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Clement Greenberg (1909-1994)
Related: Abstract Expressionism (champion of) - cultural pessimism - Marxism - New York intellectuals - Partisan Review - art criticism - Avant-garde and Kitsch (1939) - USA
Clement Greenberg was an American art critic whose essay Avant-Garde and Kitsch (1939) claimed that avant-garde and Modernist art was a means to resist the 'dumbing down' of culture caused by consumerism. In “Avant-Garde and Kitsch” Greenberg draws an unflinching line between high art (defined by its “superior consciousness of history”) and low art (imitation without understanding). These views led Greenberg to reject Pop Art in the 1960s, which was influenced by kitsch culture. [Jun 2006]
Clement Greenberg (1909-1994) was an influential American art critic who was closely associated with the instituationalization of abstract art in the United States. In particular he promoted the Abstract Expressionist movement led by Jackson Pollock.
Greenberg made his name as an art critic with his essay Avant Garde and Kitsch, published in 1939. In this article Greenberg claimed that avant-garde and Modernist art was a means to resist the 'dumbing down' of culture caused by consumerism. Greenberg termed this 'kitsch', a word that his essay popularised, though its connotations have since changed. Modern art, like philosophy, explored the conditions under which we experience and understand the world. It does not simply provide information about it - in the manner of an illustratively accurate depiction of the world.
For Greenberg Modernism provided a critical commentary on experience. It was constantly changing to adapt to kitsch culture, which was itself always developing. In the years after World War Two, Greenberg came to believe that the best avant-garde artists were emerging in America rather than Europe. He promoted the work of Pollock and the other Abstract Expressionists as next stage in Modernist art, arguing that Modernist art was moving towards greater emphasis on the 'flatness' of the picture plane.
These views led Greenberg to reject Pop Art in the 1960s, which was influenced by kitsch culture. --http://wikipedia.org/wiki/Clement_Greenberg
Art and Culture (1961) - Clement Greenberg
Art and Culture (1961) - Clement Greenberg [Amazon.com]
Clement Greenberg does an excellent job of explaining how the individual and society experience and identify art. His essays on avant-garde, kitsch, and modernist painting are especially interesting, although his socialist "tendencies" tend to undermine objective discussion and mix art and politics (not always inseperable anyway, though). If you read Greenberg, you should also check out T.J. Clark, who takes issue with many of Greenberg's ideas. --Steve.Bryant@AgilQuest.com for amazon.com
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