This volume offers the broadest Italian collection of writings by Clement Greenberg (1909–94), an essential author for anyone with an interest in the period full of formal revolutions that saw the quick succession of artistic avant-garde movements as from the late 19th century. One of the most influential and controversial figures in 20th-century American art criticism, Greenberg bore witness to the decline of the three-dimensional illusionism of easel painting and the gradual triumph of abstract art leading up to the goal of radical flatness, which he saw as the hallmark of modernism. One of the first to sense the shattering importance of the painting of Jackson Pollock and the American Abstract Expressionists, he subsequently endorsed the practitioners of Post-Painterly Abstraction, including Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland. With a corpus of over three hundred essays, Greenberg’s militant criticism accompanied more than forty years of new American art and made a crucial contribution to New York’s replacement of Paris as the world capital of art. The texts are selected here in order to highlight the European cast of his critical thought. The influence of Kant and Trotsky as well as Italian thinkers like Croce and Lionello Venturi can be discerned in a critic capable of taking an exemplary approach to the development of modernism in the visual arts and asserting its values of objectivity. Alongside an acute socio-cultural analysis of the phenomenon of mass culture and its social consequences, Greenberg addressed longstanding topics such as beauty and quality and objective values in art, prompted by the urgent need to oppose the degradation of kitsch and academicism.
An undisputed champion of American art and highly controversial figure, Greenberg still remains a primary interpreter of modernism. Over fifteen years after his death, his legacy of writings is an indispensable aid to orientation in the complex artistic panorama of the second half of the 20th century.