Articles Worth Reading: ‘Art and Culture’ by Clement Greenberg

The champion of Abstract Expressionism, Clement Greenberg, explains in his essay the misconception about Abstract art and why, in reality (or his reality) it is not that much different from representational art, the traditionally favored form of painting and sculpture. One of the major points Greenberg made was that ‘Art is a matter strictly of experience, not of principles, and what counts first and last is quality; all other things are secondary.’ His dissatisfaction with other art produced at the time seemed to stem from the fact that people just did not understand what was being made and why in the Abstract Expressionist Style.

Known as the bastion of Abstract art (or non-represenational art), Greenberg pretty much lays down the foundation for why he holds this type of artistic style above all others.

One of my favorite aspects of his argument was his discussion of how, over time, the canvas had been a three-dimensional stage, but had since evolved to a flat surface, similar to that of the curtain dropped in front of a stage.

Although I don’t necessarily agree with Greenberg, on all of his points, I thought that one particular point he made regarding language to hold true, through the course of art history. Greenberg commented that “it maybe that we cannot yet see far enough around the art of our own day; that the real and fundamental source of the dissatisfaction we may feel with Abstract painting lies in the not uncommon problems offered by a new ‘language’.” I feel this has been the case for most artistic movements over the course of the centuries. When critics have been presented with a new, innovative style that has no verbalized language yet to accompany the piece, we are thrown off; usually ending in a negative response from the audience, similar to what happened with the beginning of Pop Art in the 1960s.


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