To site one such intriguing convergence: in a chapter titled "Expressions of an Absolute: Pollock/Galaxies/Rothko/Moon" Weschler draws a powerful–and not merely compositional, but almost metaphysical–parallel between looking at a Rothko painting made in 1969,
and at a picture from the moon landing from the summer of 1969,
About the Rothko, Weschler writes:
"...the canvas poised neatly between self-possession and self-divulgence: it draws you out and gives Nothing back. Its presence, like that of a black hole, is of such density that you might lose your Self there... There is a moment in looking at those paintings when we stop looking at them and they start looking at us--at, and if we are not careful, if there is not enough of us there, straight through us."And about the moon landing picture:
"A Giant Leap for Mankind? Godlike, unprecedented, Man had vaulted forth into the heavens, a mammoth enterprise, a stunning achievement: a man on the moon. And yet on the moon, there was nothing there (what-in-God's-name-else had we been expecting?). A vast interminable emptiness: a howling, airless silence. A vacuum of meaning: absolute solitude."I don't think I've ever read it put better than that. An illustration of Camus' famous line: "The absurd of life is born of the confrontation between the human call and the unreasonable silence of the universe." Art, most good art, demands equally that the viewer or reader of the work step up to the challenge and infuse meaning to the work in front of him, just as one attempts to (every now and then, mostly in vain) search for meaning in life. Often, we have to create our own meaning, and if nothing else: at least attempt to engage. That failing, we perhaps should just take delight in the absurdity of it all.
What is brilliant about the book is that though most of the convergences start with common compositional motifs (the horizon lines and colour contrasts in the above two images), Weschler rarely gets redundant on you with his convergences. Drawing parallels between Joel Meyerowitz's pictures of "Ground Zero" and the landscape paintings of Vermeer and Caspar David Friedrich; landscapes and bodyscapes; the photograph of the dead Che and a Rembrandt painting, (hat-tip to John Berger, my favourite); the mapping of the internet and the human brain... I could go on.
This book is essential.
If you can't find it in stores, check out the site, its fantastic as well.