Struggle Over the Modern: Purity and Experience in American Art Criticism, 1900-1960

Front Cover
Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press, 2005 - Art - 168 pages
"The most familiar strain of this debate to us today is formalism, which emphasized "purity" in art and culminated in the writing of the influential late modern critic, Clement Greenberg. The other critical position, he contends, is not as familiar to us today, partly because it was so overshadowed by formalist thought in the postwar period. This position emphasized the importance of "experience" over formal purity and is evident in the writing of Greenberg's rival, Harold Rosenberg, as well as in a number of American writers and critics from the first half of the century. Struggle Over the Modern reconstitutes this neglected yet important dimension of the avant-garde debate in American art criticism decade by decade."--Jacket.

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Contents

Formalism and AntiFormalism in TurnoftheCentury American Thought
17
Formalism and AntiFormalism in the Critical Debate Surrounding the Armory Show
25
A Split Among the Moderns
33
The Paradigms Take Shape
45
The Paradigm Comes of Age I The Social Parameters of Experience
68
The Paradigm Comes of Age II The Political Parameters of Experience
89
Formalism as a Minority Position in the 1930s and into the 1940s
104
The Culmination of the Paradigms in Postwar Critical Thought
120
Conclusion
143
Notes
145
Bibliography
161
Index
167
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Page 85 - ... practical" indicates that the organism is interacting with events and objects which surround it. The most elaborate philosophic or scientific inquiry and the most ambitious industrial or political enterprise has, when its different ingredients constitute an integral experience, esthetic quality. For then its varied parts are linked to one another, and do not merely succeed one another. And the parts through their experienced linkage move toward a consummation and close, not merely to cessation...
Page 27 - The Classic spirit is the disinterested search for perfection; it is the love of clearness and reasonableness and self-control; it is, above all, the love of permanence and of continuity. It asks of a work of art, not that it shall be novel or effective, but that it shall be fine and noble. It seeks not merely to express individuality or emotion, but to express disciplined emotion and individuality restrained by law.
Page 21 - I think that yesterday was a crisis in my life. I finished the first part of Renouvier's second Essais and see no reason why his definition of free will — 'the sustaining of a thought because I choose to when I might have other thoughts' — need be the definition of an illusion.
Page 122 - Hence it developed that the true and most important function of the avant-garde was not to "experiment," but to find a path along which it would be possible to keep culture moving in the midst of ideological confusion and violence. Retiring from public altogether, the avant-garde poet or artist sought to maintain the high level of his art by both narrowing and raising it to the expression of an absolute in which all relativities and contradictions would be either resolved or beside the point. "Art...
Page 80 - Art is not a philosophical system I embracing the whole world; it is the expression of the adventures and discoveries of the human organism reacting to environment, of the perpetual readjustment of habit to the procession of changing facts. Such apprehension of the stream of facts as leaves a mark deep enough to affect the personality...
Page 66 - The modern painter is an inferior being. He is dumb and dull and conceited, an antisocial coward who dwells in miserable cocklofts, and runs frantically to his dealer and back again, bleating like a sheep about his soul, his poverty, and his unappreciated genius. If he is lucky enough to have a little money, he hurries off to Europe to steep his tender susceptibilities in the atmosphere of the past, or to destroy himself in the dives of Paris. Of all the workers in the arts he is the least alive...
Page 21 - the sustaining of a thought because I choose to when I might have other thoughts'— need be the definition of an illusion. At any rate, I will assume for the present— until next year— that it is no illusion. My first act of free will shall be to believe in free will.
Page 136 - The Dadaist should be a man who has fully understood that one is entitled to have ideas only if one can transform them into life— the completely active type, who lives only through action, because it holds the possibility of his achieving knowledge.
Page 61 - On one hand, there is action that deals with materials and energies outside the body, assembling, refining, combining, manipulating them until their new state yields a satisfaction not afforded by their crude condition— a formula that applies to fine and useful art alike. On the other hand, there is the delight that attends vision and hearing, an enhancement of the receptive appreciation and assimilation of objects irrespective of participation in the operations of production. Provided the difference...
Page 86 - The times when select and distinguished objects are closely connected with the products of usual vocations are the times when appreciation of the former is most rife and most keen. When, because of their ' remoteness, the objects acknowledged by the cultivated to be works of fine art seem anemic to the mass of people, esthetic hunger is likely to seek the cheap and the vulgar.

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