This paper depicts the role of art and art criticism in art writing. Both the factors play a vital role in art writing. Art criticism is the discussion or evaluation of visual art; it is the science to pursuit the rational basis for art appreciation. Art critics are specialized in evaluating art. These people help people to view, comprehend, construe, and adjudicate artworks. Their written critiques or review article are printed in different papers or on internet. Art supporters and art collectors, often seek advice of art critics, thus giving an impression that both are intertwined and interlinked to each other.

There are two important art form cultures, one is modern the other is contemporary. Our basic goal is to understand reception theory of modern culture and studying the extent to which it has surrounded modern culture. Then, preceding a step further, we discuss Clement Greenberg, an influential American art critic associated with Modern Art. We study his tremendous work and the way artists look at his genius. We also, attempted to look into the art in his shoes.


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Reception theory, in an art culture is an interpretation of reader art and literary theory that emphasizes on the fact that the review should be a reader’s reception of a literary text. It is known as a reader response because here every one perceives the same thing in several different ways and this theory allows reading and presenting one’s mind. This theory actually makes everyone feel good about his or her own interpretation or his or her own school of thought of art and literary criticism.

To a receptionist, it is only the perspective and the view that assert on its nature as an event or effect. When the critic encounters any artwork, he also encounters some thoughts pertaining to it and the theory accepts his thought as they are. There is no right or wrong to a receptionist, it is independent and can vary from person to person. Hence, the word wrong under the lights of reception theory is very absurd.

In literacy art, in the year 1960’s it initiated from the work of Hans Robert Jauss. Reception theory was most popular theory among literary circles in Germany, Europe and USA during the 1970’s and early 1980’s. (Art and Culture Movement, 2008)

The theory says that an art develops and manifolds its significance and meaning, and with different readers, it is different. Submitting these encounters to pre-existing objective criteria, it not only limits what does the art mean, but also assigns that the term false is outside the critic community. (Wikipedia, 2008)

Reception theory contradicts with the formalist approaches. The formalist approaches maintain that liberty and autonomy of art is distinct and different from the effect it develops. Alternatively, it prefers a more interactive approach; it encourages readers to pay their creative role in empowering the art with a meaning. Reception Theory emphasize on the unlimited nature of interpretative property.

Meaning manifolds and develops itself when an artwork is studied or read, and depending on the context and the perspective, all the interpretations regarding to a particular artwork is different. In addition, there is no real context or any perspective ruling all the perspective, all are equal and all are independent. Many interpretations attract minds, become famous, they solidify, win higher satisfaction and achieve a kind of permanent satisfaction, but this is lesser to an extent of the function of their objective truth than of their capability to make the readers absorb at a particular juncture of time. (Art and Culture Movement, 2008)

There are some examples in the art that will always be alive in the history of artwork. Shakespeare’s work is one of those immortals, he will always be read and encouraged, and his relevance appears to be everlasting. However, this relevance is distinct reckoning on present perspectives, the concerns of the contemporary community. The two central concepts of Reception theory do have two fundamental concepts, interests and relevance. While considering interpretation done in regard of reception theory, one must take care of historical, cultural, social and personal inclination of the reader. In this regard, Reception Theory draws more closely to the revolutionary strive of hermeneutics.

It is likely to happen that the less shared heritage and mutual inheritance the writer or critic have with the artist, less would be the probability of that he will get the artist’s intended meaning or actual concept. And it follows that if the two readers belong to utterly different background, history, culture or personal experience, their meanings and interpretations will differ and vary largely.

The school of thought related to reception theory has various divisions. Critics belonging to German like Iser and Ingarden have a rather conservative position. They allow their readers with a certain combination of restriction and limitations provided by the artwork. On the other hand, revolutionary thinkers like Staley Fish, insists that there is no boundary to the perspective of the person doing interpretations. He maintains that there is no concept outside the perspective of the critic. Whereas cultural theorist like Stuart Hall is one of the most popular proponents of Reception Theory, he developed his own theory relevant to the Reception theory that is knows as Hall’s theory of encoding and decoding.

The Reception Theory has now been broadened to the spectators of performative events i.e. predominantly theatre. Susan Bennett is usually honored for beginning this discourse in theatres.

Reception Theory has bestowed its marvels to the popular modern culture. The reason behind is that it has given more significance to the people and to the public, they are always independent to make perceptions and interpretations of their own and they are not subjected to enforced thinking. Artwork is always considered as the indeterminate, implying to the fact that the descriptions about the people, places and events are always incomplete. And when people are allowed to fill these gaps, a variety of interpretations emerges. (Art and Culture movement, 2007)


Clement Greenberg was an influential American modern art critic. Born in 1909, he is the greatest of all the art critics in other half of the 20th century.  The statement would hold true even if we call him the one of the greatest art critics in all times of the art history. He was the most reviled critic since, but he was fearless. No doubt, he has given the art of criticism a miraculous power. He is one of the pioneers of modern art and is best known for his promotion and protection of abstract expressionalism. He died in 1994. (Wikipedia, 2008)


Clement Greenberg started to articulate his aesthetical assessment in the 1930’s at the age of 29. Since then he introduced his Golden era that continued to 1950’s. During these years, Greenberg wrote about modernist art fearlessly and clearly, while assisting as an editor at Partisan Review and as the art critic for The Nation. He is the writer of many authoritative, potent and influential essays. His outstanding wits made him to differentiate a sharp boundary line between the deliberate difficulty and combative innovations pertaining to contemporary art and the libertine but still approachable outcome mass culture (especially the “Avant-Garde” and “Kitsch” are remarkable). He held a command in expressionism in abstract art, portrays colorful paintings for their enlivened, and exhorts marriage content formation. He worked hard in order to help other understand the philosophy and esthetics of new movements, which he minted the phrase “post painterly abstraction “; where painterly can be defined as muddled and hazy. He laid great stress on the pure and original conventional ingredient of abstract painting, such as its monotone space, monolithic scale, and patches of concentrated colors. Being the consultant of the French and company, he devised a chain of one-man shows, which displayed the art of Barnett Newman, David Smith, Jules olistski and friedel Dzubas. They all were basically Color Field painters. (Avant-Gardde and Kutsch, 2008)

         Several other artists were embrocated by Greenberg, including Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Kenneth Noland. His inclination of commendation became famous opinion, as the establishment of art is being worshipped by the man who exacted that he could evaluate the artistic quality of a piece with the help of a nonrational stock of its conventional principles. The central idea of Greenberg’s esthetic theory is an impression of self – consultation: every painting that enters the history of art is a critical review of painting.

            The potent and authoritative Formalism appealed and magnetized an exclusive circle of artists to Bennington College, also known as Greenbergian Formalists. Greenberg loved and delighted over the fact that his full authoritative power over the group of artists attracted to his enchanting and mesmerizing work. He served them as a knowledgeable teacher, a brilliant and careful advisor, and well as an extremely delighted lover. With the ascension of Pop and Conceptual art in fifty’s and sixty’s, Greenberg’s craze and cult for the art and is specific critic style was heavily criticized by artists and critics, that were more interested in meaning than to Greenberg’s ramblings. (Sharecom, 2008)

            The revived and upraised version of Marcel Duchamp chased Greenberg like a curse and hung around his neck like a death’s chain. He was bothered to hell by Duchamp and other artists pertaining to anti-Greenberg school of thought. He was issued a reminder related to the first and foremost importance of artistic design and intent, later on he was issued a warning that his beliefs or his impressions of caliber and character, and pureness could have an impression of being conservativist and materialistic, and self-preserving. Ignoring and facing all the threats to his career and bearing all the challenges, he continued to scramble about art until 1990’s. Only three year before his death, he emerged with “The Notion of Post-Modern”. Unfortunately and adversely, most of post-Greenberg works of criticism in art is used in taking down ad dismantling of his innovative ideas and his outstanding ramblings. But the fact is as the critic Matthew Collings narrate:

                        “He should be anybody’s favorite American art critic”

                                                                                  (Michèle Lamont, 2001)


His work life can be divided into three main categories, each of them has unique importance of its own with respect to criticism in art and rapid and dramatic incidents of his own life. We study them in an order they happened.

                               i.            KITSCH:

Greenberg’s first attempt to contribute to the art of art criticism was his all time famous essay “Avant-Garde and Kitsch”. He was a graduated of Syracuse University. The essay was first published in a journal known as Patrison Review in the year 1939, when he was twenty-nine years of age. In his renowned essay, he insisted on the fact that avant-garde and Modernist art was a source of withstanding the leveling of culture developed by capitalist propaganda.

Greenberg coined the German word “Kitsch” to describe the cause, although its intension have been altered to a more assertive impression of the remaining or left-over stuff of capitalist culture. Philosophy, a living example of Modern Art, explored the situation and conditions in the light of which we tend to feel, go through and understand the world. The basic aim is not only to provide information and data regarding it as an demonstrating and exemplifying exact depiction of the world around the globe.

Nevertheless, “Avant Garde and Kitsch” was also a politically sighted and

Actuated article, it was the reaction to the demolition and devastation, and subjugation of Modernist Art in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union and its substitute with state prescribed styles of “Aryan” art and “Socialist realism”.

                             ii.            ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONISM AND AFTER:

Greenberg had a strong faith on that fact that Modernism provided a critical commentary on first-hand experience and it was steadily altering to adjust with kitsch pseudo-culture that was self-growing itself. After the World War II, Greenberg started to have faith in that America is producing more good avant-garde artists than Europe. Specially, he admired Jackson Pollock as the superb painter of his generation remembering his work. Later on 1955, he emerged with an essay “American-Type painting” in which he encouraged the work of Abstract Expressionists.

Out of them Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Hans Hofmann, Barnett Newman, ad Clvfford Still emerged as the future step in Modernist Art, with the reason that these painters are invoking great accent on the “flatness” of picture plane. As his program was to encourage the rule of medium specify in the arts, he promoted that this flatness distinguished their art from Old Masters that used to believe that flatness an noticeable obstacle in the art of painting. Greenberg reasoned a method of self-criticism that took the abstract painting from the ornamental wallpapers to the high class of art. Greenberg saw USA as a protector and caretaker of ‘advanced art’ and presented it as a reason for using Abstract Expressionism as the ground for Cultural Propaganda practice.

At that juncture, he was instilled by the work of William Ronald and Jack Bush. Later on he developed an intimacy with Bush as he viewed Bush’s paintings as the all the way expression of the shift from abstract expressionism to Color Field and Lyrical Abstraction painting.

Greenberg’s belief and impressions caused him to refuse the Pop Art of sixties, it was a trend followed by Kitsch culture. In 1960’s, Greenberg maintained his position as influential figure on youngsters. But after that, Greenberg’s hostility towards postmodernist theories led him to lose influence among artists and critics as well. (Avant-Gardde and Kutsch, 2008)

                          iii.            POST PAINTERLY ABSTRACTION:

In the coming years, Greenberg was convinced that a part of the Abstract Expressionism had been greatly cut down and contracted to a set of mannerisms. The new youngsters in artist community appeared to him as the ones who completely gave up important elements such as subject material and matter, its ultimate connect with the artist, and the definite, bold and distinguished brush strokes.

He was pretty happy and delighted over the situation, and he argued ad reasoned this process as one of the divine process, the process that has gained a certain level and measure of purity in it. Purity is the word he never used before in his essays, he just used to use them in his quotes.

He was so much convinced by the idea that he suggested that this would disclose the truth of the canvas and certain views of the flatness of canvas. Greenberg minted the term Post Painterly Abstraction to name this new concept and to differentiate it from Expressionism or Painterly Abstraction.

Post Painterly Abstraction was a new name assigned to a large number of abstract art that responded in disapproval for gestural abstraction for second generation. The dominant drift in the Post- Painterly Abstraction is the set of Hard-Edged painters as Ellsworth Kelly and Frank Stella who explained and worked on the relation between tightly scaled shapes and edges. While with Stella, it was between the shapes embarked on the surface and actual shape of the support. In addition, the prominent artists like Helen Frankenthaler and Morris Louis, who at first used Magna then water acrylic paints into decorated canvas, exploring tactual and visible aspects of large and bold, bright and brilliant fields of purity, clear and exposed colors. Between these movements, it has a line that is very flimsy and slight in property of appearance. However, artists like Kenneth Noland is a bit different when it comes to using water based acrylic paints for the sake of painting and artwork. Though he is different but he is as famous and prominent as the other artists of the field. To maintain his individuality, he uses the expressions of both the movements in his artwork. These days, Post-Painterly Abstraction is generally seen as continuing and preserving the Modernist Dialectic of self-criticism. All this, is no doubt the fruits of the seed that Clament Greenberg sowed long ago in very unfavorable circumstances. He was no doubt an excellent critic, an asset worth taking pride for. (Art and Culture, 2008)


Though reception theory is very prominent because of its easy-going and highly compatible nature, but if we always follow the theory the outcome to art would be as disastrous as anything. And that’s why I second Greenberg for his views and theories on Modern Art, as according to him the subject matter of any artwork must be there; and there is no random and different-from-person-to-person perspective of art. Art without an art critic is just the flower without fragrance, art critics and art are inextricably intertwined, and one is just incomplete and worthless without the other.

Therefore, here it concludes that no matter how independence the Reception theory gives to the critics and the art-readers, it is as clear as day that without any properly researched and standard subject matter the art would have a downfall trend. That’s why Greenberg’s work is on the other side of the spectrum of art-independence; he restricted the perspective and saved art from further damage. He was indeed one of the greatest art critics one could ever come across.


Michèle Lamont (2001) “Cultivating Differences” By, Marcel Fournier, University of Chicago Press-
(2007) Art And Culture Movement: Reception Theory, retrieved on November 28, 2008

(2008) Reception Theory- Wikipedia the free encyclopedia, retrieved on November 28, 2008

(2008) Art critisicm- Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, retrieved on November 28, 2008

(2008) Clement Greenberg- Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, retrieved on November 28, 2008, retrieved on November 28, 2008

(2008) Clement Greenberg from Sharecom, retrieved on November 28, 2008

(2008) Art and Culture Artist: Clement Greenberg from art and culture, retrieved on November 28, 2008

(2008) Clament Greenberg: Avant-Gardde and Kutsch, retrieved on November 28, 2008

(2008) Aesthetics- Clement Greenberg, retrieved on November 28, 2008

(2008) Clement Greenberg Dies at 85; Art Critic Championed Pollock- New York Times, retrieved on November 28, 2008



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