Reductionism in Art and Brain Science: Bridging the Two Cultures

Hardcover | August 30, 2016

byEric Kandel

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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 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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From the Publisher

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. Ka...

Eric R. Kandel is University Professor and Kavli Professor in the Departments of Neuroscience, Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, and Psychiatry at Columbia University. He is director of the Kavli Institute for Brain Science and codirector of the Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute at Columbia. In 2000, he was awar...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:240 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.98 inPublished:August 30, 2016Publisher:Columbia University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0231179626

ISBN - 13:9780231179621

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Table of Contents

Part I: Two Cultures Meet in the New York SchoolIntroduction1. The Emergence of an Abstract School of Art in New YorkPart II: A Reductionist Approach to Brain Science2. The Beginning of a Scientific Approach to the Perception of Art3. The Biology of the Beholder's Share: Visual Perception and Bottom-Up Processing in Art4. The Biology of Learning and Memory: Top-Down Processing in ArtPart III: A Reductionist Approach to Art5. Reductionism in the Emergence of Abstract Art6. Mondrian and the Radical Reduction of the Figurative Image7. The New York School of Painters8. How the Brain Processes and Perceives Abstract Images9. From Figuration to Color Abstraction10. Color and the Brain11. A Focus on Light12. A Reductionist Influence on FigurationPart IV: The Emerging Dialogue Between Abstract Art and Science13. Why Is Reductionism Successful in Art?14. A Return to the Two CulturesAcknowledgmentsNotesReferencesIllustration CreditsIndex

Editorial Reviews

[Eric Kandel's] new book offers one of the freshest insights into art history in many years.