Clement Greenberg Essay Abstract Expressionism

Clement Greenberg Essay Abstract Expressionism-51
In such declarations and later developments — “the death of painting,” “de-skilling,” “appropriation is the only game in town” and “provisional painting” — one hears the echoes of Greenberg’s belief in historical progress.

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Mimicking casualness or employing a machine or fabricators to make one’s work — as many critical darlings are busy doing — might be this generation’s way of shucking responsibility.

Previous generations of artists, critics and curators bought into a constricted definition of what art could be, believing that history had brought them to an inevitable endgame and that any aesthetic alternative was spurious at best.

Where the painter still tried to indicate real objects their shapes flatten and spread in the dense, two-dimensional atmosphere.

A vibrating tension is set up as the objects struggle to maintain their volume against the tendency of the real picture plane to re-assert its material flatness and crush them to silhouettes.

We know that the author of "Avant-Garde and Kitsch" was no fan of mass culture, nor of the "middlebrow" poetry and fiction published in journals like the New Yorker and the Saturday Evening Post.

Kitsch, in Greenberg's sense of the word, denoted a watering down of modernist innovations, a pilfering of the high by the low.

But Pop reversed this flow, suggesting a redemption of the low by the high.

In this respect, the absence of a sustained account of Pop by Greenberg is a bit more curious.

Rather, it revolves around one fundamental question: how does an individual go about making work when a significant part of the art world believes that painting and drawing are dead?

Or, to put it another way: after the death of the author, how does an individual reinstate the mantle of authorship and take responsibility for what he or she makes?


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