Thursday, November 3, 2011

nothing is on my mind (contemplative art)

Photo by Jim Forest
Not that I could ever afford it, but being captivated by all things Lax, I find this book fascinating.  It seems more like a work of art than a book.   The title intrigues me.  I practice Centering Prayer and one of the things that happens in this prayer is a movement away from "thinking".  Having nothing on your mind.  When thinking happens, you "ever so gently" (as Fr. Thomas Keating says) let go of it.

The book contains extracts from the Lax journals A, B and D.  Only 25 books were made by the German press, Edition Schwarse Seite.  63 hand bound pages on hand made paper.  $1500 each.  If I had money, I might buy one.  The one photographed here is at St. Bonaventure University in Olean NY, home of the Lax Archives.
Photo by Jim Forest
I've always suspected that Lax was a natural contemplative, and his writing, like the artworks of Ad Reinhardt leads one toward this contemplative kind of non-thinking awareness. Lax blurs the line between visual and literary art (and a lot of other things), but ends up with utterly simple utterings.

Prospectus: "Infinity's a pretzel curve. Notes from journals, one of a complete day, wandering, moving in circles, like talking on different levels. Selected parts from notes on other days are concentrated, calm and meditative, with delicate humor. Lax's kind of writing demands a slow reading, the reader has to put syllables together to words. Graphics and texts try the impossibility of capturing in paint or words in song or by any other art or in any other medium the actuality of the object."
Interestingly, during his last year Steve Jobs was interested the art of Mark Rothko.  Rothko's work is considered "spiritual".   He created Rothko Chapel in Houston, a place for non-denominational contemplation.  Jobs was looking for art that could inspire people working at Apple.


  1. Beth, I too have found Lax well worth spending time with. Something so peaceful about his work. A grace that's hard to pinpoint but worth trying to absorb. This book you noted looks lovely and is probably a treasure but at $1500 a copy and so few printed, not much of Lax is being given to the world. On that point it's a shame. On the side of honoring him this is a lovely gesture. Hard to get it both ways. Do you know if his journals have been published and might be available to the rest of us?

    Thanks also today for the Rothko Chapel referral. I had never heard of the chapel or Rothko before. It appears to be quite a gift to the world. Some interesting books for sale there as well. I wonder how meditative the environment is as they seem to get quite a number of visitors a year...??? Anyone been there???

    Previously I used the name Shuzz on my responses but I'll just leave it at Robert from here on out. Thanks for all. Your site always seems to lead me to another thread to follow. R

  2. Robert, I have a book here, the "journal A", which was published in 1986 by pendo-verlag Zurich Switzerland. Dr. Paul Spaetz gave it to me when I visited the Lax Archives at St. Bonaventure last year.

    I am not sure if they can be bought anywhere now. But many of the writings in these journals I've seen in other books, like "When Love Had a Compass" and "A Thing that is", both of which are available on Amazon. A couple of years ago I got the Robert Lax book by Tinguely Museum Basel. It's rather special and is still available on amazon as well.

    I've never been to the Rothko Chapel, but it looks interesting, and rather reminds me of the room that Dag Hammerskjold had put in the lobby of the UN building. Yes, it's a curiosity, but there is something contemplative about that curiosity, in my opinion. Like - "heh, wait a minute, what is this?" A looking up and away from the usual delusion that we're mired in. An invitation to silence.

    I'm not sure what I think about Lax's work being made into pricy art. Anything that is authentic and beautiful takes time/presence. Using the best (and most beautiful) materials is expensive. Somehow it reminds me of the oil that Mary Magdalene poured over Jesus.

  3. Good stuff as always, Beth. Rothko Chapel and the Menil Museum next door are part of a beautiful part of a very shady and laid back neighborhood in Houston, which does have its treasures here and there.

  4. Next time I'm in Houston (I don't know if I've EVER been in Houston), I'll check it out, Paul. Thanks.


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