Reading For The Rest of The Week of January 29th

Posted: January 30, 2017 in Readings

Here is our next author, Clement Greenberg. I’m furnishing all four essays we’ll discuss, though imagine we will only have time to get to “Avante-Garde and Kitsch” on Wednesday. We can discuss the other three Greenberg essays next Monday.

For the record Greenberg was an American critic who is widely considered one of the most important theorists of modern art. Just one bit of evidence to support this is the painting of Greenberg, by Mark Tansey, which depicts the critic as a victorious general Patton at the Versailles/Bonn Convention(s). We’ll have an occasion to discuss the complexity of Greenberg’s position of authority (along with Tansey’s depiction of him) very soon. Good luck with a handful of reading which may prove to be a formidable challenge. I hope this challenge will be a rewarding experience however. Again, I don’t imagine we’ll have time to discuss all these material in a single day, but here they all are for anyone wishing to get ahead.

Finally, I really enjoyed our meeting today, and I hope you did too. It’s been a good semester so far and I thank you for the efforts and contributions you’ve made so far. Keep up the good work, and see you soon!

Clement Greenberg

“The Avant-Garde and Kitsch” (1939)
“Towards A Newer Laocoön” (1940)
“The Pasted-Paper Revolution” (1948)
“The Plight of Culture” (1953)

(click here for all four essays)


Mark Tansey (American)
The Triumph of The New York School
oil on canvas, 74″ x 120″
The Whitney Museum of American Art
New York City, New York

(click image for names of artists depicted)

  1. Galen Bergsten says:

    I believe the point being made in “Avant-Garde and Kitsch” is Greenberg’s attitude towards the two art styles as the sides of a viewer’s perspective. As in, the Avant-Garde serves as an artist’s motivation/drive while creating a piece, and the Kitsch is the same effect but implicit to the viewer. It is akin to a cause and effect relationship, if you will. But at the same time, he seems adverse to Kitsch as almost a lazy art style, in so far as it subtracts from both the detail and reaction involved. In this sense, I am led to wonder if he would dare argue that Avant-Garde is an improved art form upon the Kitsch successor, as if art did indeed improve on the coattails of Eliot advocating the opposite. Is this the gist of the essay?

    Regardless of the outcome, I think it would be quite entertaining to see the discussion.

    • Galen Bergsten says:

      I also intended to discuss the nature of the art styles as a metaphor for class levels and societal constructs, but we’ve thoroughly covered that in class. But the ideology still stands that this disparity in lifestyle levels is intrinsic of the other in the pair, or that one cannot exist without the other, perhaps?

      • For Greenberg, avant-garde can only arise at the same time. Avant-garde, in struggling to break away from the mainstream, invariably creates new materials upon which Kitsch can parasitically prey. Prior to the emergence of the avant-garde, which emerges for socio-economic reason, all persons were the audience of the same works of art (Church painting, sculpture, music). However, as Greenberg suggests, the elite experienced these works soberly; meanwhile, the multitude experienced these same works superstitiously. With the emerge of bourgeois society, we see, for the very first time, Greenberg contends, two totally different kinds of art, one for the elite, and an entirely alternative one for the masses.

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