Skip to main content

Birth of the Modern

Reesarch guide supporting AHCS 121: Birth of the Modern

Constructions of Genius and Celebrity

Understand how media coverage -- and especially cultural criticism -- of individual artists shapes their reputations. 

Understand what American media, circa 1950, privileged to make Pollock’s reputation. (i.e. Krasner off to the side; and the Navajo Sand Painting that influenced goes all but unrecognized.)

Understand the ‘modernist’ privileging of medium over subject matter, circa 1950, and Jackson Pollock as an American example of a painter who “created paintings about painting.”

Resources for the topic:

  • Pollock

About Jackson Pollock

Autonomy of the Artist / Object

From Wikipedia: Art for art's sake expresses a philosophy that the intrinsic value of art, and the only "true" art, is divorced from any didactic, moral, politic, or utilitarian function.

The concept is associated with the Avant-garde in that it divorces meaning and aesthetics from the object. It challenges tradition and invites innovation. It may focus on the process rather than the end result. Let the artist do what they want to do outside of the constraints of taste and marketability.


Autonomy of the artist/object is often in opposition to Form follows function, a principle associated with 20th-century modernist architecture and industrial design which says that the shape of a building or object should primarily relate to its intended function or purpose.


It may also be a reaction to Formalism. From Wikipedia: Formalism is the the study of art by analyzing and comparing form and style. Its discussion also includes the way objects are made and their purely visual or material aspects. In painting, formalism emphasizes compositional elements such as color, line, shape, texture, and other perceptual aspects rather than content, meaning, or the historical and social context. At its extreme, formalism in art history posits that everything necessary to comprehending a work of art is contained within the work of art. The context of the work, including the reason for its creation, the historical background, and the life of the artist, that is, its conceptual aspect is considered to be external to the artistic medium itself, and therefore of secondary importance.

Books

Jackson Pollock in VOGUE Magazine, 1967

Vogue, Colume 149

Cover of VOGUE

Clement Greenberg's essay, Jackson Pollock: "Inspiration, Vision, Intuitive Decision," first appeared in Vogue, Vol. 149, No.7, April 1, 1967, pp. 158-161.

VOGUE Layout, pages 158-159

The first two pages consist of pictures of Pollock and his work ...

Greenberg's Essay

VOGUE Layout, pages 160-161

... while the last two pages contain the text of the article.

Fashion Spread Before Article, pages 156-157

In addition, the article is surrounded by fashion spreads.

Modern Arts Criticism

Greenberg's essay has been reprinted in Modern Arts Criticism, Vol. 3, 1993, pp. 340-342.

Essay Reprinted in Book, pages 340-341

Its citation for the Vogue article refers only to pages 160-161, omitting any reference to the images. In fact, this anthology includes a completely different illustration of Pollock's work.

Essay Reprinted in Book, pages 342-343

Otis College of Art and Design | 9045 Lincoln Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90045 | Otis Dashboard

Millard Sheets Library | Library Dashboard Site | 310-665-6930 | Ask a Librarian