Clement Greenberg’s seminal

“Modernist Painting”

Greenberg describes modernism as something about self-criticism as it grows up criticism of enlightenment, the critics of the Enlightenment are from outside just the way the accepted form of criticism does hence modernism according to Greenberg is meant to criticize from inside, the criticism are done through the procedures for that which is being criticized. Therefore, the essence of modernism that Greenberg describes lies the use of attribute methods of a particular discipline that is meant to make critics on the discipline itself.

In focusing on the difference between traditional art and modernist art, Greenberg argues that the essential, unique element of modern painting from traditional is the flatness it bears. Apart from the literal flatness of canvas surface itself, Greenberg focuses on depicted flatness whereby an artist balances forms of line and color and line that create a painterly value whose appearance is utterly flat.

Greenberg adds that modernist painting differentiates from traditional whereby the enclosing shape of pictures was a limiting condition, a norm which was shared with the art of the theatre, color was, therefore, a norm shared with the theatre and sculpture hence in modernity flatness is the only conditioning that painting shares with no other art, this means that modernity painting orients itself to flatness as it do to nothing else. Therefore, modern artists are beginning to embrace the nature rather than disregard it.

The quality unique to art as described by Greenberg is something that should be pure and independent on its own, can demonstrate itself by its right and is one that cannot be acquired from any other kind of activity involved. Hence, Greenberg explains that a unique painting should not be borrowed from or through the medium of any other art, it should be pure and in that purity a unique painting should have a guarantee of its standards on quality of the standards well as the independence of it standards. Therefore, the aspect of purity means self-means self-definition.

The connection of modernism with the past is described by Greenberg as one that cannot be separated from the past; he suggests that modernism cannot be separated from the past. This is supported by Kantian Self-criticism whereby his self-expression of science on self-criticism is more than that in philosophy. When this expression began to be applied in the aspects of art, there was closeness to scientific methods than ever before.

Hence the visual art should be one that is narrowed exclusively to that which is given in a visual experience and makes no reference to other things given in other orders of experience. Hence, the connection of modernism to the past is a notion in which the justification depends on some scientific consistency. However, the scientific consistency demonstrates nothing when the concerns of aesthetic quality are brought to question.

In other words, the connection of modernism and the past entails phenomenon that is based on revolution and at the same time, it means unravelling tradition. In comparison to the past modernist art also means a father evolution of art from the past. Hence, it is like a rope that continues the past without any gaps or breaks, and wherever it may go, however, much it may be altered, and it will never cease to be strongly connected to the past. Greenberg adds that art is continuity hence it has consistency.

Greenberg proclaims that if the modern art lacks the attributes of the past art, and the strong compulsion and the need of art to maintain its standards of excellence then all the modernist art materials will begin to omit the essential substances and justification of real, original and true art, hence, every art material being done about modernism must have contributions on not only journalism but also on criticism and art history.

Greenberg theory concedes that the kind of flatness in which modernists bases itself on can never be absolute flatness he makes claims that that moment when any paint comes in contact with canvas a different form of depth is created, and then the canvas ceases to be a complete flat.

Marcel Duchamp work challenges the traditional concepts of creativity. He then made readymade art whereby he challenges traditional art in comparison with Greenberg, who alludes that modernity came from traditional art. Being nick named as the father of conceptual art, he refuses to follow convectional art.

Duchamp produced readymade objects taken from their usual context and then promoted to the status of art work which later raised questions whether they can be termed as real art. Picasso, Ma Jolie which was a fabricated piece of art borrowed from traditional art of a woman holding a guitar explains well the fatness of Greenberg theory of modernism since Picasso uses ideas carried down from the traditional art.

Clement Greenberg focuses on modernism as an aspect which cannot be separated from the origin of art that flows down to the modern art, however Greenberg theory and view of modernity art conquers that of Berman and Baudelaire, their view of modernism id defined as the ironic theorization of the present which does not have any connection with the past artistically work hence the things of the present are not comparable to the past.


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