July 31, 2012
When I was small, maybe 9 years old, I picked up my parent’s Life magazine and came across a photo-essay on beatniks. To a dreamy boy, the beats appeared as deities. Men with beards, berets, and poetry. Women in tights, white men’s shirts, and smoking cigarettes. Creativity was in the air, along with smoke. And the word “Buddhism” was never mentioned.
But Buddhism was present in the 1950s and it played a major role in the artistic and cultural development of the period. Ellen Pearlman’s new book, Nothing & Everything, examines how Buddhism, especially Japanese Zen Buddhism, came to influence the American avant-garde.
Look at a partial list of leading artists of mid-20th century who absorbed Buddhist teaching into their art:
– John Cage, Morton Feldman, Earle Brown (composers)
– Merce Cunningham (dance, through his lifelong partnership with John Cage)
– Philip Guston, Ad Reinhardt…
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