Homemade Esthetics: Observations on Art and Taste

Homemade Esthetics: Observations on Art and Taste

Homemade Esthetics: Observations on Art and Taste

Homemade Esthetics: Observations on Art and Taste

Synopsis

Thanks to his unsurpassed eye and his fearless willingness to take a stand, Clement Greenberg (1909 1994) became one of the giants of 20th century art criticism a writer who set the terms of critical discourse from the moment he burst onto the scene with his seminal essays Avant Garde and Kitsch (1939) and Towards a Newer Laocoon (1940). In this work, which gathers previously uncollected essays and a series of seminars delivered at Bennington in 1971, Greenberg provides his most expansive statement of his views on taste and quality in art, arguing for an esthetic that flies in the face of current art world fashions. Greenberg insists despite the attempts from Marcel Duchamp onwards to escape the jurisdiction of taste by producing an art so disjunctive that it cannot be judged that taste is inexorable. He argues that standards of quality in art, the artist's responsibility to seek out the hardest demands of a medium, and the critic's responsibility to discriminate, are essential conditions for great art. The obsession with innovation the epidemic of newness leads, in Greenbergs view, to the boringness of so much avant garde art. He discusses the interplay of expectation and surprise in aesthetic experience, and the exalted consciousness produced by great art. Homemade Esthetics allows us particularly in the transcribed seminar sessions, never before published to watch the critics mind at work, defending (and at times reconsidering) his theories. His views, often controversial, are the record of a lifetime of looking at and thinking about art as intensely as anyone ever has.

Excerpt

To offer some background on Homemade Esthetics: in 1970 Clement Greenberg was approached by Bennington College to give a series of seminars. He had given a seminar once before at the college, six talks in the fall of 1962, and had often remarked on how much he had gotten out of the tough give-and-take from the Bennington students and faculty. Since the publication in 1961 of his collection of essays, Art and Culture, he had been planning to write a book that he would call Homemade Esthetics. He thought the college would provide a lively forum for exploring his ideas.

On April 6, 1971, after an introduction by Sidney Tillim, he gave the first of nine seminars. He had prepared at length--four drafts of this talk, as well as a general sketch of where the remaining eight seminars might lead, purposely leaving the agenda open for the benefit of his audience as well as himself. the last seminar was delivered April 22.

Clem later expressed to friends his disappointment that this most recent experience at Bennington hadn't challenged him as much as he'd hoped. However, working from the seminars as a broad base, he took the next step in refining his views. Over the following seven years (1972-1979) he published in various art magazines eight essays that explored his deliberations on esthetics, using the titles, "Seminar One," "Seminar Two," and so on (except for the third piece which was published as "Can Taste Be Objective?"). These texts appear in Part I of this book. They were amended/corrected slightly by Clem after publication and I have incorporated those changes. I have also retitled the essays to more dearly differentiate the material in Part I from that in Part ii. the ninth essay, as it appears here, is a late draft (though . . .

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