James Elkins has shaped the discussion about how we—as artists, as art historians, or as outsiders—view art. He has not only revolutionized our thinking about the purpose of teaching art, but has also blazed trails in creating a means of communication between scientists, artists, and humanities scholars.
In Six Stories from the End of Representation, Elkins weaves stories about recent images from painting, photography, physics, astrophysics, and microscopy. These images, regardless of origin, all fail as representations: they are blurry, dark, pixellated, or otherwise unclear.
In these opaque images, Elkins finds an opportunity to create stories that speak simultaneously to artists and to scientists, and to open both those fields to those of us who have little purchase in either. Regarding each image through the lens of the discipline that produced it, Elkins simultaneously affirms the unique structure of each way of viewing the world and brings those views together into a vibrant conversation.
About the author
James Elkins is E.C. Chadbourne Chair in the Department of Art History,
Theory, and Criticism at the Art Institute of Chicago. He has published
numerous books on subjects ranging from fine art to science and natural
history, including Pictures of the Body (Stanford, 1999).
"Specialists and general readers alike should welcome this stimulating attempt to foster a dialogue between disciplines. Informed and informative, it is comparative without being reductive, and it continues the authors exploration of the strange threshold between words and pictures. Elkins looks at and writes about the limits of visual representation and of language about images. His curiosity is infectious."
—Martin Donougho, University of South Carolina
"Few art historians have attempted to talk about scientific images, and fewer still have attended classes on quantum mechanics as preparation. Elkins's book is a fresh, original attempt to reckon with many kinds of images from the late twentieth century, ranging from modern art to astrophysics and beyond. Elkins skillfully explores how all of these images point, in their own ways, to the limits of representation. This engaging and wide-ranging study is quite an accomplishment; we need more books like this one."
—David Kaiser, MIT
"These Six Stories are an attempt to establish a new dialogue between humanists and scientists, more specifically in the field of the image, both of its production and of its interpretation This book is in many regards the provisory conclusion of many of the author's previous writings. At the same time, it would be absurd to deny that this is also a dramatically new start—not just for Elkins himself, but for our 'one-culture' way of looking at images."
"Six Stories from the End of Representation is a fascinating journey into the limits of representation in selected material from art and science. James Elkins explores the borderline between what can be observed and what can only be depicted, with a particular interest in the limitations and obstacles when the representation of meaning reaches such a place."