Clement Greenberg, Late Writings

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Clement Greenberg (1909-1994) was a colossus of twentieth-century American art, achieving a degree of authority almost unimaginable for a critic today. For more than thirty years he was both lionized as a proponent of formalism and criticized for his perceived dogmatism. In the postwar period Greenberg used his position of influence to advocate the importance of abstract expressionism and color-field painting and to establish the careers of such artists as Jackson Pollock, Hans Hofmann, Barnett Newman, and Willem de Kooning. With the coming of pop art, performance and conceptual art, and postmodernism, however, Greenberg found his position increasingly challenged.

Edited with an introduction by critic Robert C. Morgan, Clement Greenberg, Late Writingsis the first collection from the period 1970 to 1990, and the only comprehensive resource for Greenberg’s thought during the last third of his life. While earlier works have covered Greenberg’s early and middle career, this volume spans his mature period, during which he reevaluates and refines many of his earlier tenets in some of his most carefully crafted and engaging work. Exploring a surprising breadth of issues and mediums and demonstrating a depth of aesthetic and philosophical insights, in these relatively unknown works Greenberg incites a new direction for modernism beyond the twentieth century.

This essential volume includes five interviews from the end of his life in which Greenberg revisits some of the concerns of his formative years, illuminating the progression of his thought. Late Writings is an integral resource as issues of quality and significance in the dynamic world of art continue to be redefined.

Clement Greenberg was the most influential art critic of the postwar period. He was the author of numerous books, and his essays appeared in art magazines as well as such publications as Partisan Review, Commentary, and The Nation.

Robert C. Morgan is the author of The End of the Art World and of a monograph on the optical painter Vasarely. In addition to his work as a critic, artist, art historian, and curator, he is visiting professor of art at Hunter College in New York City.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The outsized reputation of formalist art critic Greenberg, sometimes called the most influential art critic of the 20th century, rests largely on a body of mid-century writings around the work of Abstract Expressionism and the rise of hard-edge minimalism. This collection of essays brings to light the prolific work Greenberg produced after that time, in the 1970s and 80s, when the art world had begun moving away from his powerful, if proscriptive and tendentious, ideals. Among other topics, Greenberg deals with the rise of multimedia art, the state of the avant-garde and the standing of old favorites like Clyfford Still and Picasso. Also included are a handful of interviews he gave. For the most part, the essays and conversations show the critic staying the course on issues of taste and distinction, tinkering out his generally Kantian theory of aesthetic development, with its residually Marxist sense of dialectical improvement, phrased in dense, but always lucid, American prose. "Taste develops as a context of expectations based on experiences of previously surprised expectations"-that's not such a difficult idea, but it's full of big implications. Always assured, sometimes rebarbative, Greenberg's oeuvre has fallen on hard times in the wake of more semiotic models of visual interpretation. But perhaps this collection, with its sensitive and intelligent introduction by writer and curator Morgan, will go some ways in repairing it. (Mar.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Gathered here for the first time are the late writings (1970-94) of one of the seminal thinkers about American abstract art. From the Thirties to the early Sixties, Greenberg, a friend of Lee Krasner, Jackson Pollock, and David Smith, among others, was art critic for Partisan Review, Commentary, and the Nation. Recoiling from social realism's attempt to propagandize art, he formulated a formalistic "art for art's sake" theory, which bases taste on observation and direct experience of the artwork. In this volume, Greenberg is seen expanding and refining his early ideas while taking swipes at the "middlebrow" quality of contemporary art criticism and artists he disapproved of. After Morgan's (Pratt Inst.) introduction, the book divides Greenberg's writings into three parts: "Avant-Garde," "States of Criticism," and "Art and Culture." A fourth and final part contains late interviews in which Greenberg defends the theories first outlined in Art and Culture, a 1961 compilation. The value of the current work is that it not only encapsulates Greenberg's thoughts of the Thirties to the Sixties but also comments on the art of the next four decades. This influential critic's opinions are recommended for academic, research, and museum libraries.-Ellen Bates, New York Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780816639380
  • Publisher: University of Minnesota Press
  • Publication date: 2/15/2003
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 248
  • Product dimensions: 5.88 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Clement Greenberg (1909–1994), champion of abstract expressionism and modernism—of Pollock, Miró, and Matisse—has been esteemed by many as the greatest art critic of the second half of the twentieth century, and possibly the greatest art critic of all time. On radio and in print, Greenberg was the voice of "the new American painting," and a central figure in the postwar cultural history of the United States.

Greenberg first established his reputation writing for the Partisan Review, which he joined as an editor in 1940. He became art critic for The Nation in 1942, and was associate editor of Commentary from 1945 until 1957. His seminal essay, "Avant-Garde and Kitsch" set the terms for the ongoing debate about the relationship of modern high art to popular culture. Though many of his ideas have been challenged, Greenberg has influenced generations of critics, historians, and artists, and he remains influential to this day.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Crux of Modernism
Robert C. Morgan
I The Avant-Garde and Modernism
Counter-Avant-Garde 5
Looking for the Avant-Garde 19
Modern and Postmodern 25
Beginnings of Modernism 34
II States of Criticism
Necessity of "Formalism" 45
Can Taste Be Objective? 50
Abstract, Representational, and So Forth 58
Detached Observations 63
Seminar 6 74
States of Criticism 86
Intermedia 93
To Cope with Decadence 99
III Art and Culture
Old India: Her Monuments 105
Influences of Matisse 109
Four Scottish Painters 115
Picasso 118
Clyfford Still 121
The Golden Floating World of Sotatsu 133
Glass as High Art 137
Art and Culture 140
Drawing 142
Response to "New York in the Eighties" 144
IV Interviews
Clement Greenberg 149
A Conversation with Clement Greenberg in Three Parts 169
An Interview with Clement Greenberg 204
Clement Greenberg: Modernism or Barbarism 216
Clement Greenberg: The Last Interview 230
Notes on Previous Publications 245
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