Clement Greenberg, the wellknown art critic, was only 7 years old when O’Keeffe had her first major exhibition with paintings of the fourth dimension, at the 291, and he became an art critic in the 40-ies.
His critique of O’Keeffe was always negative and he brutally lashed out in his criticism, calling it “not much more than colored photography”. Kandinsky he detested as well.
Greenberg’s favorite was Jackson Pollock, whom he used to establish his thesis about “art for art’s own sake”, according to Elizabeth Langhorn in an article in American Art, 1998. She claims that Greenberg missed the point completely with Pollock’s art, and could only talk about the two-dimensional surface. However, the shapes that so fascinated Greenberg, were the result of the same kind of spiritual seeking that Greenberg didn’t want to hear of.
Pollock’s teacher, Frederic John de St. Vrain Schwankovsky, made his students familiar with the order of Rosicrucian, hinduism, buddhism, yoga, reincarnation and concepts of karma, to expand their consciousness.
The inner search obviously meant more to Pollock than a two-dimensional, abstract play with shapes, and according to Langhorne he used his symbolic images as a “secret, holy language… in admiration, invocation of this world’s forces or spirits“.
…another Modernist going shamanic and transcendental…
It seems that Kandinsky’s spiritual art was still alive after all, although hidden under the mainstream chatter of its most avid critics.
Is it then possibly the critics who are responsible, for purposely selling the audience a misunderstood Modernism?
Critics like Clement Greenberg continue to have their way today, and because of that, the new modern art philosophy of hope, with spirituality, soul and life, risk being seen as something that should be avoided.
An artist is a man (woman) who limits himself to two dimensions. (NOT)