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Today the West chronically associates artistic maturity either with transcendence, degeneration, or irrelevance. This volume looks to the nonrepresentational arts of music, abstract painting and sculpture, and architecture for fresh insight into the juncture of aesthetics and mortality.
In part one, Nancy J. Troy considers the fate of Piet Mondrian's final canvases, Thomas Crow finds undiminished joy in abstraction in the last works of Mark Rothko and Eva Hesse, and Richard Shiff explores the eternal "change to stay the same" of Willem de Kooning's final productive decade. In part two, Karen Painter analyzes Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's posthumous reputation, Bryan Gilliam examines Richard Strauss's unexpectedly enduring faith in German musical tradition, Stanley Cavell discusses the eternal irresolution of Gustav Mahler's last period, John Deathridge explicates Richard Wagner's ultimately debilitating relationship to symphonic form, and John Rockwell sees the Weimar Republic's demise prefigured in the struggle over state-sponsored opera in Berlin. A conversation with architect Frank Gehry is also included.