The Critic and the Artist: Clement Greenberg and Abstract Expressionism

Post-WWII America was a time of revolution–a new consumerist society was born and mass-media was taking shape, and so too was a new school of art surfacing. This new type of art, known as abstract expressionism or post-war art, was completely polar opposite to the new mass-consumerist societal values in 1950s and 1960s America. Artists like Jackson Pollock, Barnett Newman, Louis Morris, Willem De Kooning, Franz Kline were at the center of the abstract expressionist movement, however the person truly curating and outlining the rules for this school of art was critic Clement Greenberg.

Greenberg defined a strict set of guidelines for painting that included eschewing all unnecessary components to the medium of painting in order for the work to be considered relevant. I hope you enjoy this video on the mutually-reinforcing relationship between the critic and the artist that emerged during the post-war era.

Here are some examples of the works by abstract expressionists that ascribe to the Greenbergian ideal of painting.

Jackson Pollock, ‘Autumn Rhythm (Number 30’, 1950.
Franz Kline, ‘Black Sienna’, 1960.

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