, Close, and Sandback built upon the advances of the New York School to reimagine figurative and minimal art. Featuring captivating drawings of the brain alongside full-color reproductions of modern art masterpieces, this book draws out the common concerns of science and art and how they illuminate each other.

30 review for Reductionism in Art and Brain Science: Bridging the Two Cultures

  1. 5 out of 5

    Holly

    Clearly written introduction and elegant survey. I needed to get past my knee-jerk reaction to the term reductionism - a dirty word when I was taking anthropology classes in the early 90s (and which I was probably combining/confusing with positivism). I could more readily accept the idea of reductionism in art (as stripping away to reveal a new way of seeing) than in science, where my old biases linger. But I came to understand that Kandel is talking about reductionism as a tool, and course, we Clearly written introduction and elegant survey. I needed to get past my knee-jerk reaction to the term reductionism - a dirty word when I was taking anthropology classes in the early 90s (and which I was probably combining/confusing with positivism). I could more readily accept the idea of reductionism in art (as stripping away to reveal a new way of seeing) than in science, where my old biases linger. But I came to understand that Kandel is talking about reductionism as a tool, and course, we would understand very little in the phenomenal world without isolating for study and then "putting it back together again." Kandel's explanations of brain science are delightfully basic, with helpful diagrams: he describes the research into how the brain senses stimuli and perceives images - color, shapes, faces - and how this affects our understanding of figurative and abstract art (the two of which are processed differently in the cortex). The art chapters accumulate into a sort of survey of the history of non-representational art since the early twentieth-century, with mini-biographies of groundbreaking artists (no one new here) and elegant reproductions of their most significant and iconoclastic works.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Dan Graser

    In Nobel Prize-winning Columbia Professor Eric Kandel's latest work, he offers an introduction to the idea that the study and practice of Reductionism in modern (visual) art and brain science offers great benefit to both disciplines when treated as two sides of the same coin. He eloquently sums this idea up early on: "Appreciating the reductionist methods used by artists in no wary diminishes the richness or complexity of our response to art. In fact, the artists I consider in this book have use In Nobel Prize-winning Columbia Professor Eric Kandel's latest work, he offers an introduction to the idea that the study and practice of Reductionism in modern (visual) art and brain science offers great benefit to both disciplines when treated as two sides of the same coin. He eloquently sums this idea up early on: "Appreciating the reductionist methods used by artists in no wary diminishes the richness or complexity of our response to art. In fact, the artists I consider in this book have used just such an approach to explore and illuminate the foundations of artistic creation." Through frequent helpful diagrams and passages detailing our understanding of the functions various regions of the brain carry out, particularly focused on memory (not a huge surprise given his specialty), he also makes a clear distinction between Bottom-Up Information Processing (those elements that are built into the brain at birth and allow us to extract key elements such as contours, intersections, line crossings and junctions) as well as Top-Down Information Processing (elements including attention, imagery, expectations, and experience/learned visual associations). He also provides a great amount of history and context for several of the artists mentioned here, especially de Kooning and Rothko (his affinity for Rothko is abundantly obvious, one of the many reasons I enjoyed this work...) and also introduces familiar names not commonly associated with visual art such as composer Arnold Schoenberg. While his description of Schoenberg's conception of harmony as being one, "that had no central key, only changes in timbre and tone," is hugely oversimplifying a massively complicated system of composition, his analysis of Schoenberg's contribution to the visual arts is very much on point. Kandel is most effective when quickly going from an analysis of the works of color-field painters to an analysis of the brain's processing of color and its associations. This is a wonderful introductory work with gorgeous full-color images and a wealth of information. Highly Recommended!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Spivey

    As a self proclaimed hater of modern art and abstraction, this book did make me rethink WHY these works can be considered art. Kandel does an excellent job of dumbing down neuroscience for the casual consumer, and his connections with artists ranging from Jackson Pollock to Chuck Close make sense. The neuroscience behind our vision and how we process what we see provides fascinating context for what might otherwise be considered (by me, the abstract art hater) "nonsense artworks". As a self proclaimed hater of modern art and abstraction, this book did make me rethink WHY these works can be considered art. Kandel does an excellent job of dumbing down neuroscience for the casual consumer, and his connections with artists ranging from Jackson Pollock to Chuck Close make sense. The neuroscience behind our vision and how we process what we see provides fascinating context for what might otherwise be considered (by me, the abstract art hater) "nonsense artworks".

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mason Neil

    Pretty similar in content to Age of Insight, but a bit more concise and focused on abstract expressionism rather than modernism. I did feel it was a bit rushed and less thorough than AoI, and sometimes that came at the cost of cohesiveness, but if you prefer a fast-paced read this would be more your style. Endlessly fascinating and a lot of fun.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kawakoala

    Glad I read it. A good, clear and concise synthesis of research in brain science related to visual art. Art people might be irritated by some things: the cursory treatment of art historians and critics, the absence of female artists, the triumphalist modernist narrative, and inattention to traditional formalist evaluations of abstraction.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lukas

    This book (i) compares reductionist approaches in art and science, (ii) gives an overview of the most influential artists and their work when abstractionism reached its historical climax (and addresses the impact of historical events like the publication of Einstein's relativity theory), (iii) teaches us how the brain processes different visual stimuli and why abstract art is special to the brain. (i) Reductionism = focussing on the essential elements: in science that means designing and testing This book (i) compares reductionist approaches in art and science, (ii) gives an overview of the most influential artists and their work when abstractionism reached its historical climax (and addresses the impact of historical events like the publication of Einstein's relativity theory), (iii) teaches us how the brain processes different visual stimuli and why abstract art is special to the brain. (i) Reductionism = focussing on the essential elements: in science that means designing and testing models that capture a part of a complex whole; in abstract art it means reducing images to their "essential elements of form, line, color, or light." This book does a fantastic job in (i) discovering the parallels in the minds of artists and scientists; and (ii) making abstract art and the way it affects audiences more accessible to non-artists. (ii) The most influential early contributions to abstract art include the work of Turner, Monet, Schoenberg, and Kadinsky. At the time, Einsteins theory of relativity questioned "absolute notions of space and time" and motivated artists to go beyond figurative art. Modrian was "the first artist to create an image from pure lines and color." The New York School of painters, formed mainly by de Kooning, Pollock, and Rothko, is symbolic for the a movement of abstract expressionism searching for the meaning of art in the aftermath of World War II. Each of them drove abstraction to a different extreme: while Modrian focussed on lines and their geometry, Rothko instead had a radical focus on color. (iii) Can the subjective experience of art be studied objectively? This book guides us through relevant findings of modern brain science. Visual stimuli activate different regions in the brain; many of which are interconnected. Therefore, when we consume art, emotions are elicited, memories are brought to our attention, and new associations are built. "The abstract painter does not attempt to provide pictorial detail, but rather to create conditions that enable the viewer to complete the picture based on his or her own unique experience." Abstract art is often seen as much more complex, because it cannot rely on "hard-wired"/"bottom-up" brain processes (face-recognition, identification of objects, etc.), but the inherent ambiguity requires more "top-down" contribution of the brain: you have to make sense of it by "constructing and testing hypotheses." https://www.cbs.mpg.de/departments/so... https://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/20... https://youtu.be/ELpfYCZa87g

  7. 5 out of 5

    Augustya Shrivastava

    I had a mental orgasm reading this because the book combined Art history, Psychology, Neurosciences and Physics, which are my most favourite things ever to read about. Possibly the best thing I came across this year so far.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kunal Sen

    Scientific books that talk about art are rare, and the few that I have come across generally deal with certain simple forms of visual art. This was one of the very rare exception, and unsurprisingly it comes from Eric Kandel, the Nobel Prize winning scientist known for his groundbreaking research in the neuroscience of learning and memory. What makes this book unique is that it lays out a neuroscientific basis for why people enjoy not only figurative art, but the appeal of abstract art. The auth Scientific books that talk about art are rare, and the few that I have come across generally deal with certain simple forms of visual art. This was one of the very rare exception, and unsurprisingly it comes from Eric Kandel, the Nobel Prize winning scientist known for his groundbreaking research in the neuroscience of learning and memory. What makes this book unique is that it lays out a neuroscientific basis for why people enjoy not only figurative art, but the appeal of abstract art. The author takes us step by stem from the appreciation of classical western art all the way to American Expressionism, action painting, pop art, and even more abstract color field paintings of Rothko and the light installations of Flavin. To pull this off, it is not enough to know your science, but the author must have a deep understanding and appreciation of contemporary art. Who else is better suited for this than Eric Kandel. I was first introduced to his astonishing span of knowledge when I read The Age of Insight. He is one of those rare people who can effortlessly traverse between the worlds of art and science. He is probably the best realization of the dream that E.O. Wilson expressed in many of his books – of someday bridging the gap between humanities and science by bringing the proven methods of science into the world of humanities. A short but profoundly illuminating read.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mad Hab

    I started reading the booking hoping to learn to appreciate modern/abstract art. I still have some problems with that, but the way I was thinking about abstract art is changed forever.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    This is why I'm a neuroscientist but I'm hardly a Kandel! He is brilliant in the way I know his academic work and this book displays his genius beyond his academic content. Few people can so eloquently discuss two diverse content areas and he does it without a hint of arrogance or pomposity. He explained abstract expressionism in terms of neuroscience that contributed to the beauty of the art. He set out to bring together art and science using reductionism. Whereas in science we use it "to expla This is why I'm a neuroscientist but I'm hardly a Kandel! He is brilliant in the way I know his academic work and this book displays his genius beyond his academic content. Few people can so eloquently discuss two diverse content areas and he does it without a hint of arrogance or pomposity. He explained abstract expressionism in terms of neuroscience that contributed to the beauty of the art. He set out to bring together art and science using reductionism. Whereas in science we use it "to explain a complex phenomenon by examining one of its components on a more elementary, mechanistic level", artists use it "to perceive an essential component of a work in isolation, be it form, line, color, or light." Reducing art to line, color, light, and form in a way that the brain contemplates and interprets the work helped me to understand the meaning of abstract expressionists in a way I hadn't considered. I'd never appreciated Rothko's work this way. The entire concept of this book is clever and he executed it masterfully.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jim Angstadt

    Reductionism in Art and Brain Science: Bridging the Two Cultures Eric R. Kandel One might wonder about the concept of reductionism. What is it? How can it apply to the two apparently very different domains of art and brain science? In a very readable way, with lots of examples and graphics, Kandel alternates between art and brain science to explain reductionism. What is the smallest, least complicated, living organism that one can study to understand brain function. Reduce the complexity to the poin Reductionism in Art and Brain Science: Bridging the Two Cultures Eric R. Kandel One might wonder about the concept of reductionism. What is it? How can it apply to the two apparently very different domains of art and brain science? In a very readable way, with lots of examples and graphics, Kandel alternates between art and brain science to explain reductionism. What is the smallest, least complicated, living organism that one can study to understand brain function. Reduce the complexity to the point that one can understand all inputs and responses. Then that can be the basis for the study of more complicated organisms. In art, Kandel explains how an artist can reduce the non-essential details of a work. This leads to abstraction, which allows, or forces, the viewer to add their own input to the work. More reductionism, or a variety of what to withhold, can lead to impressionism or radically abstract forms. Kandel notes that neurons in the primary visual cortex of our brains will respond to the orientation of lines seen by our eyes. One could understand how this hints at some of the appeal of Pier Mondrian's work, for example: Broadway Boogie Woogie. As Kandel continues to discuss recent trends in abstract art, one begins to question just how strongly reductionism connects science and art. Must one strongly appreciate and follow abstract art to 'get' the connection? If there really is a strong connection, then shouldn't most people appreciate the abstractions? One suspects that many people do not appreciate art that is without content, art that is mostly a product of our own mind. Page 154 "People are wedded to the idea that colors are properties of objects, when they are in fact made up by the brain (Hughes 2015)." "... in every case it is the beholder who assigns meaning to the color, just as the beholder does to lines and textures."

  12. 4 out of 5

    Guli

    The book is divided into four parts, where Kandel explores the reductionist approach to both brain science and art and the emerging dialogue between the two. As any well-written interdisciplinary book, Kandel's work brings beautiful insights to the table and leaves the reader with a sense of admiration about many more connections that are yet to be found between the science and abstract art. As Kandel explains through a number of experiments and scientific facts, the brain processes color separa The book is divided into four parts, where Kandel explores the reductionist approach to both brain science and art and the emerging dialogue between the two. As any well-written interdisciplinary book, Kandel's work brings beautiful insights to the table and leaves the reader with a sense of admiration about many more connections that are yet to be found between the science and abstract art. As Kandel explains through a number of experiments and scientific facts, the brain processes color separately from light and from form, whereas 'people are wedded to the idea that colors are properties of objects, when they are in fact made up by the brain'. What the abstract artists of the New York school succeeded in, was reducing the complex visual world around us to its essence of form, line, color, and light. For all their seeming simplicity, however, the abstract art pieces do manage to move the viewer enormously as they pose a challenge to the beholder by teaching to look at art in a new way. Thus, abstract art dares the visual system to interpret an image that is fundamentally different of images our brain has evolved to reconstruct. Finishing the paragraph, here is just a quote from David Hume: 'The creative power of the mind amounts to no more than the faculty of compounding, transposing, augmenting, or diminishing the materials afforded us by the senses and experience". And as 'to be abstracted is to be at some distance from the material world', it is abstract art at its most powerful stage that can most likely create such a state.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Madeleine

    Eric Kandel deftly crafts this book in the same way Abstract Art utilizes reductionism. Kandel brings science and art theory down to the (approximate?) level of the average reader. In making these topics accessible, Kandel successfully "reduces" both subjects to a challenging but understandable level. He devotes equal time to both art and science, and both describes and questions how they intersect. While it irked me that Kandel didn't include Rosalind Franklin in his description of DNA discover Eric Kandel deftly crafts this book in the same way Abstract Art utilizes reductionism. Kandel brings science and art theory down to the (approximate?) level of the average reader. In making these topics accessible, Kandel successfully "reduces" both subjects to a challenging but understandable level. He devotes equal time to both art and science, and both describes and questions how they intersect. While it irked me that Kandel didn't include Rosalind Franklin in his description of DNA discovery (a personal pet peeve of mine), what actually knocked off a star from my rating is that I didn't absolutely adore this book—rather, I felt it appropriately interesting and insightful, but I didn't feel persuaded to read without ceasing, as I do some other books. Still, I'm glad I read it; I think both art and science would do well to see the similarities between their subjects and would benefit from more interaction. A solid read.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ignacio Luna

    An orthodox approach to both art history and neuroscience, and the two sections never seem to connect as well as I'd hope from a book trying to bridge the two cultures. The whole thing seems to just rest on the fact that top down processing is involved in viewing abstract art as opposed to bottom up in figurative art. Altogether, a little too light and disconnected. Sort of feels like an ophthalmologist trying to connect art to science by revealing that art is seen through the eye. It's not wron An orthodox approach to both art history and neuroscience, and the two sections never seem to connect as well as I'd hope from a book trying to bridge the two cultures. The whole thing seems to just rest on the fact that top down processing is involved in viewing abstract art as opposed to bottom up in figurative art. Altogether, a little too light and disconnected. Sort of feels like an ophthalmologist trying to connect art to science by revealing that art is seen through the eye. It's not wrong but a lot seems to get overlooked. Would recommend his previous book Age of Insight over this. A longer read but much better demonstration of Kandel's strengths in art and science

  15. 5 out of 5

    Akanksha Chauhan

    Coming from a humanities background, part 1 & 2 did not captivate me as much as Kandel traversed the physiology of the human brain. Had to frequently go back and reread to recall the more scientific terms. Part 3 onwards the book was absolutely riveting as he begins dissecting the evolution of abstraction through various periods of art. Especially loved his critique of De Kooning's work. Tbh it kept getting better and better. I strongly urge you not to give up on this book after the first couple Coming from a humanities background, part 1 & 2 did not captivate me as much as Kandel traversed the physiology of the human brain. Had to frequently go back and reread to recall the more scientific terms. Part 3 onwards the book was absolutely riveting as he begins dissecting the evolution of abstraction through various periods of art. Especially loved his critique of De Kooning's work. Tbh it kept getting better and better. I strongly urge you not to give up on this book after the first couple of chapters. It makes you contemplate and question - signs of a great book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Fraser Kinnear

    Roundly disappointing. The plague of all popular writing is it never relies on an accumulation of knowledge in its readers. For a book as short as this, I feel Kandel (and his publishers) should be at the liberty to stress prerequisites. Know these artists, read this or that book on neuroscience (Kandel has written several himself. That aside, I actually think Kandel lapses into some bad behavior as a scientist, ultimately doing a disservice I think to the spirit of CP Snow’s Two Cultures. I got Roundly disappointing. The plague of all popular writing is it never relies on an accumulation of knowledge in its readers. For a book as short as this, I feel Kandel (and his publishers) should be at the liberty to stress prerequisites. Know these artists, read this or that book on neuroscience (Kandel has written several himself. That aside, I actually think Kandel lapses into some bad behavior as a scientist, ultimately doing a disservice I think to the spirit of CP Snow’s Two Cultures. I got the most out of the last third of the book, when Kandel turns his attention from figurative to abstract art. … we respond more strongly to the exaggerated depiction of a face by an Expressionist artist such as Oskar Kokoschka or Egon Schiele because the face cells in our brain are tuned to respond more powerfully to exaggerate facial features than to realistic ones. How, then, do we respond to abstract art? What machinery in the brain enables us to process and perceive paintings whose images have been radically reduced, if not eliminated? One point that emerges clearly is that many forms of abstract art isolate color, line, form, and light, thus making us implicitly more aware of the functioning of the individual components of the visual pathway In other words, abstract artists are formally, intuitively, exploring hardwired areas of our brain that are responsible for interpreting visual signals. One concrete example of this is when artists started disassociating color from form (which Kandel credits to Matisse alone, but probably belongs to the entire school of Fauvists), Kandel argued that our brains were ready to accept the objects as beautiful due to our hard wiring Moreover, the separation of color from form is consistent with what we know about the anatomy and physiology of the primate visual system. That is, form, color, movement, and depth, are analyzed separately in the cerebral cortex. I’m not entirely convinced by this line of reasoning, mostly because I can’t understand why it matters. Because Kandel never identified art that “fails” due to our neural wiring, it was hard to see his position presented in a falsifiable way, which is anathema to the project of science. Kandel also appears to step on artists’ toes as well. Ignoring some of his sweeping generalizations or claims about the preeminence of certain works, Kandel also is happy to interpret artists intentions when he suggests they all expect audiences to experience pareidolia: … thus, what abstract artists contend, and abstract art itself bears out, is that an impression, a sensory stimulation of the retina, is merely a spark for associative recall. The abstract painter does not intend to provide pictorial detail, but rather to create conditions that enable the viewer to complete the picture, based on his or her own unique experience. I love that a book like this was attempted. I hope to read a better one like it one day.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Inhye Baik

    Reads like a liberal arts student's senior thesis paper, Essays in [my first major my parents wanted me to study] and [my secondary major that I actually like] (I am entirely projecting here hahaha). If you're new to neuroscience or art topics, this book has more potential for awe. Otherwise, I'm going to be critical. Organizationally, this book is part neuroscience and part art theory/history/criticism, but structured in a discordant way. It switches jarringly between sections of fully just Reads like a liberal arts student's senior thesis paper, Essays in [my first major my parents wanted me to study] and [my secondary major that I actually like] (I am entirely projecting here hahaha). If you're new to neuroscience or art topics, this book has more potential for awe. Otherwise, I'm going to be critical. Organizationally, this book is part neuroscience and part art theory/history/criticism, but structured in a discordant way. It switches jarringly between sections of fully just art (sumptuous, implicit, overwrought language) to fully just neuro (objective, concrete, technical language) -- the bridging/blending of the two occurs scantily as ephemeral transition paragraphs. I was hoping for more of the bridging, and with stronger arguments. Rather, Kandel explains (too) in-depth about theories and findings from research papers and loosely relate it to why we like certain art pieces, which become indulgent essays in themselves. Many times I found myself saying, "Um that's a real stretch but sure ok...." Or, "we like abstract art because it gives us more room for our imagination? lol duh." The arguments and evidence are lightweight. I'm aware this book isn't a research publication but it sure flexes like one (and scientific-cites like one lol), but without the gravitas and rigor. He didn't recognize many points of view but so forcefully pushes his own without acknowledging caveats. Why do we dislike certain reductionist art pieces over others, even from the same artist and genre? And please don't attribute this to differences in just "personal preference", i.e. everyone's nature and upbringing/top down processing -- it's a cop out argument. I didn't get lost in the fluffy arguments and narrative evidence. TLDR Too weak and subjective for neuroscience and too unoriginal for art criticism. One could argue the whole topic of reductionist art could be replaced with 'Disney Movies', 'certain Instagrams', 'iPhone cases'. The whole book is unnecessarily high brow and a stretch in hypothesis, with arguments loosely held. 3 stars for the attempt. Better neuroscience books: Oliver Sacks' Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat and even Helen Keller for beautiful sensation and perception writings.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Iver Band

    As a general reader without a formal background in either brain science or visual art, I learned a great deal about both subjects, and how they relate to each other. The book is clearly and concisely written, and beautifully illustrated. On the other hand, I found that two shortcomings limited the book's impact. First of all, Kandel often alternates between research-based discussion of brain structure and function, and subjective statements about the experience and meaning of individual artworks As a general reader without a formal background in either brain science or visual art, I learned a great deal about both subjects, and how they relate to each other. The book is clearly and concisely written, and beautifully illustrated. On the other hand, I found that two shortcomings limited the book's impact. First of all, Kandel often alternates between research-based discussion of brain structure and function, and subjective statements about the experience and meaning of individual artworks or genres of art. These statements originate from professional critics as well as, apparently, Kandel's personal perspectives or his perception of the mainstream opinion of art aficionados. While Kandel also cites some research on how the brain perceives art, his failure to address the different types of interspersed statements damages the credibility of his arguments. Secondly, the book presents reductionism in brain science as a focus on specific cells, processes, regions, or pathways in order to produce a precise, convincing and reproducible result, but presents reductionism in visual art as a focus on elements such as line, form, and color in order to free viewers to create their own interpretations. These eponymous methods, while somewhat similar in concept, differ in intent, method, and result. The book is well worth reading, though, for the education it provides the general reader, even as it falls short of providing a substantial version of the analogy implied in its title.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    An extraordinarily incisive introduction to the intersecting relationships between art and neuroscience. Eric Kandel provides all the tools by giving a thorough and even-handed crash-course in art history and how these artists impacted painting, and how those paintings affect the brain. Major bonus points for not shying away from anatomy for greater precision, and for expressing such elegance and richly complex topics in a surprisingly approachable and completely non-pretentious way. In fact, the An extraordinarily incisive introduction to the intersecting relationships between art and neuroscience. Eric Kandel provides all the tools by giving a thorough and even-handed crash-course in art history and how these artists impacted painting, and how those paintings affect the brain. Major bonus points for not shying away from anatomy for greater precision, and for expressing such elegance and richly complex topics in a surprisingly approachable and completely non-pretentious way. In fact, the prose is so fluid and palatable that is easy to forget one—or at the very least, myself—knew nothing of either neuroscience or art history beforehand. But Kandel makes one feel they did, and feel smarter for it. In my humble opinion, that takes incredible talent. (It's no wonder he won the Nobel Prize for his research.) Even more noteworthy for me is how he helped me understand how Color Field Painting differs from figurative painting, and affects one's brain differently, especially because color is processed differently than light and form. This is even more important to bring up, because I previously had great difficulty appreciating 'modern art', but now I at least respect (some of) it because I can see the contrast from figurative art and the gradual evolution of art that mirrored the time it was produced. Anyways, if you love art and you love neuroscience, I guarantee you'll adore this work.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Shhhhh Ahhhhh

    Good book. Somewhat informative. Gave me a different perspective with which to judge art (especially modernist, post-modernist). My only gripe, and the only reason i felt I couldn't give this 5 stars, was that the bridge the author built was exceedingly shallow. Now I'm certain that they built the bridge between the two areas of art with which they have the greatest familiarity with (visual art, specifically paintings and the history of artists using paint on comparatively flat surfaces, and bra Good book. Somewhat informative. Gave me a different perspective with which to judge art (especially modernist, post-modernist). My only gripe, and the only reason i felt I couldn't give this 5 stars, was that the bridge the author built was exceedingly shallow. Now I'm certain that they built the bridge between the two areas of art with which they have the greatest familiarity with (visual art, specifically paintings and the history of artists using paint on comparatively flat surfaces, and brain science). i felt that the entirety of art and the entirety of science could have been handled much more generally with a lot more touch points, including the ways in which different niches, disciplines, genres have historically benefited from reductionism. With that said, I think that there is only but so much we can expect in a single lifetime from someone whose contributions have already netted them a nobel. One of my big takeaways from this book was the perspective that art, as a field, moves logically and in a goal-oriented fashion. To me, until this book, I didn't rally consider art in that way. i considered it to be a technical skill with results that other people find appealing and where innovation happens in the subject being expressed or in the composite elements of that technical skill, with no greater goal than making money by selling paintings. That part exists too, for sure, but seeing the part of art that is more ladder than treadmill has reframed entire swaths of my memory in a single stroke.

  21. 4 out of 5

    David Rubenstein

    I wanted to like this book. It promised to explain how brain functions relate to appreciation of modern art. In a sense it did so, in that it suggested a pathway between art without figuration and its perceptions in the brain. What I wanted was to understand the value of modern art. The book describes top-down appreciation of art, in which the figures relate to things in our memories, and bottom-up experience of art, in which lines, or colors, or forms are recognized by the most primitive recepto I wanted to like this book. It promised to explain how brain functions relate to appreciation of modern art. In a sense it did so, in that it suggested a pathway between art without figuration and its perceptions in the brain. What I wanted was to understand the value of modern art. The book describes top-down appreciation of art, in which the figures relate to things in our memories, and bottom-up experience of art, in which lines, or colors, or forms are recognized by the most primitive receptors as the sensations enter the brain. Yes, but... In the end, the best I could get out of the book is that non-figurative art serves as a Rorschach inkblot test to stir up emotional reactions. As author Kandel points out, great poetry forces the reader to think because it has ambiguities, but he fails to suggest any destination or message that visual art should have beyond ambiguity. I am glad I read it, but sorry that society invests so much money in art when that art is only interesting in the ways in which it faces inward toward other art. New art is described only in how it advances (or is liberated) from earlier art. It does not have value outside of its artness. No message, no improvement, no greater ideal, other than to let super-rich people shake their booties. Obviously, this is not the fault of the book, which does as it promises. But in the end, the emperor is still naked.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Zemmiphobe

    3.4 The book is informative, but a bit dry. I was expecting a bit more of a back and forth between neuroscience and art, but the focus was more on art. Reductionism in art was discussed a lot with the progression of art from complex realism to more abstract forms. He looked a lot at both the changes in techniques and practices of making art as well the evolution of art from the perspective of the viewer. The discussion of neuroscience included introductions about visual processing and how the evo 3.4 The book is informative, but a bit dry. I was expecting a bit more of a back and forth between neuroscience and art, but the focus was more on art. Reductionism in art was discussed a lot with the progression of art from complex realism to more abstract forms. He looked a lot at both the changes in techniques and practices of making art as well the evolution of art from the perspective of the viewer. The discussion of neuroscience included introductions about visual processing and how the evolution of art has changed the way in which we process the visual information of art - i.e. how art used to have a subject of sorts that caused us to use bottom-up processing, but abstract art has no subject which forces the brain to process it using top-down processing. Overall, I think this book may be more interesting for people who are interested in art and are looking to add a new layer of understanding to how we as human beings perceive and appreciate artwork. I was hoping for a bit more on the reductionism in brain science...

  23. 5 out of 5

    Payel Kundu

    As a neuroscientist and an artist, this book appealed to me in multiple ways. Kandel is one of the most famous neuroscientists ever, but I had no idea he had such a deep interest in art. This book completely changed my appreciation of abstract art, it was like a powerful stroke of insight. Not only does it make me appreciate and understand abstract art much better, it has changed how I approach stimulating my own creativity when I’m feeling stuck in my painting. It has changed how I paint as wel As a neuroscientist and an artist, this book appealed to me in multiple ways. Kandel is one of the most famous neuroscientists ever, but I had no idea he had such a deep interest in art. This book completely changed my appreciation of abstract art, it was like a powerful stroke of insight. Not only does it make me appreciate and understand abstract art much better, it has changed how I approach stimulating my own creativity when I’m feeling stuck in my painting. It has changed how I paint as well. I love the challenge of creating the balance between pattern and ambiguity in my work (although my work is figurative, I now love incorporating these elements), which I never really thought about until reading Kandel’s book. I would recommend this to anyone with a deep interest in enjoying abstract art more or an interest in the brain, and especially to someone with both interests.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Andix

    - the aesthetic experience can be explained by the composition of the brain/eyes + the experience of the observer - abstract paintings are difficult to understand because the brain is looking for associations and past experiences; sometimes there's nothing to understand because the painter doesn't want to convey a meaning (Pollock's dripping paintings) - action paintings - in order to understand abstract paintings, it's useful to know the context of the time + the painter's manifesto - what to look - the aesthetic experience can be explained by the composition of the brain/eyes + the experience of the observer - abstract paintings are difficult to understand because the brain is looking for associations and past experiences; sometimes there's nothing to understand because the painter doesn't want to convey a meaning (Pollock's dripping paintings) - action paintings - in order to understand abstract paintings, it's useful to know the context of the time + the painter's manifesto - what to look for in a painting: light, colors, the tonality of the colors, quantity of the paint (van Gogh uses extra paint) - the imagination of the observer helps in understanding an abstract painting, and it can be trained

  25. 4 out of 5

    K R N

    I really enjoyed this (especially more toward the end), and Eric Kandel is amazing. I heard him talk at ANFA once (a similar discussion but possibly more related to his other book Age of Insight, which I haven't read yet) and it was awesome: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PPIDL... Editing wise.... a few things bugged me about this consistently. For example, the book uses the word "pure" over and over, e.g. "pure color" and I found myself having a problem with it (e.g. in a work of art referred t I really enjoyed this (especially more toward the end), and Eric Kandel is amazing. I heard him talk at ANFA once (a similar discussion but possibly more related to his other book Age of Insight, which I haven't read yet) and it was awesome: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PPIDL... Editing wise.... a few things bugged me about this consistently. For example, the book uses the word "pure" over and over, e.g. "pure color" and I found myself having a problem with it (e.g. in a work of art referred to as "pure" color -- there is also material, size, texture, context, etc.). In some instances like this, I thought there were some unexamined assumptions on the arty side of the discussion. In other words -- Dr. Kandel please hire me to edit your next book! You're amazing! :D

  26. 4 out of 5

    Wing

    Abstract art engages the beholder by heavily activating higher order mental functions such as imagery, expectations, and associations to digest sensorial ambiguity and perceptual ambivalence, and so evoke emotive meaning. Works by Mondrian, de Kooning, Pollock, Rothko, Dan Flavin, and others are used to illustrate how forms and colours are deconstructed and distilled, while the underpinning neuroscience is described. Concepts such as pareidolia, apophenia, and mental construal are highlighted. T Abstract art engages the beholder by heavily activating higher order mental functions such as imagery, expectations, and associations to digest sensorial ambiguity and perceptual ambivalence, and so evoke emotive meaning. Works by Mondrian, de Kooning, Pollock, Rothko, Dan Flavin, and others are used to illustrate how forms and colours are deconstructed and distilled, while the underpinning neuroscience is described. Concepts such as pareidolia, apophenia, and mental construal are highlighted. The Nobel laureate author succeeds in demystifying art and hence unwittingly exposes the pretentiousness of charlatans.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lola Lozano

    This book is by far one of my favorites. As a science-nerd, I read a lot of non-fiction yet have a deep appreciation for art history. Therefore I jumped at the opportunity to read a book on the amalgamation of these two topics by one of the legendary leaders within my field of study, neuroscience. This book is a work of art in and of itself- in its design and presentation with large beautiful pages and illustrations and Kandel's easy to understand explanations. A wonderful introduction to unders This book is by far one of my favorites. As a science-nerd, I read a lot of non-fiction yet have a deep appreciation for art history. Therefore I jumped at the opportunity to read a book on the amalgamation of these two topics by one of the legendary leaders within my field of study, neuroscience. This book is a work of art in and of itself- in its design and presentation with large beautiful pages and illustrations and Kandel's easy to understand explanations. A wonderful introduction to understanding visual neuroscience for beginner, supplemented with the large impact of dissecting how biology and art align and allow us to better perceive and appreciate art, especially abstract art.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lucas Della

    am i just dumb? maybe. I found this book incredibly dry + verbose and the examples used could likely have been more succinct given the point trying to be made. The author obviously has plenty of accolades and is most likely far smarter than I. But if the goal of this book was to try to find a place for art and science to meet and learn from each other, I think this entire book could have been 50 pages. Though obviously it would never have been published if it had been. I appreciate that comparis am i just dumb? maybe. I found this book incredibly dry + verbose and the examples used could likely have been more succinct given the point trying to be made. The author obviously has plenty of accolades and is most likely far smarter than I. But if the goal of this book was to try to find a place for art and science to meet and learn from each other, I think this entire book could have been 50 pages. Though obviously it would never have been published if it had been. I appreciate that comparisons are being made between different disciplines to try to bridge the two cultures but I guess I had hoped it would be more than that.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Zac Sigler

    This is a masterpiece! (pun intended). Having watched Eric Kandel on television, I was thrilled that his voice came through very clearly in this book. The book includes equal parts psychological and artistic theory. My estimation is that I was familiar with 75% of the artists named in the book and that I was familiar with 100% of the psychological concepts discussed, though it had been a few years since I'd flexed those particular "muscles." This would be a great book for a fan of abstract art a This is a masterpiece! (pun intended). Having watched Eric Kandel on television, I was thrilled that his voice came through very clearly in this book. The book includes equal parts psychological and artistic theory. My estimation is that I was familiar with 75% of the artists named in the book and that I was familiar with 100% of the psychological concepts discussed, though it had been a few years since I'd flexed those particular "muscles." This would be a great book for a fan of abstract art as well as for a person who feels like they never get abstract art.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Angel Wu

    A wonderful introduction This book is inspiring in the sense that it introduces how the biological basis (the human brain) can be applied into the explanation of aesthetic experience. I particularly like the way it explains the aesthetic value of abstract art, which echoes with my own experience. Though further researches are undoubtedly needed to validate and enrich many of its descriptions, this volumes has pointed a promising direction for both the appreciation of the audience and the explorat A wonderful introduction This book is inspiring in the sense that it introduces how the biological basis (the human brain) can be applied into the explanation of aesthetic experience. I particularly like the way it explains the aesthetic value of abstract art, which echoes with my own experience. Though further researches are undoubtedly needed to validate and enrich many of its descriptions, this volumes has pointed a promising direction for both the appreciation of the audience and the exploration of the scientists.

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