Clement Greenberg After Abstract Expressionism Essay

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Proficient in sketching from an early age, he studied at Syracuse University (graduating cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, in 1930) and at the Art Students League in New York.

During the period 1930-37, he took a series of different jobs, married, had a child, and got divorced, before finding his metier as a writer.

One of the most famous art critics in America, Clement Greenberg was a commentator and curator, who was closely associated with abstract art of the mid-20th century.

In fact, he ranks with Harold Rosenberg (1906-78) and John Canaday (1907-85) as the most influential writer on modern art, just as the United States was overtaking Paris as the centre of world art.

In addition, Greenberg was noted for his work Art and Culture (1961), as well as his studies of Joan Miro (1948), Matisse (1953) and Hans Hofman (1961).

Born in the Bronx, New York, Clement Greenberg was born into a middle-class Jewish home, the oldest of three sons.His only concession, was to admit that Pop art's transparency was a welcome distraction from the over-intensity of Abstract Expressionism.Given the fragmented, subjective and populist nature of postmodernist art, it is no surprise that Greenberg had a pessimistic view of contemporary styles, in America and around the world.On the one hand he appreciated the greater transparency of contemporary styles, while lamenting the fact that they didn't challenge the spectator on more than a superficial level.Greenberg's writings on painting are not always crystal clear to readers: like most critics, he enjoyed wrapping his ideas in layers of intellectual prose.In particular, he championed the abstract expressionism of the New York School and, along with the wealthy collector Peggy Guggenheim (1898-1979), was one of the first to promote the work of Jackson Pollock (1912-56).He also praised the 20th century sculptors David Smith (1906-65) and Anthony Caro (1924-2013).Here is a very rough idea of some of his views.(1) Greenberg was a formalist: that is, he thought that the formal attributes of a painting (line, shape, colour) are of crucial importance, whereas its emotional or representational content is secondary, even redundant. In each type of art, he said, there is an urge towards purity: that is, a focus on the unique characteristics of the art form in question.(Greenberg's so-called concept of medium specificity.) In painting, for instance, there is a natural and proper tendency to focus on its inherent two-dimensional character: that is, the flatness of the picture plane.He christened the work of this new generation "Post-Painterly Abstraction" in order to distinguish it from Abstract Expressionism, or "Painterly Abstraction", as he called it.Post-Painterly Abstraction was a term given to a variety of second generation abstract art that reacted against the gestural painting of earlier abstract expressionists.


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