Rosalind Krauss and American Philosophical Art Criticism: From Formalism to beyond Postmodernism

By David Carrier | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
In the Beginning Was
Formalism

The most important consideration when it comes to investing in art is a
long-term outlook. You need to ask questions. Which artists are the in-
novators? Which artists influenced their peers? Which artists produce
work that is visually seductive with intellectually challenging content?

Richard Polsky, Art Market Guide

A major philosophical art critic changes how his contemporaries look at visual art. To understand such an artwriter, we need to know why his arguments are found persuasive. Art criticism is a mixture of observation and fantasy. Art externalizes [a way of viewing the world, expressing the interior of a cultural period, offering itself as a mirror.]1 The same is true of successful artwriting.

Clement Greenberg's highly personal synthesis of formalism and TS. Eliot's view of culture and Marxist historiography persuaded his contemporaries of the greatness of the Abstract Expressionists. Greenberg's achievement has been much discussed, and so needs to be summarized only briefly.2 In the 1930s, many American artists made protest art. The Abstract Expressionists only became great when they turned away from politics. Greenberg argued that in the capitalism of his day, art's development was relatively isolated from changes in the larger society. All that advanced artists could expect by way of support was patrons—Abstract Expressionism marked

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