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Title: Criticism and painting : Modernism in the U.S.A. circa 1958-1963
Author: Moonie, Stephen
ISNI:       0000 0004 2668 9109
Awarding Body: The University of Essex
Current Institution: University of Essex
Date of Award: 2009
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The cusp of the 1960s has come to be regarded as a substantial shift in the history of Post-War American art, primarily denoting the breakdown of the Modernist narrative outlined by Clement Greenberg and others, and initiating a shift towards a more heterogeneous field of artistic practice, with a pronounced scepticism towards an over-arching historical trajectory of Modernism. This thesis focuses on the debate initiated by the problematic of late Modernist painting, and its attendant “crisis” of criticism. Rather than making any grand claims to the significance of this juncture, the aim is to track the critical debate’s historical specificity. Each chapter focuses on the respective critical positions of Greenberg, Michael Fried, Leo Steinberg and Lawrence Alloway, with a corresponding focus on certain key works which crystallise the issues at stake. The works of Frank Stella, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and Roy Lichtenstein all demonstrate varying degrees of dissatisfaction with the notion of “illusion,” and an increasing interest in painting as an “object.” They also exhibit a sceptical, pragmatic approach towards artistic procedure. This concern with the “object” relates to the notion of “literalness,” which emerged from Greenberg’s key essays of the 1950s, and culminated in the mid-1960s with the polemics of Fried, Donald Judd and Robert Morris. The thesis goes on to discuss a more sceptical impulse which is contemporaneous with these intensely partisan positions. Steinberg would claim that the contingent nature of Modernism entailed a certain provisionality of the critical judgement, whereas Alloway’s pluralism would go further. Attempting to eschew value judgements altogether, Alloway understood the critic’s task as simply “mapping” the increasingly diverse field of artistic practice. Nonetheless, this sceptical impulse is shown to be closely related to Modernism, rather than a definitive break with it. These varying critical positions need not be antithetical to one another, but may be understood as possibilities within Modernism itself.
Supervisor: Iversen, Margaret Sponsor: AHRC
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available