A Response to Modernist Painting by Clement Greenberg & Post-Painterly Abstraction by Clement Greenberg

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A Response To:

Modernist Painting by Clement Greenberg &
Post-Painterly Abstraction by Clement Greenberg

In this paper I will be summarizing two essays by Clement Greenberg, one entitled “Modernist Painting” and the other “Post-Painterly Abstraction.” After summarizing the articles I will discuss and respond to them. In the first reading “Modernist Painting” Greenberg describes Modernism as being a method in which a discipline is used to criticize the discipline itself, for instance using logic to criticize logic and in doing so defining its limits. Greenberg considers the philosopher Kant to be the first real Modernist by being the first person to be known to do this. Modernism grew out of the criticism of the Enlightenment however it is not the same thing. Criticism in the Enlightenment was done from the outside in the traditional sense; Modernism uses the procedures themselves to criticize from the inside. Although Modernist painting came after the enlightenment and seemed to break all the rules from the past, it was not a break for the past it was simply the next step in arts continuation. Through self-criticism Modernist’s goal was to eliminate any effect that was borrowed from the medium they were working with and any other art. Modernist painters wanted their art to be considered as “pure” from any other form or principle. To do this factors that were previously regarded as undesirable were now having attention brought to them and regarded as positive effects such as the flatness of the surfaces, the shape of the support and properties of the pigment. Flatness was the major factor of pictorial art because it was the only element not shared with any other art form such as sculpture, theater, etc. Other elements that varied were the shape and frame of the picture, the paint texture and finish and the color contrast and value. In “Post-Painterly Abstraction” Greenberg starts by defining words to help us understand what Abstract

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