Monday, January 16, 2012

Clement Greenberg (January 16, 1909)

Clement Greenberg was an influential art critic. His early essays included “Avant-Garde and Kitsch ” (1939), “Towards a New Laocoon ” (1940), “Abstract Art ” (1944), and “The Decline of Cubism” (1948). In the 1950s he became a champion of abstract expressionism and its followers, writing about Jackson Pollock, Arshile Gorky, David Smith, and Helen Frankenthaler. He published works in Partisan Review, the Nation, and Commentary.

While he appears not to have much talked about his Jewish origins, Greenberg’s ideas were important to the Jewish Museum in New York in the 1960s, when “many in the emerging art world were Jews — artists like Mark Rothko and Diane Arbus, the dealer Leo Castelli, the critic Clement Greenberg (though not Rauschenberg and Johns) — and the museum made it its mission to champion their work.” *

I first became aware of Greenberg’s role in 2008 when I saw the exhibit “Action/Abstraction: Pollock, de Kooning, and American Art, 1940-1976,” which was organized by the Jewish Museum and shown at the St. Louis art museum. The exhibit described the rivalry between Greenberg and another critic, Harold Rosenberg, and traced public opinion of expressionism and related art movements by showing clippings from Life magazine and other popular culture treatments of abstract art.

Here are two photos I took at the exhibit in St.Louis three years ago:

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