Peter Selz: Sketches of a Life in Art

Peter Selz: Sketches of a Life in Art

Peter Selz: Sketches of a Life in Art

Peter Selz: Sketches of a Life in Art

Synopsis

This absorbing biography, often conveyed through Peter Selz's own words, traces the journey of a Jewish-German immigrant from Hitler's Munich to the United States and on to an important career as a pioneer historian of modern art. Paul J. Karlstrom illuminates key historical and cultural events of the twentieth-century as he describes Selz's extraordinary career--from Chicago's Institute of Design (New Bauhaus), to New York's Museum of Modern Art during the transformative 1960s, and as founding director of the University Art Museum at UC Berkeley. Karlstrom sheds light on the controversial viewpoints that at times isolated Selz from his colleagues but nonetheless affirmed his conviction that significant art was always an expression of deep human experience. The book also links Selz's long life story--featuring close relationships with such major art figures as Mark Rothko, Dore Ashton, Willem de Kooning, Sam Francis, and Christo--with his personal commitment to political engagement.

Excerpt

More than a quarter of a century after Peter Selz resigned as director of the University Art Museum in Berkeley, California, and returned to the classroom, he found himself four hundred miles south, seated at a table at L’Angolo Cafe in Los Angeles. His dinner companion asked him if he would like to go watch one of his former undergraduate lecture-class students paint on a large plastic “canvas” while a rock band played. Peter enthusiastically responded, “Let’s go!” Shortly thereafter he walked through the door of the Whisky a Go Go on Sunset Boulevard into a wall of highly amplified sound. Norton Wisdom, covered with paint, was furiously creating spontaneous imagery, pausing only briefly to transform shapes and marks, erasing here and adding there, in an everchanging direct pictorial response to the music. the year was 1999, and this was the “pickup” supergroup Banyan, composed of some of the top improvisational jazz-rock fusion musicians of the 1980s and ‘90s, on its first tour. Wisdom was already becoming known as “The Artist” for his work with various bands and highly regarded solo musicians.

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