The Rise of Philosophical
We are engaged in a collective enterprise whose results can't always be
easily traced. Some kind of marketplace of arguments and ideas may
generate developments of value that wouldn't have been produced
just by the greatest thinkers working individually and responding to
Visual art often is accompanied by words. Art critics evaluate contemporary art, and historians reconstruct the meaning of work from earlier times. The words accompanying modernist and postmodernist art have special importance, for much of this work is identifiable as art only because it is accompanied by theorizing. Clement Greenberg is the most important American art critic. In the 1940s, almost alone, he influentially championed Jackson Pollock and the other Abstract Expressionists. Properly understood, he argued these painters developed the tradition of French modernism, which in turn works out the essential concerns of the old masters. In the 1960s, when the importance of Greenberg's view of the 1940s was generally accepted, his analysis of newer art was rejected by most younger critics. There was a well-developed market in contemporary art, and so someone had to replace him.