This violent tendancy served Greenberg well in his career as the dominant art critic of the American mid-century--the power critic who gave diktats from the pages of "Partisan Review," "The Nation," and "Artforum" to 2 generations of artists, relocated the center of the art world from Paris to New York, and made oversized abstract watercolors into the single style of the American museum.Florence Rubenfeld, an art journalist, has now produced "Clement Greenberg: A Life" (Scribner; ), the first full-length biography of Greenberg since his death, in 1994.Following his graduation from Syracuse University, Greenberg first made a name for himself as an art critic with the publication of the essay, Avant-Garde and Kitsch (1939).
Each of these is exhaustively researched; she dissects his essays with rigour and aligns his aesthetic tastes against those of his fellow critics.
The book’s title, Eyesight Alone, is taken from a statement made by Greenberg in 1958: “The human body is no longer postulated as the agent of space in either pictorial or sculptural art…now it is eyesight alone”.
This serious academic book will be of little use to newcomers to Greenberg.
Although high quality, the illustrations are too few and do little to illuminate or break up the dense text.
Greenberg took up the cudgels for Pollock and the “colour field”; Rosenberg, in the opposite corner, championed artists such as de Kooning, whose work focused primarily on line and form.
Jones takes Greenberg’s theories and essays as her foundation and divides her book into three parts: “Statements”, focusing on his writing; “Visibilities”, in which she studies the work championed by Greenberg, particularly that of Pollock, and finally “Regimes”, in which post modernism is presented as a product of the subjects discussed in the previous two chapters.Frustrated by the emerging art movements, Greenberg retired in 1968. Almost 100 years since his birth, critic Clement Greenberg is currently enjoying a resurgence of interest in his life, work and writings.Clement Greenberg was born on January 16, 1909, in the Bronx, New York.Greenberg was an influential art critic, who was closely associated with the institutionalization of abstract art in the United States.In the final section of the book Jones raises an interesting analogy between this view and the advertising research in the 1940s into the effectiveness of “eyes versus ears” and uses this to reach a new level of understanding when assessing Greenberg’s importance within his own society. The sub-title of this book is Clement Greenberg’s Modernism and the Bureaucratization of the Senses—while the former is discussed in the first half of the book and cleverly off-set later on in the chapter “postmodernism’s Greenberg”, Jones fails to explain what “bureaucratisation” means.She refers in the introduction to its “distasteful connotations of little offices, little processes…little men condemned to their service”, but never goes on substantially to tie this to Greenberg, his time or his writings.Jones returns periodically to the notion of “eyesight” throughout the book, discussing Greenberg’s “disembodiment of this Eye, its gaze and its I”, and her text is predictably filled with quotations from Rosalind Krauss et al.This investigation into Greenberg’s emphasis on eye: his insistence that “the optical is the only sense that a completely and quintessentially pictorial art can invoke”, is carried out in great depth.Jones’s book will well serve those already deeply involved in Greenbergiana and its hefty index will make it a useful reference book.However, the educated public still needs a text that is, Goldilocks-like, “just right"—somewhere between the turgidly academic and the sensationally prurient, a book which will seriously and lucidly discuss Greenberg’s art criticisms.