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Clement Greenberg at 100: Part 4 April 6, 2009

Posted by jeffclef in Uncategorized.
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Greenberg: Part 4

I\’m having trouble remembering all the arguments. My apologies to any of the panelists who stumble across this page.

Saturday, April 4
Session I: Material (9:45 – 12:15)

Patricia Hills (Boston U.), Respondent
Eric Rosenberg (Tufts), on Greenberg’s Diebenkorn: Abstract Expressionism’s ‘Development’ and the Medium as Meme
Harry Cooper (National Gallery), on Greenberg and Stieglitz: An Imaginary Dialogue
Robin Kelsey (Harvard), on Greenberg’s Problem with Photography
Gaku Kondo (Harvard), on “The Danger that Besets Painting”: The Decorative in Greenberg’s Art Criticism Revisited, 1941-60.

Pat Hills. Professor of African-American art at Boston University, she is currently working on a book on the African American painter Jacob Lawrence. She would have made another great respondent for my panel, as I met her during lunch, and she knows quite a bit about American literature.

Eric Rosenberg. Associate Professor of Art and Art History at Tufts University.

Harry Cooper. Former curator at the Fogg Art Museum, here at Harvard. Now, Head of the Department of Modern Art at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.

Robin Kelsey In “Towards a Newer Laocoon,” Greenberg argues that it was the behemoth of literature that chased painting into abstraction. But wasn’t the real enemy photography? Why, asks Kelsey, does Greenberg step around photography in his early essays? It may have something to do with its central role in promoting American art.

Gaku Kondo is finishing his dissertation on late Matisse. Defending Abstract Expressionism meant clarifying the difference between it and design. Gaku teases out the ambivalence behind Greenberg’s concept of decoration, exploring how Greenberg justified the aesthetic value of abstract art against a limit it seemed to be fast approaching.

Session Two: Envisioning (1:30 – 4:00pm)

Benjamin Buchloh (Harvard), respondent
Christine Mehring (UChicago), German Abstraction on Greenberg
Caroline Jones (MIT), Minimally Dead Greenberg
Mark Godfrey (Tate Modern), Tangle: Fred Sandback and the Meeting of Mediums
Alexander Bacon (Princeton), on Optical Illusion Circa 1966. Brice Marden.

Christine Mehring: Associate Professor of Art and Art History. Although Greenberg\’s writings largely failed to penetrate the German art scene, there were a couple of artists who did take note just to make sure they were disobeying them. Mehring’s paper on the postwar German avant-garde examined the cultural-industrial context for Blinky Palermo’s (Can a name get anymore awesome?) cloth paintings, fabric stretched over hardboard and two-by-fours, the very materials of which postwar Germany had a surplus.

Caroline Jones. Professor of Art History at MIT. Author of Clement Greenberg and the Bureacratization of the Senses, a book I’m going to have to contend with sooner or later. Jones argues that modernism was a technology of the self and infers from psychotherapeutic records the subject formation of Greenberg as the product of social, cultural, and technological discourses that he unwittingly recirculates in his theories. She sees in Greenberg’s “hallucination of uniformity” the modernist reordering of a matrix of chaotic sound and noise generated by modernity to which minimalism is the neutralizing solution. It’s a very abstract argument, but it’s the same reflexive move that Jonathan Crary makes, after Foucault, Suspensions of Perception. Though she adds Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, because its appropriateness to discussions of seriality. The determinism of the argument is off-putting, and I probably have grossly misrepresented her argument, but the book represents the latest and cutting-edge in Greenberg criticism.

Mark Godfrey. How does one studio practice (such as drawing) awaken the potential latent within another (such as sculpture)? The genesis and aftermath of Fred Sandback\’s string sculptures reveal a complex tangle and tango between string, drawing, and canvas, in which sculpture is made ephemeral and drawing made enduring. Sandback abandons the idea of medium specificity in favor of a practice in which the artist uses the devices of one medium to advance another.

Alexander Bacon: Color was the one thing that minimalism could not reject, or could it? Holding color to be the chief determinant of plastic form, Marsden sought to surmount this obstacle through monochrome canvases. Slathered in black encaustic (pigment and wax), these richly tactile and monumental canvases, are irresistible to the touch. Alex is a second year Ph.D. candidate at Princeton.



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