The American critic Clement Greenberg promoted abstraction as an essential part of historical progress. His counterpart, Harold Rosenberg, defended abstraction as a legitimate and important means to artistic ends, but one that was not necessarily better than other approaches. These intellectuals clashed in the 1950s over two views of art and the images that still inform the artistic discourse. By 1960, the arrival of pop art seemed to have brought back the image in a significant way. Yet Greenberg’s critical outlook continued to be taught in art schools as a form of high modernist academicism well into the 1980s. Postmodernism appears to have settled the issue in favor of Duchamp-inspired freedom. This paper will analyze the roots of Greenberg’s ideological stance, Rosenberg’s more open-ended outlook, and the effects of the ensuing polemic on the understanding of the image since the days of abstract expressionism.
|Keywords:||Abstraction, Puritanism, Marxism, Iconoclasm, Ideology, Criticism, Aesthetics, Duchamp, Greenberg, Rosenberg|
Assistant Professor, Department of Communication Arts, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia, USA