Are art and science separated by an unbridgeable divide? Can they find common ground? In this new book, neuroscientist Eric R. Kandel, whose remarkable scientific career and deep interest in art give him a unique perspective, demonstrates how science can inform the way we experience a work of art and seek to understand its meaning. Kandel illustrates how reductionism - the distillation of larger scientific or aesthetic concepts into smaller, more tractable components - has been used by scientists and artists alike to pursue their respective truths. He draws on his Nobel Prize-winning work revealing the neurobiological underpinnings of learning and memory in sea slugs to shed light on the complex workings of the mental processes of higher animals.
Kandel's book, with one foot in the humanities and one foot in the sciences, stands comfortably in both. Writing in deceptively simple prose, not unlike the art he writes about, Kandel lucidly states the biological case for how abstract art challenges us to look so that we can see. Jim Coddington, chief conservator, Museum of Modern Art
Eric R. Kandel is University Professor and Kavli Professor in the Departments of Neuroscience, Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, and Psychiatry at Columbia University. He is director of the Kavli Institute for Brain Science and codirector of the Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute at Columbia. In 2000, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. His recent books include The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the Present (2012) and In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind (2007), as well as Principles of Neural Science (2012), of which he is lead coauthor.