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Princeton University Press

Clement Greenberg: A Critic's Collection

Clement Greenberg: A Critic's Collection

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Clement Greenberg (1909-1994) is the most renowned American art critic of the twentieth century and the first to treat New York modern artists as an independent school. In the work of Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, and sculptor David Smith, Greenberg saw a vitality absent from the art of postwar Europe. His writings helped transform the bohemian colony huddled around Manhattan's grimy Eighth Street into the churning center of an international movement. Far less known is the fact that Greenberg was also a major collector; because of his insistence on anonymity when loaning pieces to museums, the scope of his private collection surprises many. Recently acquired by the Portland Art Museum, his incredible collection is now coming to the public in a multi-venue traveling exhibition. This extraordinary book illustrates, in color and for the first time, the collection's 155 works. Spanning five decades of American art, it features some of the twentieth century's finest artists.

Works by Pollock, Helen Frankenthaler, Hans Hofmann, and Adolph Gottlieb represent Abstract Expressionism. Paintings by Jules Olitski, Kenneth Noland, and others represent the Color Field movement, in which artists used liquid pure color on raw canvas. One highlight is Noland's first ''target'' painting--a 1958 masterpiece exploring the flatness of paint. The collection also includes excellent examples of the movement Greenberg dubbed Post-Painterly Abstraction, including pieces by Walter Darby Bannard and Larry Poons.

The works Greenberg collected reflect his ideas, passions, and personal associations. They reveal him as a reviewer and intellectual but also as a friend to the artists. Many of the more than two hundred color plates are accompanied by Greenberg's comments about the artists--painters and sculptors now being rediscovered by young contemporary artists exploring formalism, the nature of paint, and the evolution of modern art. The text includes discussions of Greenberg's significance to criticism, his famous studio visits, and the controversy attached to his work, as well as short biographies of each artist.

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