My Avant-Garde Education: A Memoir
Growing up in the suburbs--confused about his sexuality, about his consumer-oriented world, about the death of his older brother--Bernard Cooper falls in love with Pop art and sets off for the California Institute of the Arts, the center of the burgeoning field of conceptual art, in this beguiling memoir. The most famous, and infamous, artists of the time drift through the place, including Allan Kaprow and John Baldessari, not to mention the student who phones the Identi-Kit division of the Los Angeles Police Department and has them make a composite drawing of the Mona Lisa.
My Avant-Garde Education is at once an artist's coming-of-age story and a personal chronicle of the era of conceptual art, from a writer of uncommon subtlety and nuance (David Ulin, Los Angeles Times). It is a record of the wonders and follies of a certain era in art history, always aware that awakening to art is, for a young person, inseparable from awakening to the ever-shifting nature of the self.
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About the Author
The paradox of making something from nothing, of threading the maze of reality, is finely illuminated in this honest, articulate, and moving memoir. Through his search for the avant-garde, Bernard Cooper found something rarer, a wisdom grounded in humility before unanswerable questions. In doing so, he has achieved a combination of 'beauty plus pity, ' Nabokov's definition of art.--Phillip Lopate, author of Portrait Inside My Head
Moving...capture[s] the era...poetically.--Peter Plagens
[Cooper] put[s] together words in a combination of funny scenes, astute observations and moments of quiet poetry... The book is filled with moments...that practically require the reader to stop and savor the sentence again.--Carolina A. Miranda
[O]ne of L.A.'s great cultural critics and memoirists.--Ed Leibowitz
Alternately funny and touching... Readers interested in conceptualism will especially value these personal reflections during such a critical moment in the recent history of art.
Bernard Cooper is among my most favorite writers for his fearlessness, his honesty, his grace. He has written eloquently about subjects, many of us can find few words for and now he's turned his eye onto his own coming of age the world of Cal Arts--an epicenter for art, creativity and a kind of highly intellectual absurdity. Cooper brilliantly captures what it is to awaken to ones creative self and the need to find what is ones own in terms of intellectual and personal identity while making sense of the world that surrounds.--A.M. Homes, author of May We Be Forgiven
Bernard Cooper has created another elegantly simple testament to the power of the personal story. This is a riveting, soulful, whimsical, mournful, and triumphantly moving story about that weirdly mysterious process of transferring meaning from life to art, and then back again into life.--John D'Agata, author of About a Mountain