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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Cotton duck canvas and the gray flannel suit : the material dialectics of American formalism Steiner, Shep 1991

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C O T T O N D U C K C A N V A S A N D T H E G R A Y F L A N N E L SUIT: T H E M A T E R I A L D I A L E C T I C S O F A M E R I C A N F O R M A L I S M B y S H E P H E R D F. STEINER B . A . , The University of Alberta, 1985 A THESIS S U B M I T T E D I N P A R T I A L F U L F I L L M E N T O F T H E R E Q U I R E M E N T S F O R T H E D E G R E E O F M A S T E R O F A R T S in T H E F A C U L T Y O F G R A D U A T E S T U D I E S (Department of Fine Arts) W e accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard T H E U N I V E R S I T Y O F B R I T I S H C O L U M B I A A p r i l 1991 (g> Shepherd F . Steiner, 1991 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, 1^  agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my. department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. Department of The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada Date DE-6 (2/88) A B S T R A C T T h i s t h e s i s i s c o n c e r n e d w i t h a r t a n d c u l t u r e i n A m e r i c a f r o m 1 9 4 8 t o 1 9 5 5 , p r i m a r i l y a p e r i o d b o u n d s h i f t i n t h e a e s t h e t i c p r a c t i c e o f m o d e r n i s m w h i c h w o u l d r e s u l t i n t h e s t a i n p a i n t i n g o f M o r r i s L o u i s . T h e p u r p o s e o f t h i s t h e s i s i s t o t r a c e t h e s h i f t i n c u l t u r a l v a l u e s w h i c h w o u l d p r o m o t e t h e e m e r g e n c e a n d d e v e l o p m e n t o f t h i s n e w p a r a d i g m , t h a t i s t o l i n k a w i d e r s o c i a l a n d c u l t u r a l p r o g e n e s i s o f c h a n g e t o i t s f o r m a l a r t i c u l a t i o n u p o n a h i g h l y a e s t h e t i c i z e d a b s t r a c t c a n v a s . C l e m e n t G r e e n b e r g ' s p o s i t i o n i n t h e s e n e g o t i a t i o n s i s c r u c i a l . F o r h i m , t h e f o r m a l q u a l i t i e s o f s t a i n p a i n t i n g r e s o n a t e d a n d w e r e l i n k e d t o t h e l a r g e r c u l t u r a l f i e l d o f a v i t a l a n d p r o s p e r i n g n e w o r d e r . I n t e n s e c o l o r , " o p e n n e s s " , a n d t h e i r i m p l i c a t i o n o f a n o n y m i t y , u n i t e d t o b e c o m e t h e s i g n i f i c a t i o n o f a p a r t i c u l a r k i n d o f p o t e n t i a l , t r a n s l a t e d a s o p t i m i s m , w h i c h h e f e l t t h e m o m e n t p o s s e s s e d . T h i s i n v e s t i g a t i o n w i l l f o c u s o n t h e f o r m a l p r o p e r t i e s o f s t a i n p a i n t i n g a s t h e e l e m e n t s o f a p r o j e c t c l o s e l y r e l a t e d t o t h e p o l i t i c s o f G r e e n b e r g h i m s e l f ; t h a t i n d e e d a g e n e r a t i v e s t y l i s t i c s f o r s t a i n p a i n t i n g , s p e c i f i c a l l y L o u i s ' 1 9 5 4 " V e i l " s e r i e s , i s c o u p l e d t o a d i s t i n c t p o l i t i c a l c u l t u r e a t t h a t t i m e b e i n g e l a b o r a t e d . T h e h i s t o r i c a l l y s p e c i f i c f r a m e w o r k o f t h i s t h e s i s a t t e m p t s t o r e c o n c i l e s o m e o f t h e i n c o n s i s t e n c i e s i n t h e r e c e p t i o n o f s t a i n p a i n t i n g - - i t s l a c k t h e r e o f i n t h e e a r l y 1 9 5 0 s , a n d i t s u l t i m a t e a c c e p t a n c e a n d c r i t i c a l a c c l a i m b y t h e 1 9 6 0 s . i i T h i s t h e s i s c o n t e n d s t h a t t h e f o r m a l q u a l i t i e s o f s t a i n p a i n t i n g w e r e a v e c t i o n f o r t h e p o l i t i c s o f a c o r e g r o u p o f C o l d W a r i n t e l l e c t u a l s i n v o l v e d i n a n a f f i r m a t i v e p r o j e c t f o r c a p i t a l i s m . T h a t i s a n y m e a n i n g — a n d h e n c e t o o w i d e r s u c c e s s — c o l o r , o p e n n e s s , a n d i m p e r s o n a l i t y m i g h t h a v e h a d , g a i n e d r e s o n a n c e o n l y a s t h e p o l i t i c s o f t h i s c o r e o f i n t e l l e c t u a l s t h e m s e l v e s g a i n e d i n p o w e r . T o i n v e s t i g a t e t h e s e i s s u e s t h i s s t u d y p r o b e s t h e c o m p l e x i t i e s a n d t h e k e y p o s i t i o n i n t h e d e b a t e o n p o p u l a r c u l t u r e . I n a n A m e r i c a o f h e i g h t e n e d c o n s u m m e r i s m a n d C o l d W a r t e n s i o n s w h a t e m e r g e s a s c r u c i a l i s a r e c o n c e p t i o n o f t h e i n d i v i d u a l , o f a v a n t g a r d e p r a c t i c e a n d o f m o d e r n i t y i t s e l f . i i i T A B L E O F C O N T E N T S A B S T R A C T i i L I S T O F I L L U S T R A T I O N S v A C K N O W L E D G E M E N T v i I N T R O D U C T I O N 1 C H A P T E R 1 1 3 T h e M i d d l e - C l a s s s u b u r b i a a n d C o n f o r m i t y 2 2 G r e e n b e r g , R i e s m a n a n d T h e V i t a l C e n t e r 3 3 A n t i - C o m m u n i s m a n d t h e A C C F 4 3 C H A P T E R 2 5 0 " T h e P l i g h t o f O u r C u l t u r e " 5 4 A v a n t - G a r d e S t r a t e g i e s a n d t h e I n v a l i d a t i o n o f M a r g i n a l i t y 7 4 C H A P T E R 3 8 0 " M a s t e r L e g e r " : E x p r e s s i o n a n d " I x i o n ' s W h e e l " 8 8 K a f k a : S o u r c e s f o r a P a r t i c u l a r V i s i o n 1 0 5 " ' A m e r i c a n - T y p e ' P a i n t i n g " : V e i l e d P o l i t i c s a n d C u l t u r a l C l o s u r e 1 1 2 C O N C L U S I O N 1 3 1 I L L U S T R A T I O N S 1 3 5 S E L E C T E D B I B L I O G R A P H Y 1 4 6 i v L I S T O F I L L U S T R A T I O N S 1 . M o r r i s L o u i s , Trellis , 1 9 5 3 p . 1 3 5 . 2 . M o r r i s L o u i s , Salient , 1 9 5 4 p . 1 3 6 . 3 . H e l e n F r a n k e n t h a l e r , Mountains and Sea , 1 9 5 2 p . 1 3 7 . 4 . J a c k s o n P o l l o c k , Number 1, 1 9 4 9 p . 1 3 8 . 5 . M o r r i s L o u i s , Terrain of Joy, 1 9 5 4 p . 1 3 9 . 6 . M o r r i s L o u i s , Spreading , 1 9 5 4 p . 1 4 0 . 7 . M o r r i s L o u i s , Iris , 1 9 5 4 p . 1 4 1 . 8 . M o r r i s L o u i s , Intrigue , 1 9 5 4 p . 1 4 2 . 9 . M o r r i s L o u i s , Atomic Crest , 1 9 5 4 p . 1 4 3 . 1 0 . M o r r i s L o u i s , Longitude , 1 9 5 4 p . 1 4 4 . 1 1 . M o r r i s L o u i s p . 1 4 5 . v A C K N O W L E D G E M E N T I a m g r a t e f u l f o r t h e o p p u r t u n i t y o f h a v i n g b e e n a s t u d e n t i n t h e D e p a r t m e n t o f F i n e A r t s , a t T h e U n i v e r s i t y o f B r i t i s h C o l u m b i a . T h e s u p p o r t a n d e n c o u r a g e m e n t o f F a c u l t y m e m b e r s , t h e c a m a r a d e r i e o f s t u d e n t s , a n d t h e e x c e l l e n t l i b r a r y f a c i l i t i e s c o m b i n e d t o m a k e m y p e r i o d o f s t u d y a m o s t e n r i c h i n g o n e . M y s p e c i a l t h a n k s t o t h e o n l y m a n I c a l l c o a c h , P r o f e s s o r S e r g e G u i l b a u t . H e w a s a t a l l t i m e s g e n e r o u s w i t h h i s a d v i c e , e x a c t i n g i n h i s c r i t i c a l a c u m e n , a n d i n t h e t r a n s p o s i t i o n o f t h i s k n o w l e d g e I w a s t h e b e n e f a c t o r . H i s u n f a i l i n g s u p p o r t a n d d i r e c t i o n r e m a i n e d c o n s t a n t t h r o u g h o u t . I a l s o w i s h t o a c k n o w l e d g e m y d e b t t o P r o f e s s o r J o h n O ' B r i a n w h o e n c o u r a g e d a n d c a r e f u l l y s c r u t i n i z e d e v e r y a s p e c t o f m y w o r k . I w o u l d l i k e t o t h a n k A l e x A l b e r r o a n d C a r o l y n J o h n s t o n f o r c r i t i c i z i n g s e c t i o n s o f t h i s t h e s i s a n d a l s o D a v i d H o w a r d w h o s h a r e d h i s k n o w l e d g e o f t h e p e r i o d w i t h m e . A n d f i n a l l y m y t h a n k s t o T u z o , R a c h e l , a n d t h e B a n k o f D o r o t h y . v i INTRODUCTION In early June of 1954 the Washington D . C artist Mor r i s Lou i s sent 9 ro l led canvases of his latest work to the Pierre Matisse Gal le ry i n N e w Y o r k . 1 It was on the suggestion of the art cr i t ic Clement Greenberg that Matisse consider representing L o u i s . Included among the paintings , a l l of which were made by a staining technique, were a number of L o u i s ' first " V e i l " series. In a letter to Greenberg presumably intended to precede the paintings dated June 6, 1954, the artist writes. Just finished rol l ing & wrapping ptgs to go to Matisse. It was the usual struggle wi th my normal doubts re the stuff cont inual ly rising & then concluding that they were, after a l l , ptgs I'd done & I'd have to let it stand at that this time. I real ize I'd gone overboard on the later stuff, none of which you'd seen. B y your arrangement with me you ' l l get to see them & I want that above a l l . A n d this w i l l be the best way to let you know what I'm doing. There are 9 ptgs in the r o l l which R'way Express is supposed to come get tomorrow. A l l are about the same large size but in my mind two of them are different than the cont inui ty of s imple pattern & slow motion of the majority. These two are the rougher ones with lots of black & white areas. Maybe these are lousy enough to interest me now & make me want to explore this further. The others I feel I've about done a l l I feel l ike doing about that episode. For a moment I looked at Trellis (fig. 1) and a couple of others you'd seen before. Just couldn't bring myself to ^See Diane Upright, Morris Louis: The Complete Paintings, (New York: Harry N. Abrams Inc., 1985), p. 15. And Kenworth Moffett, Morris Louis. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston,1979, p.31 2 include them & with all the doubts I ever had about anything I've ever chosen alone I submit this group. 2 Louis ' hesitation was not unfounded. The majority of the paintings he had sent to Matisse , possessed of a "... continuity of simple pattern & slow motion" , were not like anything being produced in New York at that time. Salient (fig. 2), among them is exemplary of an altogether new technique employing a method of staining canvas with washes of stain. In this image an unbroken and continuous field of color is created by pouring highly diluted hues of Magna acrylic paint from the top edge of a streched canvas. These colors are allowed to seep and spread slowly downward , soaking into the very thread-bare nature of the cotton duck canvas. The effect achieved is one in which the delicate washes of seeping stain blend and thinly overlap as i f unaided . Any explanation of, or inherent meaning in the paintings seems itself always circumscribed to a redelineation of this simple productive process. 3 Perhaps it was precisely this acute vacuity of meaning --engendered by a seemingly undisciplined compositional approach which negated the "rough" handling and signifiers so characteristic of a then dominant abstract expressionism — which forced Matisse to 2Morris Louis, letter to Clement Greenberg, 6 June 1954, Clement Greenberg Correspondence, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C. 3 Diane Upright thusly notes " He worked with his canvas tacked to a work strecher; variation in the angled placement of the strecher, the tautness or slackness of the canvas, the viscosity and hue of the paint, the amount of paint poured, and the direction of the pour became his creative means". Diane Upright, Morris Louis: The Complete Paintings, (New York: Harry N. Abrams Inc.,1985), p. 16. reject the paintings. For three years thereafter they were to remain in Greenberg's apartment, rolled and tied. Yet in retrospect these paintings of the first "Vei l " series are considered, by all concerned, to be among the great masterpieces of American modernism. Indeed by the late 1950s and early 1960s they represented for some the most original and advanced international painting. Why would Louis' first " V e i l " series be rejected in 1954 by Matisse and a larger cultural field only to be celebrated and acclaimed with the coming of the 1960s? How could these first "mature" paintings of one of the luminaries of the modernist cannon; a powerful example for 1960s color field painting; an integral force in what would later be called post- painterly abstraction, remain for 3 years forgotten as the excessive and blind vision of a suburban painter whose dining room, removed of its carpet and cleared of its furniture, served as a modest studio. The mysterious circumstances surrounding the "Veils" gain in cultural credibility and resonance is just one of the riveting subjects of this thesis. Primarily this thesis is concerned with American art and culture in the early and mid 1950s ; more specifically with the emergence and development of stain painting. 4 In a period of roughly ten years abstract expressionism, the central paradigm of Amer ican modernism, began breaking down, ultimately to collapse and be 4 I deal specifically with Morris Louis and his first "Veil" series of 1954. For reasons of historical specificity I omit Kenneth Noland and Jules Olitski who would together with Louis comprise what Greenberg in 1964 would name "post-painterly abstraction". Of course my exploration of a generative stylistics for stain painting in the early years of the 1950s, preceeding later works by as much as 10 years, is still informing. s u c c e e d e d b y t h i s h y b r i d s t r a i n o f a b s t r a c t i o n , P o p a r t a n d o t h e r f o r m s . T h e l a r g e , c o l o r s t a i n e d c a n v a s e s o f M o r r i s L o u i s ' f i r s t " V e i l " s e r i e s a r e p a r t i c u l a r l y i m p o r t a n t , e m p h a s i z i n g m e d i u m a n d s t y l e a s a t h r e a d t o c o n t i n u e t h e m o d e r n i s t p a r a d i g m . S u p e r s e d i n g a b s t r a c t e x p r e s s i o n i s m , t h e f o r m a l p e c u l i a r i t i e s o f s t a i n p a i n t i n g p r e s e n t e d , f o r s o m e , t h e m o s t s i g n i f i c a n t a r t i c u l a t i o n o f t h e m o d e r n m o m e n t . T h e p u r p o s e o f t h i s t h e s i s i s t o t r a c e t h e s h i f t i n c u l t u r a l v a l u e s w h i c h w o u l d p r o m o t e t h e e m e r g e n c e a n d d e v e l o p m e n t o f a n e w p a r a d i g m f o r m o d e r n i s m ; t h a t i s t o l i n k a w i d e r s o c i a l a n d c u l t u r a l p r o g e n e s i s o f c h a n g e t o i t s f o r m a l a r t i c u l a t i o n u p o n t h e a b s t r a c t c a n v a s . T h e p r i n c i p l e f o c u s o f t h i s p a p e r i s t h e s h i f t w h i c h o c c u r s i n a e s t h e t i c p r a c t i c e b e g i n n i n g i n t h e e a r l y 1 9 5 0 s . I t s e e m s t h e d o m i n a n t s t y l i s t i c s o f a b s t r a c t e x p r e s s i o n i s m w h i c h h a d g a i n e d i t s t e n u o u s a s c e n d e n c y , a s A m e r i c a n v a r i a n t o f t h e m o d e r n i s t a v a n t -g a r d e i n t h e l a t e 1 9 4 0 s , h a d i n t h i s s u c c e e d i n g d e c a d e l o s t t h e i r c r i t i c a l f o r c e a n d r e s o n a n c e . I t s s t r i d e n t d i s s i d e n c e , i n t r i n s i c a l i e n a t i o n , w h o o l y a n d a n x i e t y r i d d e n f o r m o f a b s t r a c t i o n , w h e r e a s c o n s i s t e n t w i t h t h e p o l i t i c a l a n d c u l t u r a l t e m p e r o f t h e l a t e 1 9 4 0 s , w a s s o m e h o w a l t o g e t h e r d a t e d a m i d s t t h e m o u n t i n g n e w m o o d e m b r a c i n g A m e r i c a i n t h e d e c a d e a f t e r m i d - c e n t u r y . F o r C l e m e n t G r e e n b e r g , t h e f o r m a l q u a l i t i e s o f L o u i s ' s t a i n p a i n t i n g s w e r e t h e m o s t a d v a n c e d a r t i c u l a t i o n o f t h i s A m e r i c a n m o m e n t , w h e r e h i s t o r i c a l e x p e r i e n c e w a s m o s t a u t h e n t i c a l l y p r e s e r v e d 5 . 5See Clement Greenberg, "The Plight of Our Culture", Commentary, vol. 15 , (June-July, 1953), p. 566. Though the reference is not made specifically to Louis' work or indeed any visual format, I extrapolate upon this very point in chapter 2. 5 W h a t i s i m p o r t a n t t o n o t e a t t h e o u t s e t i s s t a i n p a i n t i n g s a b s o l u t e l a c k o f e x p o s u r e a n d c r i t i c a l s u c c e s s i n t h e a r t w o r l d u n t i l 1 9 5 7 o r e v e n 1 9 5 8 . W h i l e L o u i s h a d c o m p l e t e d h i s f i r s t " V e i l " s e r i e s i n 1 9 5 4 , i t s s u c c e s s w a s e x t r e m e l y l i m i t e d a n d r e g i o n a l 6 . T h o s e f a c t o r s w h i c h a c c o u n t f o r t h i s l a c k o f s u c c e s s a n d e x c l u s i o n d u r i n g t h e e a r l y a n d m i d 1 9 5 0 s w i l l b e e x p l o r e d . F u n d a m e n t a l t o m y t h e s i s a r e t h e s e e a r l y f o r m a t i v e y e a r s , w h e n a s t y l i s t i c s w a s f i r s t g i v e n g e n e s i s . 7 T o p u r s u e t h i s a i m I f i r s t e n g a g e i n t h e c r i t i c a l 6Of only the few exhibition reviews on Louis duringl954 and 1955, none make specific reference to the "Veil" series. See Stuart Preston, "Gallery Variety", The New York Times, Sunday, Jan. 17, 1954. James Fitzsimmons "A Critic Picks Some Promising Painters", Art Digest, vol.28, no. 8, 1954, p.10. Leslie Judd Portner's "Art in Washington", Washington Post and Herald Tribune, Washington D.C.June 5, p. E.7. Leslie Judd Portner's "Art in Washington", Washington Post and Herald Tribune, Washington D . C , Oct. 16, p.E7. 71 use the term "stylistics" here very carefully, and in the sense delineated by Mikhail Bakhtin. "Form and content in discourse are one, once we understand that verbal discourse is a social phenomenon — social throughout its entire range and in each and every of its factors, from the sound image to the furthest reaches of abstract meaning. It is this idea that has motivated our emphasis on "the stylistics of genre." The separation of style and language from the question of genre has been largely responsible for a situation in which only individual and period-bound overtones of a style are the privileged subjects of study, while its basic social tone is ignored. The great historical destinies of genres are overshadowed by the petty vicissitudes of stylistic modifications, which in their turn are linked with individual artists and artistic movements. For this reason, stylistics has been deprived of an authentic philosophical and sociological approach to its problems; it has become bogged down in stylistic trivia; it is not able to sense behind the individual and period-bound shifts the great and anonymous destinies of artistic discourse itself. More often than not, stylistics defines itself as a stylistics of "private craftsmanship" and ignores the social life of discourse outside the artist's study, discourse in the open spaces of public squares, streets, cities and villages, of social groups, generations and epochs. Stylistics is concerned not with living discourse but with a histological specimen made from it, with abstract linguistic discourse in the service of an artist's individual creative powers. But these individual and tendentious overtones of style, cut off from the fundamentally social modes in which discourse lives, inevitably come across as flat and abstract in such a formulation and cannot therefore be studied in organic unity with a work's semantic components." M. Bakhtin "Discourse in the Novel" inThe Dialogic Imagination, edited by M.Holquist, trans. C.Emerson and M. Holquist (Austin:Univ. of Texas Press, 1981), p. 259. w r i t i n g s o f C l e m e n t G r e e n b e r g , t h e c e n t r a l a p o l o g i s t f o r t h e s t y l e , w h o s e p o s i t i o n o f f e r s t h e k e y p e r s p e c t i v e a n d e n t r a n c e i n t o d e b a t e s s u r r o u n d i n g t h i s p a r a d i g m a l s h i f t . A n u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f G r e e n b e r g ' s s h i f t i n g t h e o r y o f m o d e r n i s m i s c r u c i a l t o t h i s i n v e s t i g a t i o n , a s w e l l o f f e r i n g a n i n i t i a l e n t r a n c e i n t o t h e c o m p l e x i t i e s o f t h e n e w a b s t r a c t i d i o m . E v e n a s e a r l y a s 1 9 4 8 G r e e n b e r g o c c u p i e d a c e n t r a l p o s i t i o n i n t h e c u l t u r a l l a n d s c a p e o f t h e N e w Y o r k a r t s c e n e ; h i s p a r t i c u l a r t h e o r y o f a r t w a s c o m p l e x a n d m a t u r e p r o v i n g t o b e p i v o t a l i n t h e c u l t u r a l p o l i t i c s o f i n t e r n a t i o n a l d i p l o m a c y . 8 C l o s e l y a s s o c i a t e d w i t h t h e a b s t r a c t e x p r e s s i o n i s t m o v e m e n t h i s v o i c e w a s a s w e l l c e n t r a l t o s t a i n p a i n t i n g s n e g o t i a t i o n s . T h r o u g h o u t t h e e a r l y 1 9 5 0 s a s l o w s h i f t i n g o f f o c u s t o w a r d n e w f o r m a l p r i o r i t i e s c a n b e t r a c k e d w i t h i n h i s w r i t i n g s . K e y f o r m a l d e p a r t u r e s p o i n t e d t o b y H e l e n F r a n k e n t h a l e r a n d s e l e c t i v e f e a t u r e s p i c k e d u p f r o m a b s t r a c t e x p r e s s i o n i s m a n d p u r s u e d b y M o r r i s L o u i s a r e s e i z e d u p o n b y G r e e n b e r g a s p r o g r e s s i v e a n d a d v a n c e d , p r e c i s e l y b e c a u s e t h e y r e - a r t i c u l a t e d t h r o u g h f o r m a l m e a n s a m o d e r n m o m e n t v a s t l y d i f f e r e n t f r o m t h e p r e c e d i n g o n e . G r e e n b e r g r e a l i z e d t h e n e w r e s o n a n c e s t h e i m a g e s c a r r i e d w e r e l i n k e d t o t h e l a r g e r c u l t u r a l f i e l d a n d t o t h o s e a l t e r e d p o l i t i c a l n e e d s s e e k i n g r e p r e s e n t a t i o n , w h i c h a b s t r a c t e x p r e s s i o n i s m ' s s o l i d i f i e d p r a c t i c e c o u l d n o l o n g e r i n c o r p o r a t e o r s u s t a i n . T h e t e r m s o f G r e e n b e r g ' s f o r m a l i s t c r i t i c i s m a s s e r t t h e m e d i u m s p e c i f i c u n i q u e n e s s o f p a i n t i n g , a s b e i n g g i v e n t o f l a t n e s s a n d i n t e n s i t y o f c o l o r , b o t h o f w h i c h a r e s u b o r d i n a t e d t o t h e h i g h e r 8See Serge Guilbaut , "How New York Stole the Idea of Modern Art",trans. A. Goldhammer,(Chicago: Univ. Chicago Press, 1983). s t y l i s t i c u n i t y o f t h e w o r k a s a w h o l e . W h i l e t h e o r d e r o f a e s t h e t i c e x p e r i e n c e w a s a u t o n o m o u s , t h e i m p l i c a t i o n o f o u t s i d e i n f l u e n c e o n t h e t e l e o l o g i c a l p r o g r e s s i o n o f m o d e r n i s t a r t t o w a r d f o r m a l p u r i t y i s c a r e f u l l y v e i l e d . A d v a n c i n g f r o m t h e g e s t u r e d a n d t h i c k l y f o r m e d " p a i n t e r l i n e s s " o f a b s t r a c t e x p r e s s i o n i s m , G r e e n b e r g i a n m o d e r n i s m w o u l d s e e m i n g l y r e a c h a s t a g e i n i t s i m p u l s i o n t o w a r d a t e r m i n a l f o r m i n t h e " V e i l p a i n t i n g s " o f L o u i s . I n t h e s e , s t a i n a n d f a c t u r e c o n t r i b u t e t o t h e k e y f o r m a l p r e r o g a t i v e s , a s G r e e n b e r g c o n c e i v e d t h e m , o f c o l o r a n d o p e n n e s s . I t i s t h e s e f o r m a l p r o p e r t i e s t h a t I w i l l i n v e s t i g a t e a s t h e q u a l i t i e s o f a m u c h w i d e r p r o j e c t . A l t h o u g h t h e e m e r g e n c e o f t h i s n e w p a r a d i g m f o r m o d e r n i s m n e a t l y f o l l o w s w i t h i n t h e l i m i t s o f s u c h f o r m a l i s t d i s c o u r s e , i n e x o r a b l y i n t e n t o n p u r i f i c a t i o n , t h e n e w a e s t h e t i c r e c o n c i l i a t i o n o w e s , a s w e s h a l l s e e , m u c h m o r e t o t h e a l t e r e d n a t u r e o f A m e r i c a ' s p o l i t i c a l a n d c u l t u r a l c l i m a t e d u r i n g t h e 1 9 5 0 s ; t h a t i s , t h e f o r m a l i m p e r a t i v e w h i c h L o u i s ' e a r l y " V e i l " s e r i e s e l a b o r a t e d w a s c o u p l e d t o a n i d e o l o g i c a l c o n t i n g e n c y c o n s c i o u s l y a n d s u r r e p t i t i o u s l y v e i l e d b e n e a t h a e s t h e t i c i z e d p r a c t i c e , a n d t h a t t h e w o r k ' s a n d m o v e m e n t ' s l a t e r s u c c e s s i s i n l a r g e p a r t d u e t o a r e s o n a n c e c o n t a i n e d t h e r e i n . T h i s i n v e s t i g a t i o n w i l l f o c u s u p o n t h e p a r t i c u l a r c o n s t e l l a t i o n o f f o r c e s w h i c h w o u l d p r e c i p i t a t e t h e n e c e s s i t y o f s u c h t e l e o l o g i c a l m o v e m e n t a n d w h y f o r m a l v a l u e s a n d q u a l i t i e s e x e m p l a r y o f t h e i d i o m w o u l d b e s e t t l e d u p o n . T o b r o a c h t h e s e i s s u e s I t a k e u p d e b a t e s c i r c u l a t i n g a r o u n d a r t a n d c u l t u r e w i t h i n a n e l i t e a n d r a r i f i e d g r o u p o f A m e r i c a n i n t e l l e c t u a l s , l o o s e l y i d e n t i f i e d w i t h t h e " n e w l i b e r a l i s m " , o f w h i c h G r e e n b e r g w a s a p a r t . T h e i n t e l l e c t u a l p o s i t i o n r e p r e s e n t e d , t h o u g h p a r t i c i p a t i n g i n a b r o a d m o u n t i n g o p t i m i s m i n A m e r i c a n c u l t u r e , w a s d i s t i n c t f r o m t h a t s a m e m a n i f e s t a t i o n o f A m e r i c a n L i b e r a l i s m w h i c h s e e m s t o s o p e r v a s i v e l y c h a r a c t e r i z e t h e p e r i o d . D u r i n g t h e u n s e t t l e d p e r i o d o f p o w e r s t r u g g l e i n t h e 1 9 5 0 s a s l i b e r a l i s m g a i n e d m o m e n t u m , t h i s d i s t i n c t f a c t i o n w i t h i n t h e l a r g e r m o v e m e n t r a l l i e d f o r p o s i t i o n . A s s o c i a t e d w i t h t h e p o s i t i o n s o f D a v i d R i e s m a n a n d A r t h u r S c h l e s i n g e r , i t w o u l d b e a v e r s i o n o f t h e i r p o l i t i c a l p l a t f o r m a n d U t o p i a n p r o j e c t w h i c h e m e r g e d a s d o m i n a n t a n d c e n t r a l t o J o h n F . K e n n e d y ' s " n e w f r o n t i e r " o f t h e e a r l y 1 9 6 0 s . S u c h a l i m i t e d f o c u s c a n b e d e b i l i t a t i n g , e s p e c i a l l y a m i d s t t h e h e t e r o g e n e o u s c o n f i g u r a t i o n o f d i s c o u r s e s , a l w a y s e m e r g i n g a n d c i r c u l a t i n g . Y e t , I f e e l s u c h a f o c u s i s v a l i d , f o r t h e s e s p e c i f i c a t t e m p t s t o d e f i n e a p a r t i c u l a r v i s i o n o f A m e r i c a w e r e i n r e a c t i o n t o t h o s e o t h e r m o d e l s i n c i r c u l a t i o n . T h i s i m p o r t a n t t e n s i o n w i l l b e k e p t i n t a c t . T h r o u g h t h e s p e c i f i c i t y o f m y a p p r o a c h , I h o p e t o b e t t e r c r y s t a l l i z e t h r e a t e n i n g a n d / o r e m e r g i n g c o n s t r u c t i o n s o f t h e c u l t u r a l f i e l d a n d s o c i a l f o r m a t i o n b y r e c r e a t i n g t h e t e n s i o n a n d r e s i s t a n c e m o b i l i z e d b y t h i s o n e f r a g m e n t e d , t h o u g h p e r h a p s a l s o d o m i n a n t a r t i c u l a t i o n o f t h e h i s t o r i c a l m o m e n t . . . a m o m e n t i n w h i c h t h e d y n a m i c s o f s o c i a l a n d p o l i t i c a l c h a n g e p o s e d a n e n o r m o u s t h r e a t t o t h i s h y b r i d b u b b l e o f i n t e l l e c t u a l d i s c o u r s e , a f a c t i o n w i t h i n w h i c h w a s f a c i l i t a t e d b y h i g h m o d e r n i s m . T h e c r i t i c a l w r i t i n g s o f t h i s s h i f t i n g i n t e l l e c t u a l c o n s t e l l a t i o n , p l a c e d w i t h i n t h e i r h i s t o r i c a l c o n t e x t , r e v e a l t h e o r i g i n a l s i g n i f i c a n c e a n d f a r - r a n g i n g r a m i f i c a t i o n s o f d e b a t e s o s c i l l a t i n g a r o u n d a c e n t r a l c o r e o f s e e m i n g l y r a r i f i e d i d e a s a n d i s s u e s . T h e v e r y h i g h s t a k e s i n v o l v e d i n t h e s t r u g g l e f o r a e s t h e t i c s u p r e m a c y s t a n d o u t . M y a t t e m p t w i l l b e t o u n r a v e l t h e u t t e r u r g e n c y o f t h e c u l t u r a l m o m e n t a s t h e h o t l y c o n t e s t e d s t r u g g l e i t w a s . T h e v o i c e o f h i g h m o d e r n i s m a n d i t s f a c i l i t a t o r s , t h e d o m i n a n t v o i c e f o r a t i m e , I b e l i e v e , e m e r g e s a s h a v i n g v e r y m u c h t o l o s e i n t h e l e v e l l e d d e m o c r a t i c a n d c a p i t a l i s t f o r m a t i o n w h i c h e v e n t s s e e m e d t o p r o m i s e . T h e r e w a s n e v e r t h e l e s s a c o u n t e r v a i l i n g m o d e o f p o s s i b i l i t y w h i c h p r o v i d e d a s t r o n g e r o p t i m i s m . T h i s w a s l o c a t e d a t t h e b a s e o f t h e e m e r g i n g A m e r i c a n e c o n o m i c s y s t e m , i . e . c a p i t a l i s m h i e r a r c h i c l y s t r u c t u r e d b y t h e c o r p o r a t e m e g a - m o d e l . L i n k e d t o t h i s d i s c u s s i o n i s t h e e m e r g e n c e a n d c o n s o l i d a t i o n f r o m w i t h i n a p r o s p e r o u s m i d d l e c l a s s o f a p o w e r f u l m a n a g e r i a l e l i t e w h o c o n s t i t u t e d t h e t o p e c h e l o n o f t h i s A m e r i c a n c o r p o r a t e s p h e r e . I t w a s t o t h i s s t r e a m l i n e d h i e r a r c h y o f A m e r i c a n c a p i t a l i s m t h a t i n t e l l e c t u a l i n t e r e s t s f o c u s s e d , a n d i n a s m u c h a s t h e i r i m a g i n a t i v e o u t p u t h e l d t h e p r o m i s e o f p o s s i b i l i t y s o , t o o , t h e i m a g e s o f L o u i s e n c a p s u l a t e d t h e q u a l i t i e s o f a s i m i l a r p r o j e c t f o r G r e e n b e r g . B y r e s t o r i n g t h e c o n t e x t o f G r e e n b e r g ' s n e g o t i a t i o n s , I h o p e t o b r i n g t h e i n e l u c t a b l e l i n k s b e t w e e n a n a b s t r a c t v i s u a l d i s c o u r s e a n d i t s e l i t i s t i d e o l o g i c a l c o m p o n e n t t o l i g h t . T h e s o c i a l t o n e a n d m o d e e x p r e s s e d i n k e y b o o k s a n d a r t i c l e s o f t h i s i n t e l l e c t u a l c i r c l e — w i t h w h i c h G r e e n b e r g ' s o w n p o s i t i o n c a n b e i d e n t i f i e d — w i l l b e u s e d a s a s e m a n t i c g u i d e t o u n v e i l t h e s t y l i s t i c s o f s t a i n p a i n t i n g . N e g o t i a t i n g a s p a c e w i t h i n t h i s l a r g e r c i r c l e , a n d m o s t c l o s e l y a s s o c i a t e d w i t h t h e p o s i t i o n s o f t h e s o c i o l o g i s t D a v i d R i e s m a n a n d t h e i d e o l o g u e s A r t h u r S c h l e s i n g e r , J r . , a n d D a n i e l B e l l , G r e e n b e r g ' s a e s t h e t i c p r e s c r i p t i o n o p e r a t e s a s a v e i l e d m e t a p h o r i c c o d e a i m e d a t a p a r t i c u l a r c o n s t i t u e n c y , c o n s i s t i n g o f A m e r i c a ' s e m e r g i n g m a n a g e r i a l e l i t e . T h e n e w v a l u e s y s t e m i n h i g h m o d e r n i s m , a s e x p r e s s e d b y G r e e n b e r g , s e e m s t o p o i n t a t a n a t t e m p t t o r e a c t i v a t e a c o n n e c t i o n b e t w e e n a n a f f i r m a t i v e a v a n t -g a r d e a n d t h i s n e w e l i t e , p o s i t e d a s a n i d e a l p u b l i c f o r m o d e r n i s t a r t . F o r t h e s e e a r l y C o l d W a r i n t e l l e c t u a l s , a n a t i o n w h e r e t h e f r o n t i e r s o f d e m o c r a c y a n d c a p i t a l i s m t o g e t h e r m e r g e d h a r m o n i o u s l y i n s o c i a l e x p e r i m e n t , o f f e r e d t h e s o l e a l t e r n a t i v e t o t h e " r a d i c a l e v i l n e s s " o f t o t a l i t a r i a n s o c i e t y , a n a s s e n t i n g r e l a t i o n s h i p t o w a r d A m e r i c a n s o c i e t y w a s n e c e s s i t a t e d . A t t h e s a m e t i m e , h o w e v e r , t h e p e r c e i v e d t h r e a t t h a t t h i s e m e r g i n g f o r m a t i o n p o s e d c o u l d n o t b e d i s m i s s e d . W i t h t h e m a s s i v e e x p a n s i o n o f c o n s u m e r i s m i n t h e p o s t -w a r p e r i o d , t h a t i s , t h e c o l o n i z a t i o n b y c a p i t a l i s m o f a r e a s o f s o c i a l a n d c u l t u r a l p r a c t i c e o n c e t h o u g h t e x e m p t f r o m m a r k e t i n f l u e n c e , l e i s u r e , p r i v a t e l i f e , a n d p e r h a p s m o s t i m p o r t a n t l y , p e r s o n a l f r e e d o m , c h o i c e , a n d e x p r e s s i o n - - w h a t m i g h t c o n s t i t u t e i n d i v i d u a l i t y — w e r e c o n s i d e r e d u n d e r s i e g e . A n e w c o n s t r u c t i o n o f t h e i n d i v i d u a l w a s a n e c e s s i t y . I t h a d t o r e t a i n a s p a c e f o r d i s t i n c t i o n a n d d i f f e r e n c e , a s p a c e f o r p e r s o n a l f r e e d o m a n d c h o i c e w h i c h t h e m a c h i n a t i o n s o f a g r o w i n g i n s t r u m e n t a l r a t i o n a l i t y a n d c o n f o r m i t y p i t t e d a g a i n s t t h e f r e e i n d i v i d u a l . T h e r e - n e g o t i a t i o n o f i n d i v i d u a l i s m n e c e s s i t a t e d i n t h e f a c e o f t h e c h o i c e l e s s " T o t a l i t a r i a n m a n " a b r o a d , a n d t h e h e i g h t e n e d c o n f o r m i t y a n d a b s o r p t i o n o f t h e i n d i v i d u a l i n a c u l t u r e h i n g i n g u p o n m i d d l e - c l a s s c o n f o r m i t y a n d c o n s u m p t i o n a t h o m e , i s i n t e g r a l t o t h i s i n t e l l e c t u a l c i r c l e , a n d e s s e n t i a l i n d e f i n i n g G r e e n b e r g ' s p o s i t i o n . 9 91 will attempt to balance his position between others, hinging on several crucial issues , and operating on a number of dimensions. Greenberg's articles , appearing mainly in the journal Commentary will be historically relocated and placed once again within their original context. Set against the C e r t a i n l y , p r i n c i p a l a m o n g c o n d i t i o n s w h i c h f o s t e r e d G r e e n b e r g i a n m o d e r n i s m ' s n e w p a r a d i g m w a s a r e a c t i o n t o p r e c i s e l y t h e i m p l i c a t i o n s o f a n i n t e r n a l e x t e n s i o n o f t h e c a p i t a l i s t m a r k e t . T h e m u t e d a n d a e s t h e t i c i z e d f o r m w h i c h w a s e l a b o r a t e d w a s i n p a r t  a r e s p o n s e t o t h e d i m i n i s h e d b r e a t h i n g s p a c e f o r w h a t w a s c l a i m e d t o b e t r u e c u l t u r e . A f t e r t h e g r i m e a s e w i t h w h i c h a b s t r a c t e x p r e s s i o n i s m ' s c h a r g e d i n d i v i d u a l i s m b e c a m e q u i c k l y a p p r o p r i a t e d a s g e s t u r e o f r e i f i e d s t y l e , t h e s t r u g g l e i n t h e a e s t h e t i c r e a l m i t s e l f b e c a m e i n c r e d i b l y m a g n i f i e d a n d h e i g h t e n e d . P a r a m o u n t a m o n g f a c t o r s s o l i d i f y i n g t h e c u l t u r a l i m p o r t a n c e o f t h e n e w s t y l e i s t h e e m e r g e n c e a n d s u b s e q u e n t s u c c e s s o f p o p a r t . W i t h i t s c o n s u m e r i s t o r i e n t e d i m p e t u s a n d a s s o c i a t i o n s w i t h m a s s c u l t u r e , i t s c o n s t r u c t e d d i f f e r e n c e o f f e r e d t h e m o s t i m p o r t a n t o f p r o d u c t i v e t e n s i o n s w h i c h l e n t m e a n i n g t o t h e o t h e r w i s e a e s t h e t i c i z e d a n d i n s c r u t a b l e p r o d u c t i o n o f M o r r i s L o u i s . T e n s i o n e d o f f a g a i n s t p o p a r t , i n d e e d r e s p o n d i n g t o a n d d e p e n d i n g o n i t s e x i s t e n c e a n d s t r e n g t h o f o p p o s i t i o n , s t a i n p a i n t i n g i n t h e l a t e r 1 9 5 0 s w a s t o g a i n i n a n i m p o r t a n t d e g r e e o f c u l t u r a l c r e d i b i l i t y . I t f u r t h e r e n t r e n c h e d i t s e l f a s a l a s t d e f e n c e a g a i n s t t h e i n c u r s i o n s o f a n i n c r e a s i n g l y p e r v a s i v e c o n s u m p t i o n o r i e n t e d s o c i e t y . backdrop of the Cold War, and within the framework of a historical and economic background, they will be placed within the intellectual orbit in which they were originally conceived; the continued influence generated by Arthur Schlesinger's 1948 book The Vital Center ; the new cultural introversion and interest in the American paradigm of social practice as exemplified in David Riesman's highly influential 1948 book The Lonely Crowd : A Study of the Changing American Character ; and the critical writings of Daniel Bell, later collected in The End of Ideology: On the Exhaustion of Political Ideas in the Fifties (1960). I n t u r n i n g t o s p e c i f i c r e a d i n g s o f i m a g e s , I w a n t t o o p e n u p t h e p o s s i b i l i t y o f d e f i n i n g t h e a n x i e t y o f a p p r o p r i a t i o n w h i c h s t r u c t u r e d t h e h i g h l y a e s t h e t i c i z e d a b s t r a c t f o r m w h i c h G r e e n b e r g c o n s i d e r e d r e s o n a n t w i t h m o d e r n i t y ... a f o r m a l i d i o m w h i c h s i m u l t a n e o u s l y s o u g h t t o c o n t r o l a n d c i r c u m s c r i b e r e c e p t i o n a n d t h e s e c o n d a r y g e n e r a t i o n o f m e a n i n g t o a n i d e a l l y c o n s t r u c t e d a r t p u b l i c . T a k i n g u p a n d c o n t r i b u t i n g t o t h e h i s t o r i o g r a p h i c a l d e b a t e s u r r o u n d i n g t h e s e i m a g e s I s k e t c h i n t h e machinic 1 0 c u l t u r a l p r o b l e m a t i c p e r s i s t e n t l y l e f t v a c a n t i n t h e l i t e r a t u r e — i t s e l f a k e y f u n c t i o n o f t h e m o d e r n i s t e p i s t e m e — s i n g u l a r l y e n f o r c e d b y t h e p o e t i c m o d e o f s t a i n p a i n t i n g 1 1 . I n t h e p r o c e s s o f a r g u m e n t , t h e a r t i s t i s l o s t a m i d s t a t a n g l e o f r e l a t i o n s h i p s i n w h i c h t h e e x p e c t a t i o n o f m e a n i n g , a c c e s s e d t h r o u g h t a s t e , i s p r i v i l e g e d . I b e l i e v e t h i s l o s s o f a g e n c y i s r i g h t l y p o s e d . F o r i t s e r v e s a s m e t a p h o r t o t h e c o m p l e x n e g o t i a t i o n s w h i c h L o u i s ' d i s e m b o d i e d , " h a n d s o f f " t e c h n i q u e e n f o r c e d a n d e n t a i l e d , i n t h e c o n t e x t o f a s o c i e t y n e w l y f a c i n g w h a t w a s c o n c e i v e d o f a s u t t e r c o n f o r m i t y . I n t h e a l t e r e d c o n d i t i o n s o f A m e r i c a i n t h e 1 9 5 0 s t h e s p a c e r e q u i r e d f o r c r e a t i v e f r e e d o m , s o G r e e n b e r g a n d h i s c i r c l e t h o u g h t , h a d n e c e s s a r i l y e v a c u a t e d a n y t r a c e o r c o n t i n g e n c y o f n a t u r e o r p a r t i c u l a r i t y i n a t r a d i t i o n a l a v a n t -g a r d e s e n s e , p o s i t i n g i n s t e a d t h e d i s g u i s e d t a p e s t r y o f t h e m u l t i t u d e a n d t h e a n o n y m o u s , i n c o m p r e h e n s i b l e p r o c e s s e s o f h i s t o r y a s c r e a t i v e a n d s t r u c t u r i n g m e c h a n i s m . ^See Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari , Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature, trans. D. Polan, foreword by R. Bensmaia, (Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1986). ^Michael Fried intimates at this reading in his book Morris Louis, (New York: Harry N. Abrams Inc. 1971) 1 3 C H A P T E R 1 O n t h e w e e k e n d o f A p r i l 3 , 1 9 5 3 K e n n e t h N o l a n d a n d M o r r i s L o u i s a c c o m p a n i e d b y C l e m e n t G r e e n b e r g , v i s i t e d t h e s t u d i o o f H e l e n F r a n k e n t h a l e r o n 2 3 r d s t . a n d 7 t h a v e n u e i n N e w Y o r k . I t w o u l d b e L o u i s ' s f i r s t t r i p t o N e w Y o r k a n d t h e f i r s t t i m e h e w o u l d m e e t i n p e r s o n t h e c r i t i c C l e m e n t G r e e n b e r g 1 2 . T h o u g h N o l a n d , i n t h e s u m m e r o f 1 9 5 0 , h a d b e e n e x p o s e d t o t h e p a r t i c u l a r i t i e s o f G r e e n b e r g ' s i n t e r p r e t a t i o n o f m o d e r n a r t a t V e r m o n t ' s B l a c k M o u n t a i n C o l l e g e 1 3 , i t w o u l d b e t h e f i r s t t i m e t h e c o r e p a i n t e r s o f w h a t w o u l d l a t e r b e c a l l e d p o s t - p a i n t e r l y a b s t r a c t i o n g a i n e d f i r s t -h a n d e x p o s u r e t o t h e c o n t e m p o r a r y N e w Y o r k a r t s c e n e t h r o u g h t h e g u i d i n g v i s i o n o f A m e r i c a ' s f o r e m o s t f o r m a l i s t a r t c r i t i c . E s p e c i a l l y o f c o n s e q u e n c e f o r t h e t w o r e l a t i v e l y i s o l a t e d a r t i s t s f r o m t h e s u b u r b s o f W a s h i n g t o n D . C . w a s t h e p r o f o u n d e f f e c t , e v e n " r e v e l a t i o n " ( o r s o t h e o f t e n r e p e a t e d s t o r y g o e s ) , a f f o r d e d b y t h e m i d d l e p e r i o d P o l l o c k s a n d " . . . a l a r g e a n d e x t r a o r d i n a r y p a i n t i n g d o n e i n 1 9 5 2 b y H e l e n F r a n k e n t h a l e r c a l l e d Mountains and Sea " 1 4 ( f i g . 3 ) . T h i s m o m e n t , a n d t h e e n t h u s i a s t i c r e s p o n s e e n g e n d e r e d , h a s b e e n t a k e n 1 2See Michael Fried, Morris Louis, (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1971), p. 11. Also John Elderfield, The Paintings of Morris Louis, (New York: Little Brown and Co., 1987 ). Diane Upright, Morris Louis : The Complete Paintings, (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 198?), p. 60. Kenworth Moffett, Morris Louis .-Museum of Fine Arts Boston, (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1979), p.3. 13Greenberg was giving a session devoted to Kant's Critique of Aesthetic Judgement 1 4Clement Greenberg, "Louis and Noland", Art International, vol.IV.no.5, May 25, 1960. f a i t h f u l l y i n a r t h i s t o r i c a l c r i t i c i s m a s a c r i t i c a l j u n c t u r e a n d t r a n s i t i o n p o i n t f o r b o t h a r t i s t s ' w o r k s . T h i s I w o u l d n o t d i s p u t e , b u t o n l y q u a l i f y i n t e n s e l y . G r e e n b e r g ' s t h e o r y o f m o d e r n a r t , w i t h a m a r k e d p r e d i s p o s i t i o n f o r t h e f o r m a l m e c h a n i c s o f m e d i u m a n d s t y l i s t i c i n f l u e n c e s w a s , d u r i n g t h e e a r l y 1 9 5 0 s , a r t i c u l a t i n g a v e r y s p e c i f i c l i n e o n A m e r i c a n m o d e r n i s m . I n c o n t r a s t t o t h e a e s t h e t i c s o f a c t i o n f o r e f r o n t e d b y H a r o l d R o s e n b e r g i n r e s p o n s e t o a b s t r a c t e x p r e s s i o n i s m , f o r i n s t a n c e , G r e e n b e r g p r i o r i z e s t h e o b j e c t a n d t h e p a i n t e d s u r f a c e a s a e s t h e t i c e n t i t y , d e n y i n g a n y o f t h e e x i s t e n t i a l i s t f e r v o r i m p l i c i t i n t h e f o r m e r s r e a d i n g . T h e t e r m s o f G r e e n b e r g i a n m o d e r n i s m c o n t i n u e w i t h i n t h e c u l t u r a l t r a d i t i o n a n d l e g a c y o f t h e E n l i g h t e n m e n t , e m p h a s i z i n g t h e m e d i u m s p e c i f i c l o g i c o f a r t a n d t h e a u t o n o m o u s n a t u r e o f a e s t h e t i c e x p e r i e n c e o r t a s t e . T h e h i s t o r y o f m o d e r n a r t w a s h o m o l o g o u s t o t h e i d e a o f m o d e r n i t y , i t s e l f r e l a t e d t o s o c i e t a l m o d e r n i z a t i o n , b u t n e c e s s a r i l y p u r s u e d a s a n a u t o n o m o u s s p h e r e o f c u l t u r e t o d e v e l o p p o t e n t i a l t o i t s g r e a t e s t e x t e n t . G r e e n b e r g ' s a e s t h e t i c p r e s c r i p t i o n t e n u o u s l y b a l a n c e s t h e d i a l e c t i c s o f h i s e a r l i e r a n t i - S t a l i n i s t L e f t y e a r s a n d a n a d v a n c e d f o r m a l i s m w h i c h m e r g e a s d i a l e c t i c a l i m a g e 1 5 . T h e p u r s u i t o f a r t ' s i n n e r l o g i c , f o r G r e e n b e r g , g i v e n t o f l a t n e s s a n d i n t e n s i t y o f c o l o r , i s e x p r e s s e d t h r o u g h t h e t e r m s o f f o r m a l c r i t i c i s m a s s e r t i n g t h e m e d i u m s p e c i f i c u n i q u e n e s s o f p a i n t i n g . L o u i s ' f i r s t " V e i l " s e r i e s o c c u p i e d a p o s i t i o n o n t h e f u r t h e s t e x t r e m i t e s o f t h i s d i s c u r s i v e a n d t e l e o l o g i c a l f i e l d . A s 1 5 A s late as the early 1940s Alan Wald situates Greenberg's politic's in the sphere of influence of the Shachtman Group, a Trotskyist splinter organization. The notion of dialectical image will be more fully delineated and explored in chapter 3. s u c h o p e n n e s s a n d p u r e c o l o r , t h e e l e m e n t a l c o n s t i t u e n t s a n d d e s t i n i e s o f e a s e l p a i n t i n g a r e i n t h e " V e i l s " i d e n t i f i e d a s i m m a n e n t t o t h e m e d i u m . J a c k s o n P o l l o c k , f r o m 1 9 4 8 t o 1 9 5 1 , w a s t h e p r e - e m i n e n t p a i n t e r i n G r e e n b e r g ' s a e s t h e t i c h i e r a r c h y o f A m e r i c a n m o d e r n i s m . G r e e n b e r g w r i t e s : " I h a v e a t t i m e s p o i n t e d o u t w h a t I b e l i e v e a r e s o m e o f ( P o l l o c k ' s ) s h o r t c o m i n g s — n o t a b l y i n r e s p e c t t o c o l o r . B u t t h e w e i g h t o f t h e e v i d e n c e s t i l l c o n v i n c e s m e ... t h a t P o l l o c k i s i n a c l a s s b y h i m s e l f . O t h e r s m a y h a v e g r e a t e r g i f t s a n d m a i n t a i n a m o r e e v e n l e v e l o f s u c c e s s , b u t n o o n e i n t h i s p e r i o d r e a l i z e s a s m u c h a n d a s s t r o n g l y a n d a s t r u l y . " 1 6 F o r G r e e n b e r g , P o l l o c k ' s g r e a t l e g a c y , a n d t h a t o f t h e f i r s t g e n e r a t i o n o f a b s t r a c t e x p r e s s i o n i s t s , w a s t o f o r w a r d m o d e r n i s m ' s t e l e o l o g i c a l q u e s t f o r p u r i t y b y a d v a n c i n g b e y o n d a c u b i s t i n f r a s t r u c t u r e . E m p h a s i z i n g t h e c o n t i n u i t y o f A m e r i c a n a b s t r a c t i o n w i t h t h a t o f i t s E u r o p e a n a v a n t g a r d e p r e d e c e s s o r , G r e e n b e r g k e y e d i n u p o n t h e f o r m a l p r o g r e s s i o n s w h i c h h e f e l t p a i n t e r l y a b s t r a c t i o n -- h i s p r e f e r r e d l a b e l f o r t h e a b s t r a c t e x p r e s s i o n i s t s t y l e -- h a d a c h i e v e d . T h e a d v a n c e m e n t o v e r c u b i s m w a s t h e d e c e n t r a l i z i n g a n d " a l l o v e r " q u a l i t y t h a t p a i n t e r l i n e s s a f f o r d e d t h e c o m p o s i t i o n a l f i e l d . P o l l o c k , a b o v e a l l , h a d a c h i e v e d a n d w a s s u s t a i n i n g f o r a p e r i o d t h i s a s p e c t o f a l l o v e r n e s s i n h i s w o r k "... a k i n d o f d e n s i t y o r t h o d o x e a s e l p a i n t i n g h a s n o t k n o w n b e f o r e " 1 7 ( f i g . 4 ) . I t w a s , G r e e n b e r g c o n t i n u e s , "... n o t a n a f f a i r o f p a c k i n g a n d c r o w d i n g , b u t o f e m b o d i m e n t ; e v e r y s q u a r e i n c h o f t h e c a n v a s 1 6Clement Greenberg, "Art Chronicler'Feeling is All'", Partisan Review, vol.XIX, no.l, Jan-Feb. 1952, p. 102. 1 7Clement Greenberg, "Art Chronicle:'Feeling is All'", Partisan Review, vol.XIX, no.l, Jan-Feb. 1952, p. 102. receives a maximum of charge at the cost of a minimum of physical means " 1 8 . Apparently the centralized object of cubism was being replaced or its means altered by an invisible cubist grid work of paint occupying equally all areas of the pictorial space . At his height Pollock was, in effect, pushing the limits of abstract painting; he was unconsciously identifying form and feeling with a simultaneous " acceptance and exploitation of the very circumstances of the medium of painting that limit such identification"1 9. In Greenberg's mind Pollock was posing aesthetic experience and the pictorial space as more distinctly autonomous in a Kantian sense, thus undercutting collective interpretations of experience and priorizing the personal ramifications of sophistication and taste lodged in the individual. At a time when the implications and success of the tenth street artists, centering around William de Kooning, offered for Greenberg only "regression" into a stylistics entirely based in cubism, Pollock offered the only legitimate direction. Yet the mood of "gothicness" pervading the paintings of Pollock would allow Greenberg only a limited embrasure: it was somehow inconsistent with Greenberg's perspective on American modernity. Even though Greenberg's criticism sought to focus on the cool unities of style and medium which his painterliness enabled but disguised , Pollock was still working within a loosely based cubist grid stucture, a stylistics more appropriate to the 1930s and 1940s rather than the optimistic mood of America at mid-century. For Greenberg, abstract expressionism 18Clement Greenberg, "Art Chronicle:'Feeling is All'", Partisan Review, vol.XIX, no.l, Jan-Feb. 1952, p. 102. 19Clement Greenberg, "Art Chronicle.'Feeling is All"', Partisan Review, vol.XIX, no.l, Jan-Feb. 1952, p. 102. w a s f a c i n g a d e a d l o c k a n d i f i t w a s t o b e s o l v e d , t h e s l a v i s h d e p e n d e n c e o n t h e c u b i s t p a s t h a d t o b e o v e r c o m e . T o o v e r c o m e t h e " c u b i s t t r a u m a " , a n d t o a c h i e v e a n y b r e a k t h r o u g h t h e n e x t g e n e r a t i o n w o u l d h a v e t o t u r n t o M a t i s s e . " . . . H e , t h e g r e a t e x p o n e n t o f p u r e c o l o r a s t h e m e a n s t o f o r m , s h o w e d w h a t c o u l d s t i l l b e a c h i e v e d b y m o d e l i n g w i t h d a r k a n d l i g h t , a n d h o w t h i s m o d e l i n g c o u l d c o n t r i b u t e t o t h e t i g h t n e s s d e s i r e d o f m o d e r n c o m p o s i t i o n ... b l a c k a n d g r a y c o u l d a p p r o x i m a t e t h e e f f e c t o f f l a t p r i m a r y c o l o r s . " 2 0 T h r o u g h o u t t h e e a r l y 1 9 5 0 s G r e e n b e r g ' s t a s t e s w e r e e n t i r e l y s u p p l i c a n t t o t h e w o r k s o f H e n r i M a t i s s e . T h e s t y l i s t i c s o f M a t i s s e , h i s p u r e c o l o r , t h e o p e n e s s t h i s e m b o d i e d , t h e c o r p o r e a l w e i g h t i t d i s p e l l e d , s p o k e t o G r e e n b e r g a s e n c a p s u l a t i n g a n e w s t a g e o f m o d e r n i t y 2 1 . A n a v e n u e n e e d e d t o b e p u r s u e d t h a t w o u l d p r o v i d e a l i n k w i t h t h e h e d o n i s m o f m o o d i n M a t i s s e v i a t h e p r o g r e s s i o n o f f e r e d b y P o l l o c k . F o r L o u i s a n d N o l a n d t h a t a v e n u e f o r t h e c o n t i n u a n c e o f m o d e r n i s m a f t e r a b s t r a c t e x p r e s s i o n i s m w a s p r o v i d e d b y F r a n k e n t h a l e r ' s Mountains and Sea . I t w a s , i n L o u i s ' w o r d s , " . . . a b r i d g e b e t w e e n P o l l o c k a n d w h a t w a s p o s s i b l e " 2 2 . C e r t a i n l y f o r G r e e n b e r g , Mountains and Sea w a s a d e c i s i v e t r a n s i t i o n a l p i e c e f o r 2 0Clement Greenberg, "Art Chronicle:'Feeling is All'", Partisan Review, vol.XIX, no.l, Jan-Feb. 1952, p.98. 21 See John O'brian, "Greenberg's Matisse and the Problem of Avant-Garde Hedonism", in Reconstructing Modernism:Art in New York, Paris, and Montreal 1945-1964, (Cambridge:MIT Press,1989) 2 2John Elderfield, Morris Louis :The Museum of Modern Art New York. (Boston: Little Brown and Co., 1987), p.31. Noland, too, would acknowledge the debt: "We were interested in Pollock but could gain no lead from him. He was too personal. But Frankenthaler showed us a way — a way to think about and use color". James Truitt, "Art - Arid D.C. Harbors Touted 'New' Painters", Washington Post, Dec.21,1961. t h e f u t u r e p o s s i b i l i t y o f m o d e r n i s m . I n h i s m i n d i t h a d j e l l e d t h e p e r s o n a l p o t e n t i a l o f b o t h L o u i s ' a n d N o l a n d ' s a r t , m e t a p h o r i c a l l y r e l a t i n g t h e n a t u r e a n d c o n d i t i o n s o f t h e i r p e r s o n a l c o n t r i b u t i o n t o t h e m o d e r n m o m e n t . I t s u s e o f c o l o r i n a l a n d s c a p e h a d s o m e t h i n g e n t i r e l y i n t e g r a l a b o u t i t , p o i n t i n g t o n a t u r a l h a r m o n i e s a p p a r e n t l y a p p r e h e n d i b l e o n l y t o a w o m a n . 2 3 I n 1 9 6 0 , i n Art International G r e e n b e r g d o c u m e n t s t h e m o m e n t : L o u i s w h o i s n o w i n h i s l a t e 4 0 ' s , f o u n d h i m s e l f o n l y s o m e s e v e n o r e i g h t y e a r s a g o . U n t i l t h e n h e h a d b e e n d o i n g a b s t r a c t p i c t u r e s i n a L a t e C u b i s t v e i n t h a t b e l o n g e d m o r e t o t h e 1 9 3 0 s t h a n t h e 1 9 4 0 s ; t h e e n o r m o u s a c c o m p l i s h e d n e s s o f t h e s e p i c t u r e s d i d n o t m a k e t h e m a n y t h e l e s s p r o v i n c i a l . H i s f i r s t s i g h t o f t h e m i d d l e p e r i o d P o l l o c k s a n d o f a l a r g e a n d e x t r a o r d i n a r y p a i n t i n g d o n e i n 1 9 5 2 b y F r a n k e n t h a l e r , c a l l e d Mountains and Sea , l e d L o u i s t o c h a n g e h i s d i r e c t i o n a b r u p t l y . A b a n d o n i n g C u b i s m w i t h a c o m p l e t e n e s s f o r w h i c h t h e r e w a s n o p r e c e d e n t i n e i t h e r i n f l u e n c e , h e b e g a n t o f e e l , t h i n k , a n d c o n c e i v e a l m o s t e x c l u s i v e l y i n t e r m s o f o p e n c o l o u r . T h e r e v e l a t i o n h e r e c e i v e d b e c a m e a n I m p r e s s i o n i s t r e v e l a t i o n , a n d b e f o r e h e s o m u c h a s c a u g h t a g l i m p s e o f a n y t h i n g b y S t i l l , N e w m a n , o r R o t h k o , h e h a d a l l i g n e d h i s a r t w i t h t h e i r s . H i s r e v u l s i o n a g a i n s t C u b i s m w a s a r e v u l s i o n a g a i n s t t h e s c u l p t u r a l . C u b i s m m e a n t s h a p e s , a n d s h a p e s m e a n t a r m a t u r e s o f l i g h t a n d d a r k . C o l o u r m e a n t a r e a s a n d z o n e s , a n d t h e i n t e r p e n e t r a t i o n o f t h e s e , w h i c h c o u l d b e a c h i e v e d b e t t e r b y v a r i a t i o n s o f h u e t h a n b y v a r i a t i o n s o f v a l u e . R e c o g n i t i o n s l i k e t h e s e l i b e r a t e d L o u i s ' s o r i g i n a l i t y a l o n g w i t h h i s h i t h e r t o d o r m a n t g i f t f o r c o l o u r . 2 4 2 3 T h e gendered reference is of course intended, for it highlights an entire dimension of debate villifying the natural and embracing its dialectical opposite the cultural, and more specifically in the American context ofthe 1950s, the strategies of the corporate machine. 2 4Clement Greenberg,"Louis and Noland", Art International 4 ,May 1960, pp. 27-28. I am careful in using this quotation, as my project is to historically situate the production of Morris Louis between 1948 -1955, in order not to fall prey to the large shifts in Greenberg's politics between 1950-1960. G r e e n b e r g ' s c l o s e d , s e l f - r e f l e c t i v e m o d e l , w h i c h d i a l o g u e s t h e s h i f t o f m o d e r n i s m ' s p l a s t i c s t y l e t o w a r d a n e x c l u s i v e d e p e n d e n c e o n c o l o r i n e n t i r e l y f o r m a l t e r m s , o b s c u r e s m u c h . W r i t t e n i n 1 9 6 0 , i t d o c u m e n t s a m o m e n t v a s t l y d i f f e r e n t f r o m t h e e a r l y 1 9 5 0 s w h e n i n t e l l e c t u a l h o p e s w e r e p i n n e d o n w h a t A m e r i c a w a s b e c o m i n g . B y 1 9 6 0 s u c h s p e c u l a t i o n h a d b e e n l a r g e l y r e a l i z e d , t h o u g h i n a l t e r e d t e r m s . S t i l l , i t w o u l d b e t h e s a m e e a r l y o p t i m i s m i n v e s t e d i n a p r o j e c t t r a n s c r i b e d t o t h e v i s u a l w h i c h w o u l d s o d e e p l y i n f o r m t h e l a t e r a e s t h e t i c p r o d u c t i o n o f p o s t - p a i n t e r l y a b s t r a c t i o n , t h o u g h b y 1 9 6 0 i t c o u l d o n l y b e d i s c u s s e d i n a l t e r e d a n d m u c h m o r e c r y p t i c a l l y g u a r d e d t e r m s . U n f o r t u n a t e l y , a l l t o o o f t e n a r t h i s t o r y h a s f o c u s s e d o n t h e s e r e t r o s p e c t i v e w r i t i n g s o f G r e e n b e r g t o u n r a v e l t h e m y s t e r i e s a n d s u b t l e t i e s o f s t a i n p a i n t i n g . G e n e r a l i z i n g a n d a b s t r a c t i n g f r o m t h e s e l a t e r w r i t i n g s , G r e e n b e r g ' s p o s i t i o n i s t w i s t e d a n d a l w a y s t o o e a s i l y d i s m i s s e d a s p u r e f o r m a l i s t a r t h i s t o r y , w h i c h i s n e v e r t h e l e s s a n i m p o r t a n t c o m p o n e n t . T h o m a s C r o w ' s b o l d a s s e r t i o n , t h a t p l a c e s G r e e n b e r g ' s c o n c e p t i o n s o f m o d e r n i s t a r t o u t s i d e o f a n d "... o t h e r w i s e u n a f f e c t e d b y i t s o r i g i n s i n t h e l a t e c a p i t a l i s t c r u c i b l e " 2 5 w h e r e a s p e r h a p s a s a l i e n t c o m p o n e n t o f a r e a d i n g o f G r e e n b e r g i n t h e 1 9 6 0 s g l o s s e s o v e r t h e p e r i o d i n w h i c h G r e e n b e r g i a n f o r m a l i s m a c t i v e l y i n v i t e d a c o n c i l i a t o r y i n t e r f a c e w i t h h i s t o r i c a l c i r c u m s t a n c e . I t w a s i n t h i s p e r i o d o f t h e e a r l y 1 9 5 0 s w h e n t h e e v o l u t i o n o f a s t y l i s t i c s f o r s t a i n p a i n t i n g i s g i v e n g e n e s i s . I t i s m y i n t e n t t o f o c u s o n p r e c i s e l y t h e l a t e c a p i t a l i s t c r u c i b l e o f ^Thomas Crow ."Modernism and Mass Culture in the Visual Arts", Pollock and After: The Critical Debate, ed. F Frascina, (New York: Harper and Row, 1985), fn45, p.263. 1948-1955 , the evolution of a stylistics from within that crucible , and this crucibled evolution as consciously negotiated by Greenberg. It is my contention that Greenberg's interest and limited advocacy of Pollock's and Frankenthaler's work and, by inference, Louis ' epiphany of style, was shaped by more than simply the discourse of stylistic progression. 2 6 That, indeed, Greenberg's position in the early 1950s supports a program encoding a formal stylistics inextricably related to his own political intoxication with the Vita l Center's notion of freedom and the more complex and useable delineation of this in David Riesman's conception of individualism and taste in the American character. Greenberg's project, and the early conciliatory movements toward stain painting are, indeed, indelibly marked by the negotiations necessitated by a position which could only find hope for artistic practice in the cultural and political parameters advocated by such a pol i t ics . 2 7 In this chapter, then, I would like to set up the larger framework of historical transformations taking hold of American society in the postwar period, which intellectuals like Greenberg were positioned against. By the 1950s these tangible developments in the democratic formation and political process sustained some promise, but also posed critical threats to key intellectual groups . Wi th a view to placing their already conceived-of projects structured for democratic rule by elites within these developments, 2 6 I deal with Louis specifically and exclude Noland who arrived at a complementary style much later. 2 7 It will be one of my primary intentions in this thesis to connect up Greenberg's critical writings from 1948 -1955 with Riesman's methodological framework. a n d i n t h e c o n t e x t o f t h e C o l d W a r , I w o u l d f o r e f r o n t i m m e d i a t e l y t h o s e c h a n g e s w h i c h d e l i n e a t e d m o s t s u c c i n c t l y t h e n e w p o s t - w a r o r d e r . M o s t i m p o r t a n t l y , a v a s t l y e x p a n d e d m i d d l e - c l a s s a n d t h o s e f a c t o r s p a r a l l e l i n g t h i s c h a n g e : t h e e n h a n c e d e f f i c i e n c y o f i n d u s t r i a l i s m a n d a l t o g e t h e r n e w p a t t e r n s o f c o n s u m p t i o n . T o g e t h e r , t h e s e w o u l d c o n t r i b u t e t o a n a t i o n i n w h i c h c l a s s s t r u c t u r e w a s c o m p l e t e l y t r a n s f o r m i n g ; i n d e e d , b e i n g r e n d e r e d h a p p i l y o p a q u e i n t h e f a c e o f g l o b a l i d e o l o g i c a l u n c e r t i t u d e . T h i s d o m i n a n t a n d b r i g h t f u t u r e f o r A m e r i c a p o s e d a g r e a t t h r e a t t o t h e i n t e l l e c t u a l p o s i t i o n s h e r e t a k e n u p . T h e i r p o l i t i c a l m a n e u v e r i n g s w e r e c o n t i n g e n t u p o n t h e e m b r a s u r e o f s u c h p r o g r e s s w h i l e s i m u l t a n e o u s l y t r y i n g t o m a i n t a i n f r o m i t a c r i t i c a l p o s t u r e a n d d i s t a n c e . T h e f o r e m e n t i o n e d t r a n s f o r m a t i o n s r e s h a p i n g A m e r i c a n s o c i e t y , a l o n g w i t h c o - d e p e n d e n t i n t e l l e c t u a l n e g o t i a t i o n s a n d t h e i r s t r u c t u r i n g v i s i o n s , w e r e t o i n t i m a t e l y i n f o r m t h e p a i n t i n g s o f M o r r i s L o u i s . T h e f o r m a l e x p e r i m e n t a t i o n h e p i o n e e r e d v i s u a l l y w a s a r e p r e s e n t a t i o n a n d a t t e m p t e d h a r n e s s i n g o f p r e c i s e l y t h i s n e w A m e r i c a n m o d e r n i t y a n d i t s p o s s i b i l i t y . G r e e n b e r g ' s p o s i t i o n i n t h e e a r l y 1 9 5 0 s , o n e w h o s e i d e a l i s m a n d v i s i o n o f A m e r i c a ' s f u t u r e w a s s h a p e d a n d b u i l t u p o n t h e s a m e p r e c e p t s o f D e m o c r a t i c r u l e b y e l i t e s a s h i s l i b e r a l c o n f r e r e , r e a l i z e d e a r l y o n t h i s f o r m a l p o t e n t i a l f o r l i n k a g e . N o l a n d ' s a r t e d u c a t i o n , a s a p r o d u c t o f t h e G . I . B i l l , a n d b o t h h i s a n d L o u i s ' p o s i t i o n i n g i n t h e s u b u r b s o f W a s h i n g t o n D . C . , c o u l d o n l y c o n f i r m t h a t w i t h i n t h e i r i m p e c c a b l e p r i v a t e v i s i o n s w e r e a l s o c o n t a i n e d t h e l a r g e r c o n s t r a i n t s a n d p o t e n t i a l o f a n e n t i r e l y n e w s e n s i b i l i t y , e r a , a n d n a t i o n . S o m e h o w t h e f o r m a l q u a l i t i e s s t a i n p a i n t i n g e x e m p l i f i e d r e s o n a t e d d e e p l y w i t h t h e p o s s i b i l i t y l i b e r a l i n t e l l e c t u a l s c u l l e d f r o m a n e x t r e m e l y w e a k h o r i z o n . T h e promesse o r f o r e t a s t e o f U t o p i a c o n t a i n e d w i t h i n t h e m e d i a t i o n o f f o r m a n d c o n t e n t i n p a i n t i n g w a s a n a l o g o u s t o a f u t u r e i m a g i n e d b y l i b e r a l i d e o l o g u e s . M y a t t e m p t i n t h i s c h a p t e r w i l l b e t o l o c a t e G r e e n b e r g ' s c o n t i n u e d p o s i t i o n w i t h i n t h e s p h e r e o f i n f l u e n c e o f n o t i o n s p u t f o r w a r d b y S c h l e s i n g e r a n d R i e s m a n , a n d t o l o c a t e t h i s c o r e o f i d e a s w i t h i n i t s p a r t i c u l a r c o n t e x t o f t h e e a r l y 1 9 5 0 s . A t t h e s a m e t i m e t h i s f o r m a t w i l l s e r v e t o p r e f a c e c h a p t e r 2 , a d i s c u s s i o n o f G r e e n b e r g ' s h i g h l y i m p o r t a n t a r t i c l e , " T h e P l i g h t o f O u r C u l t u r e " , i n w h i c h h e s e t s o u t t h e p a r a m e t e r s o f h i s p i c t o r i a l v i s i o n f o r t h e c o n t i n u a n c e o f m o d e r n i s m . C o n c e i v e d p r i o r t o a n d d u r i n g t h e p e r i o d o f L o u i s ' a n d N o l a n d ' s v i s i t t o N e w Y o r k , i t a r t i c u l a t e s , i n a w i d e s e n s e , a p r o g r a m k e y e d t o t h e i n t e l l e c t u a l p o s i t i o n i n g o f t h e g r o u p s ' p o l i t i c s . T h e f o r m a l s t y l i s t i c s o f L o u i s ' f i r s t " V e i l " s e r i e s , w o r k s s u c h us Salient ( 1 9 5 4 ) , Terrain of Joy ( 1 9 5 4 ) ( f i g . 4 ) , Spreading ( 1 9 5 4 ) ( f i g . 5 ) , a n d Iris ( 1 9 5 4 ) ( f i g . 6 ) , Intrigue ( 1 9 5 4 ) ( f i g . 7 ) , v i s u a l l y e n c o d e t h i s s a m e U t o p i a n p r o j e c t a n d a r e h e r e f i r s t g i v e n a c o n c e p t u a l f r a m i n g . The Middle-Class, Suburbia, and Conformity V a n c e P a c k a r d ' s r e t r o s p e c t i v e s u m m a t i o n o f t h e d e c a d e b e s t s e t s t h e s t a g e f o r m y d i s c u s s i o n : " I n t h e p a s t , t h e h i g h s c h o o l d i p l o m a w a s a t i c k e t o f a d m i s s i o n t o a w h i t e - c o l l a r j o b . N o w m a n y m i l l i o n s o f A m e r i c a n y o u n g s t e r s h a v e t h e t i c k e t , s o t h e r e i s l e s s p r e s t i g e a t t a c h e d t o p u t t i n g o n a w h i t e - c o l l a r . A c t u a l l y , t h e c o l o r o f t h e c o l l a r i s l o s i n g m u c h o f i t s s i g n i f i c a n c e a s a l a b e l . M a n y s t e e l w o r k e r s d o n ' t w e a r b l u e c o l l a r s a n y m o r e o n t h e j o b , t h e y w e a r s p o r t s s h i r t s . A n d s o d o s u p p o s e d l y w h i t e - c o l l a r e d m i s s i l e e n g i n e e r s . " 2 8 W i t h a n u n r e m a r k a b l e d e g r e e o f h i n d s i g h t P a c k a r d ' s n a t i o n a l b e s t s e l l e r , The Status Seekers , p i c k e d u p o n m a n y o f t h e s a l i e n t a n d t o p i c a l t h e m e s o f t h e f i r s t d e c a d e o f t h e C o l d W a r . H e a l l u d e s t o t h e s i n g l e m o s t i m p o r t a n t d e v e l o p m e n t o f A m e r i c a ' s p o s t w a r c o n d i t i o n , o n e s t r a t e g i c a l l y a n d s e l e c t i v e l y c o n s t r u c t e d i n o r d e r t o c o m b a t t h e f r o n t a l i d e o l o g i c a l a s s a u l t o n c l a s s s t r u c t u r e u n d e r c a p i t a l i s m , s t a g e d b y t h e C o m m u n i s t m e n a c e . E v i d e n t l y , i n A m e r i c a t h e r e v o l u t i o n a r y i m p e t u s o f t h e s o c i a l l y d i s e n f r a n c h i s e d w a s b e i n g d i f f u s e d a n d s u b d u e d b y a n i n s t i t u t i o n a l f r a m e w o r k w h i c h e n c o u r a g e d r a t h e r t h a n d e n i e d s o c i a l m o b i l i t y . I n d e e d , t h e s p o r t s h i r t , t h e c o l l e g e g r a d u a t e , a n d t h e m a n i n t h e g r e y f l a n n e l s u i t w e r e a l l r e c o g n i z e d a s s o m e h o w e m b l e m a t i c o f t h e A m e r i c a n c o n d i t i o n a t m i d - c e n t u r y . B y t h e l a t e 1 9 4 0 s t h e r e w a s e m e r g i n g a s e n s e t h a t t h e A m e r i c a n c o n d i t i o n , l i n k e d t o e d u c a t i o n a n d u n l i m i t e d s o c i a l m o b i l i t y , a n d a s s o c i a t e d w i t h u n p r e c e d e n t e d p r o s p e r i t y a n d w i d e s p r e a d i n g c o n s u m e r i s m , w a s p o s s e s s e d o f a n i n t e n s e p o s s i b i l i t y . M o r e t h a n a n y t h i n g e l s e , t h e m e t e o r i c r i s e o f a n a f f l u e n t m i d d l e c l a s s e x e m p l i f i e d t h i s n e w A u g u s t a n a g e o f p l e n t y . T h e n e w m o o d o f t h e m o m e n t w a s b e s t c a p t u r e d b y t h e p h e n o m e n o n a n d l i f e s t y l e o f s u b u r b i a . W i t h t h e w o r k w e e k s l i m m e d d o w n t o a n u n h e a r d o f 4 0 h o u r s , t h e v a s t m a j o r i t y o f A m e r i c a n s w e r e s e e n a s m e m b e r s o f a 28 Vance Packard, The Status Seekers, ( New York: David McKay,1959), p.34. n e w l e i s u r e c l a s s . 2 9 F o r m a n y , t h e d e m o c r a t i z i n g d i r e c t i o n o f f e r e d b y t h e L e v i t t o w n - l i k e s u b u r b s w a s t h e p r o m i s e o f a g r e a t f u t u r e ; h o w e v e r t o l i b e r a l i n t e l l e c t u a l s t h e t h r e a t o f c u l t u r a l u n i f o r m i t y a n d a l e v e l l e d d e m o c r a t i c f o r m a t i o n w a s i n d i r e c t o p p o s i t i o n t o t h e i r i d e a o f a r e s t r u c t u r e d f u t u r e , w h i c h r e t a i n e d a s p a c e f o r h i g h c u l t u r e a n d a s w e l l t h e n o t i o n o f d e m o c r a t i c r u l e b y e l i t e s . T h o u g h l a t e r t h i s n e w m o o d e m b r a c i n g A m e r i c a w a s c a p t u r e d b y t h e d r i v i n g m e c h a n i s m b e h i n d a m u c h l a r g e r p o l i t i c a l m a c h i n e r y , i t w a s a t f i r s t o n l y s t u d i e d b y a s e l e c t g r o u p o f i n t e l l e c t u a l s . I t w a s t h e i r e a r l y a n d p r e s c i e n t a i m t o h a r n e s s a n d w i e l d i t s p o t e n t i a l . 3 0 F o r t h i s g r o u p , s u b u r b i a , e v e n b y t h e l a t e 1 9 4 0 s , w a s e m e r g i n g a s t h e j e w e l o f A m e r i c a n c a p i t a l i s m a n d d e m o c r a c y . I n t h e m o u n t i n g o p t i m i s t i c s p i r i t o f t h e p o s t - w a r p e r i o d , i t h a d e c l i p s e d t h e c i t y a n d b e c o m e t h e n e w t a n g i b l e b e n e f a c t o r o f a p r o g r e s s i v e a n d e f f i c i e n t c o r p o r a t e a n d t e c h n o l o g i c a l s o c i e t y . T h e p r o m i s e w h i c h t h i s s o c i a l s p a c e p r e s e n t e d w a s w i d e l y h e l d t o c o n t a i n , i n i t s p a r t i c u l a r 29 David Riesman was perhaps the first to write extensively on America as a leisure society, indeed it occupies a pivotal position in his own theoretical framework during the early 1950s. Much of the optimism Riesman's work exudes is contingent upon the positive functioning aspect, for mobility, leisure time will provide American society. He speaks of suburbia in terms of the frontiers of taste — the pioneer being the wife who adds a touch of oregano to her casserole — thus conveying the sense of an aspiring aristocracy of leisure.("Some Observations on the Changes in leisure Habits", in Individualism Reconsidered , (Glencoe: The Free Press, 1954), pp.202-218. This is in opposition to Greenberg's 1953 position, where Riesman is in fact critiqued for an overly naive optimism in the drive for the good life. Only by 1957 does Riesman rescind upon his earlier position. 3 0 While it was the liberal intellectuals who realized the leisured orientation of America already by the late 1940s, it would not be until the middle and late 1950s that the mass media, in conjunction with the Eisenhower administration, would take it up as a cause celebre . Most interesting is LIFE Magazine's, (Dec.28, 1959) double issue on "the Good Life" the cover of which is subscripted by theblurb "zestful Americans enjoy their new leisure" . Check out Russell Lynes "How do You Rate in the New Leisure" , a telling commentary borrowing heavily from Riesmanesque inquiry, pp.85-89. egalitarian and classless essence, the larger direction of America's democratic formation. Family capitalism and private property, the two pillars of bourgeois society which sustained class structure, were considered all but eclipsed by the new economic and social conditions which were fostering the suburban middle class 3 1. On the very forefront of the social experiment, community life in suburbia and, to a larger extent America, was eradicating those traditional markers of the social formation — ideological and class strife. The affluent and prospering stratum which populated the manicured streets of modern ranch- style homes were considered at the core of a new frontier order and hailed as the purveyors and benefactors of the American dream. These were the new middle class, distinct from their forebears in that this burgeoning broad strata was by and large salaried, white-collar employees . In his book, White Collar : The 3 1 See Daniel Bell's , "The Prospects of American Capitalism", Commentary, Dec. 1952, p.610. Also William H. Whyte, in The Organization Man . Whyte's analysis offers the suburban community as pitched on the cutting edge of the Democratic constellation, the marxist community, and better, the close-knit kinship of the old West frontier settlement is evoked and homologous. Private property itself had seemingly begun to lose its market value amidst the commune-like closeness. "To hoard possessions is frowned upon: books, silverware , and tea services are constantly rotated, and the children feel free to use one anothers bikes and toys without asking." W.H. Whyte,T/te Organization Man (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1956) , p.210. The reception of Whyte's book is a perfect analogy for the fate of the liberal intellectual position as a whole ,in the context of the two Cold War terms of Eisenhower's presidency. While delineating a position similar, though updated, to that of the new liberalism first put forward by Schlesinger, Whytes tempered appeal to stake out a qualified ground specifically for the opposition through a dialectical embrasure of suburbia, -consumerism, and the corporate sphere, fails entirely. For Whyte, a country where the pink lamp shade dominates the front room windows of the suburban home as a signifier of culture — integrity , individual choice, and freedom were sorely lacking. The qualified position of Whyte and other liberal intellectuals who had embraced a progressively industrialized economy and the relative autonomy of a corporate sector , during the Truman coalition , was easily misconstrued and conflated, proving indistinguishable from a more encompassing Republican armature. 26 American Middle Classes (1951), C. Wright Mills characterizes and statistically documents their unprecedented rise in American society. For them, as for wage-workers, America has become a nation of employees for whom independent property is out of range. Labor markets, not control of property, determine their chances to receive income, exercise power, enjoy prestige, learn and use skills ... Of the three broad strata composing modern society, only the new middle class has steadily grown in proportion to the whole. Eighty years ago, there were three-quarters of a million middle-class employees; by 1940, there were over twelve and a half million. In that period the old middle class increased 135%; wage-workers, 225%; and the new middle class, 1600%.32 The suburban and American phenomenon was directly linked to this new species of American society. Its existence , the shear weight of its spectacular material ascendency and power, constituted more than anything else the new majority within the social arena. Its dominant presence in the cultural fabric of American life captivated social commentary , and within the strictures of the Cold War assumed a stereotypical and representative role for the social totality. America's classless nature was not only consciously linked to the circumscribed terrain of suburbia, however , but further , to a social and institutional order which encouraged and celebrated social mobility and an ever attendant increasing prosperity . Unlike more traditional social orders, always seeking stability through the maintenance of more traditional class lines, the American model had a social dynamic built in. As such, the new middle class did not constitute a single horizontal and monolithic stratum, rather an 3 2 C . Wright Mills, White Collar: The American Middle Classes, (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1951), pp. 63-64. entirely new ascending pyramidal formation of increasing and surreptitious hierarchy. Mills writes: " The great bulk of the new middle class are of the lower middle income brackets, but regardless of how social stature is measured, types of white-collar men and women range from almost the top to almost the bottom of modern society". 3 3 Mills attributed this evolution and the progressive occultation of class lines in the social formation to the peculiarities of American bureaucracy and corporate capitalism which had colonized a new axis for stratification hinging on occupation. Mills' intellectual perspective during the 1950s offered one of the loosely oppositional voices left among the American intelligensia; other intellectuals, those upon whom this paper focuses, formulated somewhat less traditional class critiques , more overtly sanguine and assenting in their treatment of the American condition 3 4, while retaining criticality of a different order. It is their particular positionings, which are so appropriate for an entrance to Stain painting , and give such terrific mileage for cultural analysis in the 1950s. Such is the case with the core of ideas shared by David Riesman , Arthur Schlesinger , and Daniel Bell, whose positions Greenberg shadows in various ways. Whereas Mills viewed the American situation with power collecting at a dew point — which he would later posit as The Power Elite -- as breeding ever more insidious forms of domination, these intellectuals generally maintained that power as a function of newly solidifying elites was 3 3 C . Wright Mills, White Collar: The American Middle Classes, p.64. 3 4 C . Wright Mills, Lionel Trilling.all hold onto a model lossely based in class analysis, wheras these intellectuals especially Bell and Riesman, and later Dwight Macdonald incorporate a social hierarchy based in consumption. ultimately benevolent. The danger they conceived was of power diffusing amidst the new pressure and weight of a middle class majority. For present purposes, most influential is the sociologically grounded work of Riesman, which provided intellectuals with the tools to negotiate the manacheist choices proferred by Stalinist and Democratic systems. His reconception of intellectual critique hinges upon the notion of a critical conformity ... a methodological function using a dialectical consciousness operating on the premise of taste differentiation, rather than on the nexus of class.35 Difference, once a quotient of class and at variance with America's democratic destiny, is shifted into generally affirmative terms which cash in on the potential for mobility housed in the ascending pyramidal formation of the American white collar. This formulation was as well equitable and homologous to a politics at variance with any form of populism, and ameliorative to a process of democratic rule by elites. With a theater of operations the entire mutable and amorphous ground of American culture, Riesman focusses in on the middle class individual and on the type of conformity being bred by the institutional framework of advanced capitalism. For Riesman, the mode of conformity in a society is the fundamental building block for that totality's cohesion.36 He thus offers a revisionary model of the 3 5 T h e slow process of demarxification of the so-called "New York intellectuals" had transformed a Marxist conception of "historical consciousness" , hinging on class "self-knowledge" into a parallel model, where the same key issue of "historical consciousness" realizable again only through dialectics, had as its lynchpin taste. 3 6Certain Malthusian principles of population growth and decline play a role in determining the mode of conformity. Riesman's construction of American "other-directed" conformity(see text) is contingent upon low population growth and massive increases in wealth for the entirety of the population. This model proposed in the late 1940s had necessarily to be rejected in part by social relationship in its totality throughout history focussing on the vague disquietude of lonely individuals"37, a universal constant affecting all human relationships, which he translates in the American situation especially into an illusory drive for belongingness and group participation. In distinction to the character type of inner-direction shaped by the strictures of an earlier stage of capitalism when the entrepreneurial function was central to its continued productive possibilities, American capitalism hinging upon a management coordinated efficiency , a built-in functional rationalization denying the need for self-motivated individual creativity, i.e., diffusing individualism, was producing "other-directed" character types. Contemporary society, especially in America, no longer requires and rewards the old enterprise and zeal. This does not mean the economic system itself is slowing down: total production may continue to rise; but it can be achieved by institutionalizing technological and organizational advance, for instance in research departments, management counsel, and corporate planning staffs. The invention and adoption of new improvements can be routinized, built into the system, so to speak, rather than into men who run the system. Therefore, the energies of management turn to industrial and public relations, to oiling the frictions not of machines but of men. 3 8 1960 with the "baby boomer" generation. See "Foreword: Ten Years Later", in The Lonely Crowd: A Study of the Changing American Character,(New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1960), pp xi-xlviii. 3 7 David Riesman, "Individualism Reconsidered",first pub. 1951. Reprinted in Individualism Reconsidered, (Glencoe: The Free Press, 1954), p.31. 3 8 David Riesman,"The Saving Remnant: An Examination of Character Structure", first pub. 1949. Reprinted in Individualism Reconsidered, (Glencoe: The Free Press, 1954), p. 104. Intimately tied to the conditions of advanced industrialism the character and talents of the "other-directed" individual were molded to fit the contingencies of a consumption oriented society . Daniel Bell's position is similar , preferring however different terminology to describe the same phenomenon. His notion of an internalized panopticon is analogous to Riesman's notion of an internalized radar sensing device 3 9. Both acknowledge the progressive functionalism of society and greatly delimited possibilities for individual freedom. Riesman continues: With the growth of monopolistic competition, the way to get ahead is not so much to make a better mouse trap but rather to package an old mousetrap in a new way, and then to sell it by selling oneself first. People feel they must be able to adapt themselves to other people, both to manipulate them and be manipulated by them. This requires the ability to manipulate oneself, to become "a good package", to use a phrase current among personnel men. These pressures are, of course, not confined to business, but operate also in the professions, in government, and in academic life.4*) Riesman's "radar sensitive types" such as the typical organization man of the new middle class gains value and direction in life from the ever changing whims of the peer-group, passively responding through approbation to the psychological forces that surround them. Despairing of the dominant social ethos , a 3 9 See Daniel Bell,"Work and its Discontents: The Cult of Efficiency in America", in The End of Ideology.On the Exhaustion of Political Ideas in the FiftiesX Cambidge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1960),pp.228-229. Also David Riesman's The Lonely Crowd: A Study of the Changing American Character, (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press). 4 uRiesman, "The Saving Remnant: An Examination of Character Structure", p.104. pessimistic tone lingers within Riesman's position, hinting that potential individuality was being trained out of the individual by the acquiescent pressures of the group, a function of the consumerist stage of capitalism. "Other-direction", the dominant mode of conformity in America, was beguiling the ultimate productive integrity of the individual. For Riesman, a dependence on external authority denies and sublimates the creativity of the individual self which carried within it the only chance for improvement , progress, and Utopian thinking. Among liberal intellectuals, Riesman's great appeal was that his sociological methodology found strategies for the sustaining of a kind of individualism and Utopian thinking amidst the pervasive and oppressive conformity of a vastly more powerful and visible middle class dispossessed of choice, and hence integrity and freedom as well. It sustained a fundamental notion of a dialectics of history in its conception of autonomy, and linked to this echoed an earlier faith in elitism and a distrust of populism, a legacy of a key group in the American anti-Stalinist Left. 4 1 It also sought to define a space opposite to the ideological stance of communism or more specifically Stalinism, which asserted an altruistic belief in community and groupism over the individual. Within a social framework in which the vast majority valued the manifestations of collectivity and conformity, only the distanced critical perspective of the intellectual , "aware of the problems of choice ", could keep alive 4 1 Both Greenberg and Bell were actively involved in the anti-Stalinist Left. Alan Wald links -both men to the activities of the Shachtman group (a Trotskyist cell), as late as 1946. The journal Commentary itself and its editors Greenberg, Nathan Glazer, and Robert Warshow held the Shachtman Group as allies as late as 1947. Greenberg was the "central link" . Alan Wald, The New York Intellectuals, ( Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carloina, 1987), p. 276. moral insight and an individualist ethics42. As a minority faced with the governing social ethic of middle class other- direction, Riesman provides a strategy for retaining moral hegemony amongst "a saving remnant", in the face of a majority "who have the reality of power"43. For Greenberg , Riesman's vital contribution was to offer a rationalized politics which preserved a space for creative freedom. The characterological specifics of integrity and choice, necessary to pursue advanced art, were equated to a "saving remnant". In American society , a society proportedly all middle , the organized force of other-directed conformity was utterly oppressive . The status quo was affirmed on a public level through "other-directed" contentment on a very personal level. 4 4 The happy quietism of consumer prosperity and peer-group approbation was denying creativity and transgression, i.e., the possibility for progress. Riesman's model sustained the possibility and potential for Utopian thinking through a re-evaluation of the individual and the priorizing of personal experience over collective interpretations. His model grapples with the historical complex of America's Cold War positioning , the increased functional rationality of America's institutional framework, an increasingly consumption oriented 4 2 David Riesman.'The Ethics of We Happy Few", first pub. 1948. Reprinted in Individualism Reconsidered, (Glencoe: The Free Press, 1954), p.52. 4 3 David Riesman, "A Philosophy for Minority Living: The Jewish Situation and the 'Nerve of Failure", Commentary, vol.6, no.5, Nov. 1948, p.414. 4 4 Riesman writes:"... the feeling of helplessness of modern man results from both the vastly enhanced power of the social group and the incorporation of its authority into his very character . The point is that the individual is psychologically dependent on others for clues to the meaning of life. He thus fails to resist authority or fears to exercise freedom of choice even when he might safely do so. Riesman, "The Saving Remnant",1 ndividualism Reconsidered, (Glencoe: The Free Press, 1954) p. 106. society , and the moral hegemony posed by a middle class majority to accommodate freedom and choice as a function of taste within the individual. The priorizing of these terms will be crucial to my discussion of Greenberg and the aesthetics of stain painting; it also links Riesmans position, and subsequently Greenberg's as well, to developments of a larger order in the political arena in the late 1940s. Greenberg, Riesman, and The Vital Center Riesman's specific model is linked to the historical positioning and ideological perspective of the "new liberalism". His theories are largely the result of a position which was formulated as analogous to this rising political star. Its program was jelled in the wake of the 1948 Truman presidency, the crushing defeat of Wallace 4 5, and the constant reminder of the threat from the authoritarian Right. The keynote of the "new liberalism" was set by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. in his book The Vital Center: The Politics of Freedom (1948), which delineated a changed political climate structured around a repudiation of communism and fascism . Roughly analogous to Truman's Fair Deal policies and the political balance his coalition government struck, the position and program of the intellectuals orbiting around The Vital Center was seemingly coterminous with political direction, and hence rife with possibility. It captured a wide and diverse climate of opinion, galvanizing much strength within Liberal and Democratic ranks. Schlesinger pinpointed freedom 4 5Wallace allied himself with the Communist party in 1948. equidistant from both extremes of the political spectrum on a circular model. The virtues of the political center were 180 degrees from the false and illusory values claimed by totalitarianism, a conflation of both communism and fascism.46 Attempting to secure the center of the American political consensus, the position Schlesinger defined tenuously balanced the political spectrum of American politics. Both 'doughface' liberals to the left of center, and American conservatives drifting to the right of center, were equally untrustworthy in their easily excitable extremism . Only the Vital Center, in its rigid rejection of totalitarianism and its Cold War realism, could maintain an open and free society. Whereas mounting McCarthyism saw only the singular threat of communism , the politics of The Vital Center saw communism as well as the right wing extremism of McCarthy as one and the same manifestation of totalitarianism. Both fascism and communism were characterized by a blind faith which undermined independent thought . The only alternative to the "radical evil",4 7 and the fanatical grip on the individual that totalitarianism posed, was a critical and distanced perspective, one which advocated a sort of individualism very similar to that posited by Riesman, which was simultaneously analogous to a party position in the political epicenter of the 4 6 This was the equation which Hannah Arendt proposed in her book The Origins of Totalitarianism. One reason the book enjoyed such a popularity amongst these intellectuals was the way this model fit Schlesingers model and tried to villify and pose the right wing anti-communism of McCarthy as equally dangerous. 4 7 These are the terms in which Hannah Arendt speaks of totalitarianism. She implies both Communism and Fascism are somehow linked by the fact that both are so radically evil. Hannah Arendt ,The Origins of Totalitarianism, (New York: The Free Press, 1951). American spectrum. 4 8 Both Riesman's and Schlesinger's models were structured by a rigid anti-populism, in part engendered by a distrust of consumerism and as illegitimate heirs of the Frankfurt School's cultural criticism. 4 9 This distrust, formulated in the face of the historical lessons offered by German fascism and proletarian support for communism, denigrated McCarthy-type anti-communism as a manifestation of "other-directed" conformity ... An anti-communism not born of the individual for freedom but rather the pressures of the group upon the individual. Its historical perspective saw the rise of Nazism for instance as fueled solely by the irrational yearning of the masses, entirely dispelling the role and complicity of conservative elites disenchanted with the Weimar Republic.5 0 Advocating a free market in a mixed economy, Schlesinger's thesis was conceived of as a continuation of Roosevelt's New Deal. However, it embraced the corporate sector as constructive, in abject deference to the centralizing , socializing tendencies of the New Deal. The slow process of de-marxification of former leftist intellectuals had ^Commentary 's assistant editor, Irving Kristol, tries to capture the mood of anti communism, relating it to the double threat of right wing populism in the past: "Unfortunately it is quite impossible to tell the citizens of Oshkosh, some of whom have suffered personal loss as a result of the war in Korea, that there is no harm in having their children taught the three R's by a communist, as it would have been to persuade the citizens of Flatbush in 1939 that there was no cause for excitement in their children being taught by a Nazi."Irving Kristol, "Civil Liberties , 1952" Commentary, 1952. p.238. 4 9 See Nathan Glazer's glowing review of The Authoritarian Personality, in "New Light on 'The Authoritarian Personality'", Commentary, vol. 17., no.4, Mar. 1954,pp. 289-297. 5 0 See Ingo Muller's The Courts of the Third Reich, trans. D.L. Schneider,(Cambrige: Harvard Univ. Press, 1991) , for a discussion of the juridicial system and legal practice in the Third Reich, and the complicity in the Nazi ethos of the legal profession. mitigated an embrasure of capitalism and democratic direction in society as the sole alternative for progress51. Largely culled from the left wing of American politics, the intellectuals grouped around The Vital Center eschewed the Leninist strategies upon which they had placed hope in the late 1930s and early 1940s . Their once dissenting and critical posture had gradually entered into a critically assenting relationship with the principles and institutions of capitalism. Riesman's position parallels this general tendency; writing in The Lonely Crowd , his embrasure of the superstucture is clear. Any sufficiently large society will throw up a slate of psychological types varied enough to suggest possibilities in many different directions; if America is not fascist, for example, it is not for want of sadists or authoritarians. There are plenty of these to staff the more benighted jails and mental hospitals, or to compete for the post of sheriff in many Southern communities; it is the institutional and juridical forms -- and their own limitations — that make it difficult for these men to coalesce into a political movement. To be sure these protections for liberty would collapse in the absence of men of appropriate character to run them ; but our point is that , within wide limits, in a large society institutions evoke within individuals the appropriate character.52 As in The Vital Center , the existing institutions which made up American democracy and capitalism are considered in a positive light. Above all else the business community was seen as an especially constructive force, one which could provide a system of checks and balances to stem the tendency toward ruling class 5 1 See Serge Guilbaut, How New York Stole the Idea of Modern Art. 5 2 David Riesman The Lonely Crowd ; A Study of the Changing American Character, p.xxii. oppression when alliance between government and industry was forged. 5 3 In every system, as history has finally taught us, the tendency of the ruling class toward oppression can be checked only by the capacity of the other classes for resistance. And resistance requires essentially an independent base from which to operate. It requires privacy, funds, time, newsprint, gasoline, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom from fear; it requires resources to which its own access is secure and which remain relatively inaccessible to the ruling class. Resistance is possible, in short, only when the base is clearly separate from the state. Under a system of total state ownership, the sinews of resistance are doled out to the opposition only by the charity of the ruling class. 5 4 For Schlesinger, the representative nature of the pluralism of social interests , i.e., the direction in which freedom in some form could be sustained, could only be assured when the economic base was separate from the specifically political power of the state. Since the middle class was in a material position to accede to power, its moral or political hegemony had to be stripped. Luckily for the American system — so these intellectuals theorized -- checks and 5 3 A model tending toward a completely free market with the autonomy of the corporate sector assured, as backed by some Republican ideologues, was an inadequate solution for an economic system which in Schlesinger's mind was not self-regulating and adjusting. For Schlesinger and other Vital Center liberals, the "fabulous invalid , American capitalism"(E. Cohen, editor, Commentary, Dec. 1952, p.603.), needed initial and indirect ground rules to run productively and smoothly . This suggested a loosely regulated system subject to and allowing for federal intervention for social and welfare legislation. In this model the function of the state apparatus "... should aim at establishing conditions for economic decisions , not at making all the decisions. It should create an economic environment favorable to business policies which increase production and then let the free market carry the ball as far as it can. "Schlesinger , The Vital Center : The Politics of Freedom, (Cambridge: The Riverside Press, 1949), p. 182. 5 4 Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. The Vital Center: The Politics of Freedom, (Cambridge: The Riverside Press, 1949), pp. 150-15. balances were built in to the very nature of American capitalism. It was a social order built on mobility, which stemmed any ruling class potential for oppression simply by its fluid and dynamic nature. This was a crucial quality in the context of the Cold War , as the solidifying of hierarchy and especially a bureaucratic class in Stalinist Russia had proved decisive in the original split between the Popular Front and American Trotsky ist organizations in 1939. The path to socialism was only open to a system which protected and guaranteed permanent revolution, and hence stopped the formation of any powerful class group. This would be precisely the shared theoretical objective of Schlesinger's and Riesman's politics, directed at conservatizing attempts to stem the moral , economic and political power of the American middle class.55 For both Riesman and Schlesinger only within the framework of the democratic totality, in the grip of objective social processes, could the benevolent direction of progress be ascertained. The impetus for that change and political direction was structured against populist inclinations and was activated through a plurality of social interests led and planned by elite groups of specialists , brain 5 5 Ideologically the two have identical political projects, it is only in their approach that they formulate the crisis of a middle-class society differently,i.e. Schlesinger's more rigid economic approach and Riesman's sociological perspective are in essence equivalent and share in one anothers strengths and weaknesses. Riesman writes " little more than a dilettante ... the other-directed person is not able to judge the work of others ... He must constantly depend on specialists and experts whom he cannot evaluate with any assurance. That dependence is an inevitable and indeed a valuable fruit of the division of labour in modern society; but the inability even to dare to pass personal judgement is a defect rooted in the character of the other-directed person." David Riesman, "The Saving Remnant", Individualism Reconsidered, (Glencoe: The Free Press, 1954), p. 110 trusters , or managers. Whereas superficially the affluent middle class appeared the natural resource from which truly unrestricted decision making and direction might be plumbed, its real political power was diffused . The pluralism of the Vital Center, while locating a new central dynamic guiding late capitalism , buried its long-range objectives in an ultimately conservatizing attempt to retain power and govern through elites. In 1950 Greenberg outlines an argument shadowing this project in many ways . More specifically, it deals with the forces alligned against individual freedom in the minority situation, though its repercussions stretch much further. As part of a continuing dialogue with David Riesman , the article situates Greenberg very much in the sphere of Riesman's and Schlesinger's thought. Published in the journal Commentary , a key organ of liberal intellectuals of which Greenberg was associate editor, the article "Self Hatred and Jewish Chauvinism" not surprisingly advocated a minority program shot through with Vital Centrist notions.56 The free individual is constructed in rigid opposition to the mass manifestations and illusory loyalties of totalitarianism. ^^Commentary's editorial policies are exemplary of the affirmative and assenting relationship with the principles and institutions of capitalism which the Vital Center intellectuals advocated. On the editorial staff were Elliot Cohen, Clement Greenberg, Nathan Glazer, Irving Kristol and Robert Warshow. In a short Time Magazine article entitled "Magazine of Quality" the editor writes: "Among its readers in 66 countries, none scan it more closely than the State Department. Again and again the department has picked up articles for distribution around the world, either because they have so ably stated the position of the democratic world, or so clearly exposed the fallacies of totalitarianism." {TIME Magazine Jan. 29, 1951) . Jewishness , insofar as it has to be asserted in a predominately Gentile world , should be a personal rather than mass manifestation, and more a matter of individual self reliance . This does not mean overlooking one's fellow responsibility to one's fellow Jews, but it does mean making Jewishness something other than a product of herd warmth and an occasion for that herd conformity out of which arise the ugliest manifestations of nationalism—as we saw in the German case. 5 7 The threat facing the middle class individual was roughly analogous to the problems facing the individual of the Jewish minority in its enthusiasms for Zionism. By its association with communal tendencies gone awry, the suburban middle class and the zealous group moves toward Zionism or its corollary anti-Zionism had taken on a threatening posture for the indelible sense of individuality Greenberg valued most highly; 5 8 it snatched the individuals prerogative of choice away and offered up decision making to the group. Choice was the essential component constituting Riesman's form of individualism; it had to be faced head on not given up to the 5 7Clement Greenberg, "Self Hatred and Jewish Chauvinism" , Commentary, Oct. 1950,vol.l0, p.431. 5 8 William H. Whyte echoes this position later in The Organization Man . He re-delineates the arguments of liberals clustered around the Vital Center for a more popular audience and nation consumed with self analysis in 1956. The suburbs " ... have become the second great melting pot ... As the newcomers to the middle class enter suburbia , they must discard old values , and their sensitivity to those of the Organization man is almost statistically demonstrable. Figures rather clearly show that people from big , urban Democratic wards tend to become Republican and, if anything , more conservative than those whose outlook they are unconsciously adopting ... something does happen to Democrats when they get to suburbia".(William H. Whyte, The Organization Man, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1956), p.300. While the Chicago Tribune attributed the large Republican vote in the suburb of Park Forest " ...to the beneficial influence of fresh air on erstwhile Democrats"(Whyte, p.300.), for Vital Center liberals the statistics revealed a clear warning. Whatever the case for those of the middle class who had reached the suburbs after the prolonged economic recessions and political turmoil of the the 1930s and 1940s "the good life" and the status quo were interminably wrapped up in a society intoxicated by consumption machinations of the group. In the United States, above all, where popular culture offered its enjoyment in such variety, the choice of high culture was a difficult one. 5 9 That Greenberg would advocate Jewishness " focussed directly in the individual Jew and discussed in personal , not communal terms" 6 0 , that it was a "spontaneuos expression" of a most personal self, links his statements closely to Riesman's and Schlesinger's concepts of political economy and freedom. Echoing Riesman , the particular pragmatic vision offered by the minority legacy— in this case the Messianic hope — is considered vitally important. It enabled one to access a moral code unsubservient to the majorities' social ethic 6 1. From the vantage point of a minority ethic distance of critical insight could be gained by the intellectual or individual. In this way a kind of historical consciousness of the moment could be grasped, one which had some comprehension of larger ideological or social forces , while simultaneously being in the grip of them. Riesman's "autonomous individual" was simultaneously conscious of himself as 5 9 Dwight Macdonald comments on this later in 1953. " A statistically significant part of the population, I venture to guess, is chronically confronted with a choice between going to the movies or to a concert, between reading Tolstoy or a detective story, between looking at old masters or at a T V show; i.e., the pattern of their cultural lives is open to the point of being porous. Good art competes with Kitsch, serious ideas compete with commercialized formulae — and the advantage lies all on one side.""A Theory of Mass Culture", Diogenes , no.3., Summer 1953,p.4. 6 0 Greenberg, "Self Hatred and Jeweish Chauvinism", p.431. 6 Greenberg would use a similar premise in his article "The Jewishness of Franz Kafka" (1955). Riesman advocates such a tactic too, on the grounds of a character weakness in the other-directed individual. He writes: "the feeling of helplessness of modern man results from both the vastly enhanced power of the social group and the incorporation of its authority into his very character the individual is psychologically dependent on others for clues to the meaning of life. He thus fails to resist authority or fears to exercise freedom of choice even where he might safely do so.", "The Saving Remnant", Individualism Reconsidered, (Glencoe: The Free Press, 1954),p.l06. subject and object of the historical process. All that was required was Riesman's "nerve of failure", the crucial concept of this liberal politics. It was a strategy to introduce original or Utopian thinking ~ thinking unsubservient to the majorities social ethic which condoned only stale and uninventive 'givens' -- in face of the crushing pressures of conformity. The "nerve of failure" is the courage to face aloneness and the possibility of defeat in ones personal life or ones work without being morally destroyed. It is, in a larger sense, simply the nerve to be oneself when that self is not approved of by the dominant ethic of society ... (It) is needed only for really heretical conduct: when one renounces even the company of misery and takes the greater risk of isolation — that is, the risk of never rejoining the company 6 2 The "essential strength of Democracy ", Schlesinger writes in 1948, "as against totalitarianism lies in its startling insight into the value of the individual"63. It was this strength that Greenberg was attempting to tap, believing — as did Riesman -- only the individual to possess an aptitude for freedom, when that individual's insight, originality , or creativity challenged the prevailing social ethic or posited difference.64 Riesman's particular inflection on freedom and 6 2Riesman, "A Philosophy for Minority Living: The Jewish Situation and the 'Nerve of Failure", Commentary, vol.6, no. 5, Nov.1948, p.413. 63Schlesinger, The Vital Center , p.155. 6 4 A s Riesman notes the intellectual "...can focus on those very elements which differentiate him from the majority. Do I prefer Bach to Schumann? ... Do I fail to thrill to mass ceremonials in Sanders Theatre? ... What is really differentiating and most valuable in the intellectual is his gift of sharply and critically seeing through many conventional values, 'democratic' as well as fascist, 'wholesome' as well as treacherous. Since he cannot help , given his originality, having a critical attitude toward the dominant culture, he either represses those insights which detach him from that culture, or mixes them, as we have just now seen, with penances of 'affirmation". Riesman, "The Ethics of individualism openly invited the dizzying complex of choice and accepted " the burden of being one's own arbiter of taste"65. Anti-Communism and the ACCF It was in a very public way, in March of 1951, that Clement Greenberg would enter into the ugly political quagmire that was anti-communism 6 6 . In an article entitled "Soul Searching on the Left" , TIME Magazine recounts events surrounding charges of communist sedition levelled at The Nation and its foreign editor, J. Alvarez del Vayo, by Greenberg, the journal's former art critic. The allegations centered around the consistently pro-soviet line of the magazine and del Vayo's use of his column as a medium for that Stalinist regime. Greenberg's letter was refused publication in The Nation and in late March appeared in the liberal- labor New Leader. Since he began writing in The Nation about a decade ago, Mr. del Vayo has defended every step in Soviet policy and, just as unfailingly , criticized or evaded every argument and step opposed to that policy ... To be sure, Mr. del Vayo says , Russia is not always blameless, yet somehow he always calls upon the West to take the first step — and make the first concession — to assure peace . ... evidence furnished by his own words show that his We Happy Few", Individualism Reconsidered, (Glencoe: The Free Press, 1954), p. 48. 6 5Riesman, "The Ethics of We Happy Few", Individualism Reconsidered, (Glencoe: The Free Press, 1954), p. 50. With the publishing of The Authoritarian Personality in America in 1952 — a celebrated event, at least within the pages of Commentary — the variable of taste or sophistication or intellectuality was reinforced as the prime stumbling block to authoritarianism. 6 6 Though his position on totalitarianism is firmly entrenched in the article on Jewishness the rigid anti-communism characteristic of his peers is subdued. c o l u m n h a s b e c o m e a m e d i u m t h r o u g h w h i c h a r g u m e n t s r e m a r k a b l y l i k e t h o s e w h i c h t h e S t a l i n r e g i m e i t s e l f a d v a n c e s a r e t r a n s m i t t e d i n a m o r e p l a u s i b l e f o r m t o t h e A m e r i c a n p u b l i c . 6 7 J u s t e x a c t l y w h a t w a s a n a r t c r i t i c d o i n g , e x p o s i n g c o n s p i r a c y a n d s e d i t i o n i n t h e p r e s s ? A n a r t c r i t i c w h o s e o t h e r w r i t i n g s o f c i r c a 1 9 5 1 , o n e e n t i t l e d " F e e l i n g i s A H " , a n o t h e r " C e z a n n e a n d t h e U n i t y o f M o d e r n A r t " , c o n s t i t u t e a s i n g u l a r l y a e s t h e t i c a n d f o c u s s e d s p h e r e o f i n t e r e s t . W h a t w e r e t h e i n s i d i o u s c o n n e c t i o n s b e t w e e n G r e e n b e r g ' s c o n c e r n s f o r h i g h c u l t u r e , a n d m o r e s p e c i f i c a l l y m o d e r n i s m i n p a i n t i n g , a n d t h e s e p r o v o c a t i v e r e d - b a i t i n g a c c u s a t i o n s ? T h e a n s w e r s a r e c o m p l e x a n d m u t i - f a c e t e d b u t a g a i n r e l a t e b a c k t o a k i n d o f p o l i t i c s b e i n g e n u n c i a t e d b y t h e V i t a l C e n t e r , a p o l i t i c s t o w h i c h G r e e n b e r g w a s a p a r t y a n d w a s a t t e m p t i n g t o e l a b o r a t e . F o r G r e e n b e r g , t h e d i s t i n c t l y p o p u l i s t e l e m e n t o f M c C a r t h y ' s a n t i -c o m m u n i s m w a r r a n t e d d i s t a n c i n g . S i m i l a r l y , t h e " s o f t " l i b e r a l s o r " f e l l o w t r a v e l l e r s " w e r e c r i t i c a l l y d i l u t i n g a n d d u l l i n g t h e c r e d i b i l i t y o f t h e V i t a l C e n t e r ' s p o s i t i o n . C o m p o u n d i n g t h e s e f a c t o r s w a s t h e s w e e p i n g r i g h t w a r d d r i f t o f t h e c o u n t r y a s a w h o l e , f o r c i n g t h e l i b e r a l i n t e l l i g e n s i a i n t o a n e x t r e m e l y n o n v o c a l a n d d i s a r m e d p o s i t i o n . T h u s , a m i d s t t h e s m o t h e r i n g a t m o s p h e r e o f p o p u l i s t a n t i -c o m m u n i s m , a n d t h e c e l e b r a t o r y m o o d o f n a t i o n a l i s m , G r e e n b e r g w a s a t t e m p t i n g t o k e e p i n t a c t t h e o n l y r e m a i n i n g r e s o u r c e f o r a r t i s t i c f r e e d o m . I m p o r t a n t l y , t h i s w a s c o n t a i n e d w i t h i n t h e f r a m e w o r k o f t h e V i t a l C e n t e r . I t s t h e o r e t i c a l p r e m i s e , w h i c h p r i o r i z e d i n d i v i d u a l f r e e d o m t o r a t i o n a l i z e p o l i t i c a l d i r e c t i o n p r o v i d e d , a s w e l l , a s p a c e f o r a r t i s t i c e x p r e s s i o n . . . a n u n m e d i a t e d 67 New Leader , Febuary , 1951 individual response absolutely necessary for an avant-garde aesthetic. This was a space retained for freedom and absolutely necessary to realize "as much and as strongly and as truly"68 as Pollock. For intellectuals circulating within the orbit of the Vital Center, cultural freedom was the overriding prerogative and this, above all else, was most seriously threatened by events taking place in the political and social arena. Anti-communism and civil liberties were at the heart of the issue, and it was here in this most sensitive of areas that Greenberg directs his attack and positions himself. The charges function on a number of levels, the most important being an acting out and delineation of a narrow political mandate to sustain political and cultural diversity. It was in conjunction with this circumscribed platform that Greenberg had joined the American Committee for Cultural Freedom as a founding member on December 14, 1950. In its wide spectrum of intellectual positions Greenberg , Riesman, Nathan Glazer , Irving Kristol, Daniel Bell, Sydney Hook and Schlesinger formed a close knit group around a number of core issues. Key among them was anti-communism revolving around a crucial hingepin centered on the institutions of American capitalism. As well, the attack stakes out a ground ameliorative to the Americans for Democratic Action, the "linchpin" of the Vital Center liberals 6 9. As one of the key organs for the group, The New Leader was closely aligned with the hard line anti-communism of 68Greenberg, "Feeling is All" , Partisan Review, vol.XIX, no.l, Jan-Feb. 1952, p.102. 6 9Guilbaut, How New York Stole the Idea of Modern Art, p. 190. 46 Greenberg's invectives 7 0 . With an election on the horizon, a unified front of the "new liberalism" was necessary, distinct from and condemnatory toward the positions of the "dough faced" liberal soft on communism and the "gangster"71 like anti-communism of McCarthy . Greenberg's letter, taken in conjunction with an article appearing the same month in Commentary entitled "The Liberals Who Haven't Learned" by Granville Hicks, roughly frames a domestic program for anti-communism distinctive to key intellectuals of the Vital Center and homologous to a political economy with a vested interest in the formation and potential of the superstuctural elements of American capitalism.72 Denouncing communists as complicit "in a tissue of lies"73 with the intent of subverting the consensus upon which democracy and 7 0 The New Leader was familiar with the journalistic policy of The Nation and the political split within liberal ranks. It had indeed earlier defined the parameters of the debate in "The Hards and the Softs".The New Leader , May 20, 1950. 7 1 T h e terms are commonly used by the Vital Center's advocates. See Granville Hicks, "The Liberals Who Havent Learned", Commentary, Mar. 1951. 7 2 T h e crux of both Greenberg's and Hick's argument lay in an attempt to reveal The Nation as veiling a distinctly pro-Soviet bias beneath specious coverage of American/Soviet relations. Granville Hicks' writes: "If the pro-Soviet front has any strength in America today, it is because there are still liberals who provide the verbal cloak of 'social betterment' that hides the nakedness of the brutal revolutionary totalitarianism that is the communist aim." Granville Hicks, "The Liberals Who Havent Learned", Commentary, Mar. 1951,p.328. The same implications are read by Greenberg into del Vayos' column. As such, not as forum for ideas but rather as a medium for a concealed line of pro Soviet policy, del Vayo's position was attacked. Like Hook, Kristol, and Schlesinger , Greenberg would seemingly distinguish between ideas as ideological heresy and ideas as politico-military conspiracy. This position allowed for the holding and free exchange of ideas , in order to maintain a healthy cultural dialogue , even when heretical, but challenged the insidious dispersal of the idea when, as with communism, the political movement was rooted in conspiracy. 7 3Irving Kristol, "Civil Liberties; 1952 — A Study in Confusion", Commentary, Mar. 1952, p.228-236. freedom were based the civil liberties of any and all communists had rightly to be usurped. Political diversity, from whence came the democratic consensus , was threatened by its base uniformity of thought. 7 4 The communist presence in any American institution, from the American Civil Liberties Union "... to innumerable other institutions, including schools , colleges, trade unions, ethnic and religious associations, even the post office"75 constituted a clear and present danger to the specific purposes for which these offices were organized and to the freedom and integrity of the nation.76 As Riesman had earlier posited, it was the existing institutions of American capitalism and democracy which naturally selected the best possible character and filtered out those unwanted authoritarian traits. 7 7 Hence the danger of domestic communists was small 74"Communism is an idea, beyond question. Indeed, it is an idea, and it is of the essence of this Idea that it is also a conspiracy to subvert every social and political order it does not dominate. It is, furthermore, an Idea that has ceased to have any intellectual status but has become incarnate in the Soviet Union and the official Communist parties, to whose infallible directives unflinching devotion is owed. A person who is captive to this Idea, at any time, in any place, can be called upon to do whatever the Idea , i.e., the Party, thinks necessary. Since this is so, it is of considerably more than private interest if a person is held by the Idea — he is, all appearances to the contrary, a person with different loyalties , and with different canons of scrupulousness, from ours. To grant him an "immunity by silence" is to concede the right to conspiracy, a concession no government ever has made or ever will make." Irving Kristol,"Civil Liberties; 1952 - A Study in Confusion", Commentary, Mar. 1952, p. 235. 7 5Irving Kristol, "Liberty and The Communists", Partisan Review, Jul-Aug. 1952, vol.19, no.4.,p.494. 7 6Central to the civil libertarian opposition of the new liberalism was the Principal and right of the communist to hold a job in any American institution except those involving national security, i.e., posing a clear and present danger to the security of the nation. Richard Rovere, a leading spokesman of the position, was in direct opposition to the positions of The New Leader and Commentary — Greenberg held the post of associate editor, the journal shared close ties with the liberal anti-communism of the Vital Center and The New Leader. 7 7 F o r the liberal intellectuals clustered around the ideas of the Vital Center, anti-communism had to be pursued with vehemence focussed on the cultural because of an institutional framework thwarting the authoritarian personality. If the mechanisms for divining freedom were to be sustained, a cleansing of even submerged totalitarian tendencies had to be effected, especially within the institutional framework, that most revered and sacred protector of freedoms. Greenberg's invectives, directed at the The Nation as a cultural medium and ancillary for Soviet propaganda , his activity on the editorial board of Commentary , and his participation in the ACCF, are all inextricably linked to the solutions for the survival of freedom he and a larger group had to negotiate78. His attack on del Vayo and the media should, I think, be seen in light of the institutional focus of anti-communism pursued by these intellectuals as well as the cultural massification which abbreviated the cultural spectrum and divested it of diversity. The political consequences of such homogeneity, which was the perceived and hidden threat of del Vayo's politics, pointed toward the delimiting of naturally occurring mechanisms of American culture to provide freedom. Within this framework high modernist culture was an important signifier of difference; the differential gap it provided in the cultural sphere acted as an important sounding board in defining a politics for the sphere. In the minutes of the Executive Committee, Daniel Bell voices precisely this position, " The ACCF's proper concerns were the political consequences of cultural events , not the cultural consequences of political events". Daniel Bell, ( Executive Committee minutes, Oct. 19, 1954.C-39, ACCF Papers), pp. 2-3. 7 8 The institutional critique occupied the central position of liberal anti-communisms attack: Clement Greenberg, Arthur Schlesinger , David Riesman, Daniel Bell, Robert Warshow, Irving Kristol, Nathan Glazer all shared in a close knit core of ideas. Though, of course, they differed on other issues their distinct position on anti-communism acted as a crucial hingepin in the the early 1950s. group. In support of Greenberg's action Rienhold Niebuhr, an early theorist of the "new liberalisms" middle way, resigned from The Nation as contributing editor, and Arthur Schlesinger would write: "As an occasional contributor to The Nation, I would like to associate myself with the sentiments expressed by Clement Greenberg"79. Though later, as the 1950s progressed, the close knit positions of the group would widen, during the early 1950s their greatly delimited possibilities coalesced disparate positions and a circumscribed brand of anti-communism, specific to the anti-Stalinist Left, became equated with cultural freedom. 79letter to Freda Kirchway, Mar.26, 1951, box C-28, ACCF Papers. 50 CHAPTER 2 Clearly, the early 1950s were a tenuous period for these intellectuals. The salvaging projects they had conceived to harness the social forces of the emerging democratic formation, in the late 1940s, were slowly disintegrating . The middle class, whom they had strategically placed in a pivotal position, a conservatizing move in order to retain the possibility of democratic rule by elites, had fulfilled their darkest prophesies, swinging the 1952 election in favor of the Republican Right. The political forces they had set in motion had, in the form of McCarthyism, overtaken them entirely and in effect rendered their politics impotent. The moderate centrist position the new liberalism once occupied was, by the early 1950s, marginalized and displaced by the Republican party, as America slid en masse toward the Right . It was, indeed, a landslide Republican majority in the suburbs -- 66% in Levittown, Long Island, and over 69% in Park Forest, Illinois — that gave Eisenhower his first term in office in 1952.1 The championing of the suburbs and its "wise" middle class as the ideal direction of American society was typical of the domestic Cold War policies of the Republican party under Eisenhower. Their embrasure of widespreading consumerism , affluence, and the suburban model for leisure, focussed around the television set, was complete and utterly uncomplicated. As a general tendency in Eisenhower's administration, American activities seemingly focussed upon 1 William H.Whyte, The Organization Man, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1956), p.300. domestic consumerism as a weapon against anti-communism. For the purposes of cultural brinksmanship on the home front , the American dream under Eisenhower was constructed as fulfilled , ready for export, and potentially damning to communist subversion. This was to render the manachiest choices of the Third World nations and the communist countries themselves incapable of turning down advanced industrial capitalism and the sensational affluence and lifestyle of suburbia 2 . The modern corporate and industrial complex converged with middle-class prosperity in a benevolent accord offering nationalism structured exclusively toward the healthy economic life of the individual. The benevolent and overly optimistic construction of egalitarian developments in the social formation, whether pre-election or over the two terms of Eisenhower's presidency, was clearly in opposition to the qualified embrasure and pragmatism the liberal intelligensia perceived of as valid in a progressive sense . The suburban middle class had been neatly appropriated as the theoretical rationalization and legitimation of both domestic and foreign Republican Cold War policies. Rampant consumerism was implicated as moral and the American way. It was in response to the threat and pervasiveness of this construction, from as early on as the late 1940s, that the largely Democratic intellectuals I am concerned with positioned and repositioned themselves. To the 2 This would reach its climax with Vice-President Richard Nixon, extolling the virtues of American consumerism and technology at the famous face off with Totalitarianism against Nikita Khrushchev at the Moscow "Kitchen Debate" in 1959. liberal groups clustered around the new liberalism of the Vital Center, National policy and sentiment, more than anything else, manifest itself as an uncritical embracing of the domestic situation, especially consumerism and mass society, a too soft position on international communism, and a misunderstanding of its ideological nature. All told, this amounted to an all too obvious signal to the world that American domestic and foreign policy presaged individual and cultural genocide.3 The Republican victory in the 1952 election carried to the fore many of the worst fears these intellectuals had teethed. The momentum and resonance of domestic anti- communism in its more populist manifestations proved to be central. As a key constituent of their own theoretical model, and complicated by the growing political forces activated by the Cold War, these intellectual groups were placed in an extremely tenuous and limited framework. It was, in fact, part of the greater strategy of the Eisenhower camp during the latter part of the elections of 1952 to cultivate precisely the populist, anti- intellectual tone of McCarthyism, in order to capture the middle class consensus. As the election drew near, the sometimes strict sectarianism of intellectual third party politics 4 was wildly swinging in favor of Stevenson. Key intellectual defections 3The ACCF was in part a functionig cog in a political machinery to combat exactly such speculations. At every possible opportunity their projects affirm the possibility of high culture in mass society. See for instance Daniel Bell's "America as a Mass Society" read as a paper presented at the conference "The Future of Freedom", sponsored by the Congress for Cultural Freedom in Milan, Italy, September, 1955 and reprinted in The End of Ideology. 4 Arthur H. Schlesinger, "The Highbrow in American Politics", Partisan Review, March - April 1953, p.159. to the Stevenson position late in the campaign had prompted the media to portray the new tone of the Stevenson Democrat camp with the intellectual overtones of the Ivy League— as the "egghead" vote. This characterization struck deep within the American psyche , and perhaps above all else was contingent upon the hard right faction of Senator McCarthy, whose wide-ranging populist support , especially in the suburbs, constituted a clear majority. In the months following the sedition trials of Alger Hiss and Coplon , and in the wake of the Owen Lattimore case, the "red menace", initially the baby of liberal intellectuals, had become the monster child and powerful political tool for the extreme right5 . As a grim prophesy before the election, a McCarthyite Republican spelled out how great the threat and repercussions of a Stevenson "bleeding heart" victory would be "... the eggheads will come back into power and off again we will go on the scenic railway of muddled economics, Socialism, Communism, crookedness and psychopathic instability."6 By conflating intellectualism and brands of liberalism with socialist or communistic tendencies, the urbane Stevenson, surrounded by the intelligentsia, had little hope against anti-communist sentiment sweeping the country. The sinister threat of authoritarianism was much too dangerous a future for the freedom-loving American, 5 Daniel Bell, "What Next For McCarthy" The New Leader , Nov. 24,1952, p. 21. See also Robert G. Spivack, "Why Stevenson Lost" The New Leader , Nov. 17 ,1952, pp. 2-5 . 6 Louis Bromfield , quoted in Arthur Schlesinger , Jr. "The highbrow in American Politics", protective and proud of his Buick station wagon, her family and suburban home , and their matching towels and leisure suits. "The Plight of Our Culture" 1952 in particular, with the defeat of Stevenson and the onset of the Eisenhower administration, presented the positions of the Vital Center with a bleak situation and horizon . Time Magazine captured the mood at election and ushered in the new era with grim delight : " The final victory discloses an alarming fact , long suspected: there is a wide and unhealthy gap between the American intellectuals and the people" . In seeming response to such accusations ,and to the portent tone of Schlesinger's article, "Stevenson and the American Liberal Dilemma", directed toward the future of liberalism , liberal intellectuals retained a substantial degree of optimism, channeling this into an updated set of solutions 7 . Their dialectically structured thought , still embracing the historically situated materialism of their earlier leftist years , kept possibility alive through a continual and renewed incorporation of the changing modern circumstance. Even 7 Arthur M Schlesinger, Jr,. "Stevenson and the American Liberal Dilemma", Twentieth Century, Jan. 1953, p.59. The pragmatic imperative that "... only the strength and vitality which will come from a willingness to respond directly to the imperatives of the 1950s can bring salvation and regeneration" stuctures Schlesingers article. 8 Alexander Bloom in Prodigal Sons : The New York Intellectuals and Their World , (New York, Oxford University Press, 1986), misinterprets the optimism of this moment. The sense of affirmation he garners from the "Our Country and Our Culture" symposium is not simply a product of the coalescing and unification of intellectual forces behind their country— this had occurred much earlier— rather it was more a sense of possibility gained from the fact that they had found a strategy to pursue their elitist conception of democracy. with the crushing political defeat of the liberal program in 1952 , many intellectuals had reason to retain hope in the Vital Center's future. This is witnessed in Partisan Review 's overwhelmingly affirmative symposium, "Our Country and Our Culture", of 1952.8 Lionel Trilling's contribution, which was later to appear in an expanded form in Perspectives , outlined one of the more hopeful pictures. His position incisively takes apart the Stevenson campaign and defeat , finding promise in the fact that his limited success was built around a positive intellectual outlook. Though the American democratic formation's overwhelming tendency was to manifest itself as a levelled populism, Trilling locates a countervailing mode of promise emerging . This he identifies as an entirely new hierarchy of social elites that the American corporate system was breeding. This new emerging professional or incorporated intellectual was evidently trying to consolidate a position within the social totality. The pyrrhic victory of the Stevenson campaign was that it had linked up with and revealed a peculiarly promising manifestation of late monopoly capitalism ... a class moved by the power of ideas. 9 It was in this same complex historical scenario that Greenberg would submit "The Plight of Our Culture". As highly and closely synchronous to the reverberations of liberal notions of freedom as Trilling's hopeful position, Greenberg's article delineates in a broad format the altered cultural landscape, a wide-ranging prescription for its internal re-ordering, and the necessity for an altogether new 9 Lionel Trilling , "The Situation of the American Intellectual at the Present Time ", Perspectives , no.3., Spring 1953, p.33. strategy for avant-garde practice. The influence of Riesman is carefully veiled, but nonetheless fundamental. In America at mid-century not culture but work occupied the positive and central ends of life. That is to say, the functionalization of the working sphere is one of the key premises of ' Greenberg's critique to alter culture, which was being forced into a negative and recuperative stance for the maintenance of labour oriented drudgery. Leisure had become another function or convention for self-improvement based in peer group approbation. It was Greenberg's intent to remedy this predicament and reinstil culture as epicenter and centripetal focus. To this end, he traces the immanent rhythm and promise of American civilization back to its capitalist formation, and ultimately to the fact of corporate industrialism's all-pervading efficiency, the anxiety to sustain this efficiency , and the imaginative decision-making upon which this hinges. Riesman's notions of "other-direction" and its inflection on American work and leisure, structured toward a lingering interpersonal anxiety of approbation, are the underlying and central causes of a predicament Greenberg sees as possibly solvable through a realliance of work and leisure with productive efficiency, self-purpose, and individual self-awareness. It would be these saving features of life under American capitalism i.e., those countering the impetus toward groupism, reinfused into culture, that would metaphorically inform and have profound ramifications on the formal shift within American modernism Greenberg so fervently championed. Riesman's early model which incorporated and assimilated social mobility into a transcending hierarchy of taste , and presciently claimed the possibility for an elite of taste to tenuously consolidate a position amidst pervasive conformity, is implicit to Greenberg's article — the first important attempt to reconcile a visual stylistics with projects inscribed and framed by the ideologies of the "new liberalism" 1 0. The shift from authority to manipulation Riesman notes in relation to character structure, and Bell metaphorically refers to as a psychologized panopticon, i.e. the functionalization of working method and industrial corporate strategy, is theoretically overturned by the imputing of motivation to the self. Wherein motivation and direction are gained only from the group rather than from the productive impetus of the self -- all satisfaction is subsequently gained extracurricularly. In 1953 "just as work" ... Greenberg writes ... " had become more concentratedly and actively work -- that is more strictly controlled by its purposes , more efficient"11 so the next phase in the teleological progression of modernism in painting would be a more concentrated distillation of the medium's purposes through a stricter emperical logic. 1 2 I would argue it was just such a focus 1 0 Although Greenberg does not explicitly mention the visual in "The Plight of Our Culture", it can quite rightly be read into the article. 1 1 Clement Greenberg , "The Plight of Our Culture", Commentary, vol.16, July 1953, p.58. 1 2 This is indeed what Greenberg proposes 7 years later . In "Modernist Painting" (1960) he writes modernism had through its self critical tendency exhibited " not only that which was unique and irreducible in each particular art ... (but) had ... to determine through its own operations and works , the effects exclusive to itself". Clement Greenberg, "Modernist Painting", Arts Yearbook , vol.4, 1961, p. 102. 1 3 Greenberg's position in 1953 is a far cry from the Eliotic Trotskyism to which T.J. Clark ascribes him in 1939. It is partly the result of a conscious distancing from this former politics that Greenberg's attack take such a vehemence. 1 4 Eliot quoted by Greeberg in "The Plight of Our Culture", p.58. in stain painting, and more specifically a focus in Louis' first "Veils", a focus on the purity of color and openness this mitigated, a focus on form and content reconciled, and the accessing of these qualities through the peculiar conglomerate of individualism , freedom , and autonomy of character exemplified by Morris Louis , that placed the stylistics of the mode so in touch with America's global hegemony at a moment when that was nearing its zenith. Using T.S. Eliot's book, Notes Toward the Definition of Culture as a departure , Greenberg sounds off against the pessimistic romanticism and traditionally conservative stance of the literary critic in the face of change wrought by capitalism.13 For Greenberg, "culture in decline"14 did not sufficiently capture the intricacies of the modern condition, especially as manifest in the American example. Increased prosperity, higher levels of education, and aspirant levels of cultural appreciation among a broad populace had to be acknowledged as positive progress in any cultural construct. Perhaps the most sustained attack on the literary critic's position was Greenberg's focus on the latter's failure to deal with the specifics of the American cultural and economic situation. Like Daniel Bell and Riesman , Greenberg makes claims for America's distinctness from European models and, importantly, affirmatively claims this warrants an acknowledgement of the American condition as an entirely new stage of capitalism. The upper classes can no longer say to the rest of society: "Work -- that& your fate, not ours." Status and prestige are not derived so implicitly as before from social origin , and are conferred more and more preponderantly on achievement, and sustained achievement at that. Old fashioned , complete leisure is now felt by the rich, too, as idleness, as remoteness from reality, and therefore the way to demoralization, thus no longer presupposed as the natural and positive condition of the realization of the highest values — much less as the end for which one strives in youth as well as old age."15 Echoing elements of both Riesman's and Daniel Bell's critique of American culture -- which are useful here for extrapolation — Greenberg reiterates that the fulcrum of power and status had shifted from the two fundamental pillars of bourgeois capitalism, property, and the family to achievement , itself placed within a new set of parameters established by industrialism built upon the corporate mega model 1 6 . With intimations to Bell's notions of the unprecedented breakdown of entrepreneurial and family forms of capitalism,"corporate giantism" is accepted as the solitary means to chart a future for technological progress , and hence, enduring cultural and economic prosperity. The shift away from family capitalism, from the dynasties of "Ford ,Swift, Grace , and du Pont"17 to a new class of managers, "... recruited from the general grab bag of middle class life, (who) lack the assured sense of justification which 1 5 Greenberg , "The Plight of Our Culture", Commentary, vol.16, July 1953, p.59. 1 6 Daniel Bell, "The Prospects of American Capitalism", Commentary, vol.14, no.6, Dec.1952, pp. 603, 610. 1 7 Bell, "The Prospects of American Capitalism", p. 610. the older class rooted system provided"18 , found its corrolary in a system providing unlimited potential for social mobility and perhaps as well to a form, or better veneer, of freedom. Greenberg's analyses of American culture, while borrowing heavily upon the mediations of Riesman's characterological work on conformity, would deny the mechanistic optimism Riesman imputes to the anxiety for more sophisticated and cultured forms of leisure as means for mobility. In order to reconcile a position for high cultural production and reception he can only accept pessimistically the possibility for elites existing in the social formation while denying the possibility for those elites emerging from the "general grab bag of middle class life".19 1 8 Bell figures that with an investment only in success for its own sake, rather than in that of the company , insecurity and anxiety among the managerial class was at a premium. 1 9 Bel l , ibid. Mills notes in The Power Elite that this corporate elite and specifically "the sophisticated conservative", are, despite the myth of corporate mobility, actually descendents of wealthy families from the turn of the century. "The business liberals or sophisticated conservatives ... are sophisticated because they are more flexible in adjusting to such political facts of life as the New Deal and big labour, because they have taken over and used the dominant liberal rhetoric for their own purposes, and because they have, in general, attempted to get on top of, or even slightly ahead of, the trend of these developments, rather than to fight it as practical conservatives are want to do." Mills, The Power Elite, (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1956), p. 122. He continues " Socially the men and women of the great American fortunes have taken their places as leaders of the several metropolitan 400's. Of the ninety members of the 1900 very rich, only nine were included in Ward McAllister's 1892 list, but roughly half of the families in our 1900 listing have descendants who in 1940 were listed in the social registers of Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, or New York ... Twelve of the fifteen sons of the ten men out of the 1900 very rich whom Fred Allen selected as the leading financiers of 1905, went to either Harvard or Yale: the other three to Amherst, Brown, and Columbia" Mills, The Power Elite, (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1956), p. 117. It is along such lines of argument that Greenberg forefronts middle-brow culture, it forming a critical aspect of the distance between his own and Riesman's position and as well that between he and Eliot. A qualified acceptance of it was natural, if the pragmatic element and long-range projects of liberal ideologues were to be kept alive . Organically linked as it was to the benevolence of American democracy, and as one of the most visible manifestations of the American dream, it was indelibly linked and frought with the same possibility as the larger American situation. Mid -cult had to be taken up within a larger cultural model, if only tenuously and qualifiedly, and if only to refute Eliot's romantic misconceptions as to the generative framework of diversity necessary to high culture. The seriousness of the situation and mid-cults pivotal position in the cultural arena occupies Greenberg at length. Its utter weight in American culture, it seems, had capped off a century of gathering momentum. To the extent that through the efficiency of American industrialism the middle class material position, its political power, and its optimism were peaked, its culture , middlebrow culture, had become the crucial culture "... where the fate of the whole is decided" 2 0 . In concurrence with the larger liberal program, loosely associated with the core intellectuals, its populist and consumption orientation was denigrated by Greenberg. The new American middle classes have in this situation been able to ask with more confidence and success than any upstart class before them that high culture be delivered to them by a compromise, precisely , with their limitations . Hence , above all, 2 0 Greenberg, "The Pl ight of Our Culture" , Commentary, vol.16, July 1953, p.55. middlebrow culture. The liberal and fine arts of tradition, as well as scholarship, have been "democratized" -- simplified, streamlined, purged of whatever cannot be made accessible, and this is in large measure by the same rationalizing, "processing", and "packaging" methods by which industrialism has already made lowbrow culture a distinctive product of itself. Almost all types of knowledge and almost all forms of art are stripped, digested, synopsized, "surveyed", or abridged. The result achieved in those who patronize this kind of capsulated culture is, perhaps, a respect for culture as such, and a kind of knowingness, but it has very little to do with higher culture as something lived2 1-Certainly, the mystification of class, and the massive expansion of the media, spoke to precisely Eliot's kind of mass, undifferentiated construction of America, but simultaneously there were indicators emerging, or so the "new liberalism" fervently maintained — and it had a large corpus of sociological statistics to prove it — that new systems of and for social organization and bonding were coalescing. The inclusion of mid-cult in a larger cultural model furnished the liberal ethos with a schema which sanctioned diversity, essential for liberalism to conceive of the possibility for the "dizzying choice of freedom", thus legitimating a social hierarchy of taste as natural. In his address for the ACCF in Italy, entitled "America as a Mass Society", Daniel Bell uses the burgeoning middle levels of culture to dispel criticism of America as mass society, and instead posits it as a healthy forum for an open society providing for diversity: In the United States, more dollars are spent on concerts of classical music than on baseball. Sales of books have doubled in a 2 1 Greenberg, "The Plight of Our Culture", Commentary, vol.15, Je. 1953, pp. 565-566. decade. There are over a thousand symphony orchestras, and several hundred museums , institutes and colleges are purchasing art in the United States today. Various other indexes can be cited to show the growth of a vast middlebrow society. And in coming years, with steadily increasing productivity and leisure, the United States will become an even more active "consumer" of culture. 2 2 Similarly, Greenberg offers the growth and infinite gradations of middlebrow culture as evidence, and following Riesman, implicates its infinite gradings of taste as the graspable translation of differentiating publics, or at least as evidence of popular culture as having an active or participatory element — the possibility of closing the gap between high culture and mid-cult. There is a vast distance between high culture and lowbrow — vaster, perhaps, than anything similar in the past -- but it is covered without apparent break by the infinite shadings and gradings of middlebrow culture, which is defined roughly by the fact that, though its audience shrinks from the trials of highbrow culture, it nonetheless refuses to let its culture be simply a matter of entertainment and diversion on the lowbrow order.2 3 With distinction renegotiated in terms of the infinite shadings of taste, what better conditions for the fostering of high culture, even in Eliot's terms, could be found than the stunning diversity and pervasiveness of mid-cult. 2 2 Indeed the European intellectual community's main point of criticism of American potential was its massified characteristics which would discount the validity of claims for any avant garde cultural progeny. Thus Bell's address focussed precisely on the heart of the matter. See "America as a Mass Society", first delivered Sept. 1955. Reprinted in The End of Ideology, (New York: Free Press of Glencoe, 1960), p.33. 2 3 Greenberg.'The Plight of Our Culture", Commentary, vol.15, Je. 1953, p. 564. With high culture and mid-cult equally and intimately related to their generative framework in a society of accelerated consumption, the implied model of cultural analysis situated both on the same continuum of heightening personal choice . It focussed in on the element of taste the consumer possessed, and keyed an ascending scale of taste and hence freedom and moral certitude to the ever heightened realm of modernist culture. 2 3 3 Unlike the Frankfurt School, especially Adorno and Horkheimer's in Dialectic of The Enlightenment (1947), which relates consumerism directly to the mechanisms of a culture industry, Greenberg's model, based in the sanguine theoretical practice of Riesman, allowed for the possibility of a transcendent consumption oriented individual. Outmanoeuvering loyalties of an ideological nature and group belongingness in terms of consumption patterns, the possibility for autonomous culture and its pursuit is given legitimation by a real historical subject located in the field of American culture ... a culture synced to social mobility and the possibility for a heightening sensitivity to taste. The new image of the autonomous American individual was a consumer whose intellectual conceptions and decisions encompassed a democratic freedom of choice while grounded in taste and intellectuality or sophistication as constitutive of that choice. The individual being forwarded was the agent for an ideal public of modernist art and necessarily of a dynamic and fluid economic elite of managerial status. Again, this was a corroborative of the political 2 3 a This reading of popular culture theory in the 1950s is in opposition to current literature on which fails to grasp the importance of mid-cult in the context of the Cold War. See for instance the superficial nature of Andrew Ross' recently published book No Respect: Intellectuals and Popular Culture. economy envisioned by the projects of the "new liberalism" . In fact, it fully embraced the potential for "status seeking" locked inside the large corporate economy translated as homologous to Riesman's delineation of the taste group and Greenberg's use of taste as necessary for the continuance of modernism. The new image of the American individual, positioned in an ever increasing hierarchy of taste , was intimately linked to the Vital Center's notions of democratic rule by elites, only social and class distinction are cloaked beneath notions of individual taste24 . The consumer whose intellectual conceptions and decisions encompassed a democratic freedom of choice while grounded in taste as constitutive of that choice was made possible by a benevolent corporate and, in a larger sense, institutional framework structured for social mobility and enfranchisement. Daniel Bell comments on this in 1953: The most salient fact about modern life -- capitalist and communist — is the ideological commitment to social change. And by change is meant the striving for material and economic betterment, greater opportunity for individuals to exercise their talents, and an appreciation of culture by wider masses of people. Can any society deny these aspirations? ... Social and cultural change is probably greater and more rapid today in the United 2 4 William H. Whyte notes in The Organization Man , that an average cross-section of the new suburban middle class has a mean educational level of 2.5 years of college life, and that college- educated wives are not uncommon; indeed, it is their taste for cardigans, slacks, and pearls which sets the standard for suburban fashion. Education and relative sucess are conflated and priorized to such an extent that the educated girls waistline becomes a signification of income. "Average income is tranlated into palpable differences in what has come to be called lifestyles. Even the degree of wives' slenderaess, as incomes rise waistlines go down, so that in the $5,000 - $7,000 income group, 59% of the women wear the small misses sizes" Whyte, The Organization Man, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1956), p. 317. States than in any other country, but the assumption that social disorder and anomie inevitably attend such change is not borne out in this case. This may be due to the singular fact that the United States is probably the first large society in history to have change and innovation "built into" its culture. " 2 5 While capturing the spirit of democratization ,i.e., change , this position, through gestures only on the surface liberalizing , simultaneously retained its elitist conceptions of political economy. Class distinctions, surreptitiously re-evaluated in terms of taste, legitimated an embrasure — or perhaps more succinctly a cooptation -- of the democratic impetus, while retaining difference and marginality ... the essence of the Vital Center's pluralism of choice. Whether it would be Trilling's intellectual class or A.C. Spectorsky's "ideas men" 2 6 coalescing in a rarified corporate hierarchy and geography, or simply the propensity for Bridge over Canasta and Poker in the suburban middle class2 7 , difference and distinction were being established and re-solidified. Trilling's class, moved by the power of ideas, Riesman's emerging "saving remnant" , and Greenberg's restructuring of culture, are all prospects not, ironically, unlinked. These issues framed by intellectuals, which Jurgen Habermas locates at the roots of the new conservatism28 , intimately associated with the politics of 2 5 Bell, "America as a Mass Society", in, The End of Ideology: On the Exhaustion of Political Ideas in the Fifties, (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1988), p.35. 2 6 A.C. Spectorsky, The Exurbanites, (New York: Berkley Publishing Corp., 1955), p. 12. 2 7 See Whyte, The Organization Man., especially Part VII, pp. 267-392. 2 8 Jurgen Habermas, The New Consevatism: Cultural Criticism and the Historians' Debate, (Cambridge: The MIT Press,1989), see especially chapter 1. 2 9 Trilling , "The Situation of the American Intellectual at the Present Time ", Perspectives, no. 3, Spring 1953, p.35. the ACCF, with a marked taste for high culture and cosmopolitanism, and an adopted responsibility for the survival of high modernist culture , all boded well for the cultural life of America. Despite their disparate positions, all felt helplessly threatened by the democratic levelling which the prehensile quality of the new middle class presented. The identification of a social elite and what made them tick somewhat allayed those fears. Trilling writes: "This group will not be — is not — content with mass culture as we now have it, because for its very existence it requires new ideas , or at least the simulacra of new ideas."29 This organic intellectual could perhaps economically sustain imaginative or Utopian thinking 3 0 . Their existence provided the possibility for a lengthening of the spectrum of cultural diversity by underwriting the symbiotic relations between an avant-garde of aesthetic and intellectual pursuits and a progressive and economically powerful elite. Despite the fact that the liberal intellectual's alliance with the rising star of corporate America had been adumbrated in the late 1940s, it was not until the early and mid 1950s, when concrete evidence as to its potential power was manifest, that this prescient knowledge became more readily accepted or widely dispersed. In his 3 0 Even C.Wright Mill in his book The Power Elite (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1956) which offers perhaps one of the few critically dissenting analysis' of the American situation at mid-1950's falls prey to a certain misguided and not entirely unawed appreciation of the corporate and military complex. 3 1 A.C. Spectorsky, The Exurbanites, ( New York, Berkeley Publishing Corp., 1955), pp.10-12. See also David Riesman's "The Executive as Hero", Fortune, Jan. 1955, pp. 108-110. The popularity of the films The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit and Executive Suite is not unrelated to this mounting optimism in American culture. 1955 best-seller, The Exurbanites , for instance, A .C. Spectorsky spotlights precisely this elite fraction of the corporate sector . " The exurbanite, at his most typical , is an idea man — as we have called him, a symbol manipulator ... these people God save us all, set the styles , mold the fashions , and populate the dreams of the rest of the country ... they are our nation's movers and shakers for ideas and opinions, for what is fashionable, and what is fun."31 Constructed as a kind of new avant - garde of taste makers the managerial elite of the corporate sector , and evidently popular myth, followed in the parameters of a "saving remnant". Such a corporate elite --possessed of keys for the executive washroom -- would undoubtedly have provided the requisite "umbilical cord of gold" 3 2 for Greenberg's still persistent dictum. In this fraction of the dominant class which exemplified America's potential efficiency and altogether heightened form of modernity, the rigors of an austere and autonomous aesthetic practice might not be lost.3 3 The existence of a managerial elite might undersign the economic viability of a painting aesthetically refined to the last degree , and whose values importantly spoke to the sensibility of that very particular fraction of the social order. Greenberg's attempts to affix 3 2 Greenberg, "Avant-Garde and Kitsch", in Pollock and After: The Critical Debate, ed. Fraschina, (New York: Harper and Row, 1986), p. 24. 3 3 See Fortunes yearlong editorial supplement, "The American Breakthrough" beginning in January 1955. Also Maurer Herryman's "The Age of Manager's", Fortune, Jan.1955, pp. 84- 88. 3 4 Serge Guilbaut, How New York Stole The Idea of Modern Art, trans. A. Goldhammer (Chicago: Univ. Chicago Press, 1983) see especially chapters 4 and 5. and focus the social responsibility for the continuance of high modernist culture on such an individual of corporate connection were contingent especially on earlier factors extensively worked and integrated into Riesman's new delineation of the American social formation focussed in upon and hinging on taste. As a functioning aspect of freedom of choice this was only potentially housed within Riesman's self-possessed autonomous individual. The reconciliation of avant - garde ideology with the ideology of postwar liberalism through groups surrounding Abstract Expressionism, from as early on as 1948, has been well documented.34 Avant-garde ideology allied itself with Schlesinger's affirmative vision of an open democratic society and its prehensile shibboleth, freedom. In the face of the grim threat of totalitarianism, liberal culture and politics sustained a program especially tailored to discourses surrounding avant-garde practice. With its "startling insight into the value of the individual"35 , predicated by an incisive accessing of freedom, postwar liberalism provided a powerfully resonating avenue to pursue the peculiar American variant of avant-garde modernism. Freedom was closely implicated in this redefining of the modern individual. Anxiety and alienation were its crucial levers. In his often quoted passage, Schlesinger reveals how decisively important and closely linked the concepts are in the liberal model. 3 5 Schlesinger, The Vital Center: The Politics of Freedom, p. 248 3 6 Schlesinger, The Vital Center: The Politics of Freedom, p. 56. The final triumph of totalitarianism has been the creation of man without anxiety — of "totalitarian man". Totalitarianism sets out to liquidate the tragic insights which gave man a sense of his limitations. In their place it has spawned a new man, ruthless , determined, extroverted, free from doubts or humility, capable of infallibility, and on the higher echelons of the party, infallible . Against totalitarian certitude, free society can only offer modern man devoured by alienation and fallibility.36 Riesman's particular contribution to this perspective assimilated and informing Greenberg's position during the years of abstract expressionism's rise, came slowly out of dormancy with its decline. Having gained momentum through a vastly delimited set of possibilities in a social sense and hence more graspable in a formally aestheticized way, it is this threading vision which gains priority in Greenberg's negotiations. Riesman's conception of taste with its lynchpin the dizzying problematic of choice lent anxiety and alienation an altogether affirmative flavour -- an inflection particularly ameliorable to any mediation upon the modern moment. Alienation and anxiety had been propelled by postwar circumstance into a constructive force for freedom and in the case, too, of Abstract Expressionism transfigured into creativity37 . However, the anxiety ridden style of Abstract Expressionism had necessarily fallen short of the affirmative potential America possessed. The fuller adoption of Riesman's methodology gave the stylistic progression and stage of avant-garde negation the affirmative political potential inured of an elite of taste. Freedom for 3 7 Guilbaut, How New York Stole The Idea of Modern Art. p. 202. both Schlesinger and Riesman -- though each definition differed subtly — was an illusive and intangible quality, only the immanent foretaste of a future society. Its essence had to be hunted after via the risk inured in decision-making amidst a vast multitude of choices. Riesman's "nerve of failure", especially resonant within the progressively functionalized bureaucratic conformity of the 1950s, was one crucial delineation of this process. To tap the resources of freedom , which were corequisite with the progress of society, was to structure choice and decision-making always/ever toward the Utopian future. The future of liberalism and the American avant -garde placed its hopes in these subtle negotiations made by the free and autonomous individual. By the late 1940s and early 1950s the constructive space for freedom , given to anxiety and alienation, though entirely delimited, had gained a potential social dimension. Utopian and imaginative thinking were emerging as a central aspect of late capitalism, confined to an elite of managers in the corporate sector whose responsibility was insuring efficiency and profit in the next quarter. Wholly responsible for the gains made by American civilization, advanced industrialism and the fact of its guiding ethos — an ever increasing efficiency keyed management decision making to an unprecedented level of foresight.38 As the new liberalism had kept 3 8 See John McDonald's "Hoe Business Men Make Decisions", Fortune, Aug. 1955, pp. 84, 87, 130-137. 3 9 The president of Dow Chemical offered this (perhaps) definitive composite of the managerial elite and its grave responsibility: "An executive is a relatively high level member of the management family whose work is largely in the area of decision making and policy- formulation. His capacity is such that his judgement , perspective , and skill in properly delegating responsibility will weigh heavily in the long term success or failure of the alive the political dimension of imaginative direction in the wake of Truman , so the corporate elite in the 1950s structured policy for an imagined future3 9 . Torqued for imaginative ideas, the corporate manager functioned in a position where risk taking was a fact of life and corporate giantism held the promise of a Utopian future. Indeed, in his article "The limits of Totalitarian Power ", Riesman maintains the managerial post even in the Soviet Union contained "dangerous responsibilities"40 , i.e., choices which might curtail totalitarian certitude, thereby instilling the "dizzyness of freedom" 4 1 . In the American situation, amidst the bland "yes men" of the corporate environment , where the ambivalent response was a creed all its own, Riesman hailed the "nerve of failure ", possessed and valued only by the managerial elite. Structured for distinction amidst conformity , Riesman's "nerve of failure" encompassed the sociological terrain of Schlesinger's ideology of risk and individualism. It validated the image of a corporate sphere in a larger landscape devoid of difference and anxiety, given as Bell would later assert to "the exhaustion of political ideas".42 business." Perrin Stryker , "Who Are the Executives", in The Executive Life, editors of Fortune Magazine, (New York: Doubleday and Company, Inc. , 1956), p. 15-43. 4 0 David Riesman, "Some Observations on the Limits of Totalitarian Power", The Antioch Review, June 1952, vol. XII, no. 2., p.163. 4 1 Kierkegaard quoted by Schlesinger in The Vital Center: The Politics of Freedom. 4 2 This is in fact the sub-title of Daniel Bell's book. The End Of Ideology: On The Exhastian of Political Ideas in the Fifties By 1953 it is clear that Greenberg had adopted the "nerve of failure" as a modus operandi for avant - garde strategies. The steel executive who might say "instead of relaxing at night with a mystery story, you keep at it until 11:00 and finally you say to your self ... The devil with it ... I ' m going to have a highball or two and go to bed" 4 3 , had become ironically the focus of intellectuals concerned primarily with the territorialization of risk and anxiety. These absolutely crucial agents for freedom plucked from the American scene —among other things by the quietism inured of consumerism -- are refurbished with a constituency consisting of a corporate managerial elite. Only in the high pressure atmosphere of the corporate boardroom were intellectual and creative impetus structured by anxiety and big risk taking . To access this new terrain of freedom was an absolute necessity if the modernist artists were to retain integrity and originality in their production. The process of decision-making for streamlining and efficiency , absolutely essential to the corporate function, served as a choice metaphor for the modernist endgame. Riesman's "nerve of failure" ,the manager's courage to take risks, shadows the analogous procedures followed by the artist in furthering and challenging taste, through originality in artistic practice. 4 3 William H. Whyte, "How Hard do Executives Work", The Executive Life , p. 63. It is interesting to note that Dwight Macdonald takes up the detective novel as the only legitimate mid-cult form, for its inducement to intellectualizing. Avant-Garde Stategies and the Invalidation of Marginality The conditions and stratification of mid-cult not only threatened the survival of high culture, it also provided the terms for strategies of improvement44 . The most devastating of mid-cults' achievements, its simulation of avant-garde content and attitude through its "conciliatory overtures"45 , had placed the standards of truth offered by the avant-garde as no longer credible, i.e., no longer capturing modernity. "With less and less to say of the truth about life under the industrial system — a truth which therefore goes unsaid"... Greenberg writes ... "the avant-garde grows crabbed and half-baked, given over to the cannonizing , codifying, and imitating of itself, to the conning of a limited repertory of dissident attitudes."4 6 Apparently to empower mid-cult within a cultural model , that is to say, validate it as a reservoir for diversity and openness in American society — allowing of course for the possibility of high culture -- the cadre of traditional avant-garde practice had to be rejected. 4 4 Greenberg, "The Plight of Our Culture", Commentary, vol.16, no.l, p. 62. He concludes his essay as follows: "Reality is what we are concerned with in discussing the plight of our times, not in order to praise it, but for the sake of truth, the lack of which will do genuine culture more harm than any number of jukeboxes". This sentence marks a significant shift in position since his 1939 article "Avant Garde and Kitsch"where the only hope for life and art under capitalism was the prospect of socialism. In a sense by 1953 American capitalism had become socialism's closest approximation. 4 5 Clement Greenberg,"The Plight of Our Culture", Commentary, vol.16, no.l, p. 55. 4 6 Clement Greenberg,"The Plight of Our Culture", Commentary, vol.16, no.l, p. 55. It was the very model of political economy of America at mid century which necessitated this. An order built upon the fundament of change , flux, social mobility, etc... It was an order which continually ate up the margins, whether offering prosperity and education to the disenfranchised masses, or co-opting and usurping avant-garde strategies for the middle class. By implication the middle class had embraced the avant-garde; a critical non-conformity was, as Riesman had foretold, defunct. Daniel Bell notes it too: In Hollywood, where Pickfair society in the twenties counterfeited a European monarchy, "non-conformity", according to Life magazine, "is now the key to social importance and that Angry Middle-Aged man ,Frank Sinatra, is its prophet and reigning social monarch". The Sinatra set , Life points out, deliberately mocks the old Hollywood taboos and is imitated by a host of other sets that eagerly want to be non-conformist as well. Significantly -- a fact that Life failed to mention - the reigning social set and its leaders, Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., are all from minority groups and from the wrong side of the tracks. Sinatra and Martin are Italian, Davis a Negro. In earlier times in American life a minority group, having bullied its way to the top, would usually ape the style and manners of the established status community. In Hollywood, the old status hierarchies have been fragmented, the new sets celebrate their triumph by jeering at the pompous ways of the old ... The additional sardonic fact is that the man in the gray flannel suit, the presumed target of the beatniks, is ... especially if he is in advertising, or the entertainment media, an upper bohemian himself. The job is accepted as a means of obtaining an income in order to sport and flaunt his presumed, idiosyncratic tastes in dress, food, travel, and the like. The problem for all these multiple sets is not conformity but added novelty 4 7 4 7 Bell, "America as a Mass Society", p.36. Bell also quotes Time, Feb.9,1959. "In the richly appointed Lake Shore Drive apartment of Chicago Financier Albert Newman , the guests chatted animatedly, gazed at the original Picasso on the wall, and the' Monet, the Jackson Pollock. On tables and shelves stood Peruvian With marginality effectively invalidated as such , critical non-conformity, the militant isolationist ethos of the avant-garde toward the bourgeoisie, was called entirely into question. Legitimated in the social order, Greenberg writes "... the avant-garde will have to acquire a new content for itself if it is to stay cogent and not degenerate into Alexandrianism".48 Greenberg's solution is to adapt culture in an organic synthesis to the industrial environment. With dissidence and the flight of the avant-garde worn old, a reversal of strategies to a tactics of engagement with the middle and central tenets of American society, conformity in the social sphere, blended with the efficiency and rationality of the corporate sector, seemed timely . Remember, taste was seen as a quotient of sophistication and intellectuality, thus providing an excellent homology. Conformity, the new social cement of America , as theorized by Riesman, had become a critical strategy, as had the increasing rationality of advanced industrialism, itself the legacy of the Enlightenment. This addressed both the question of the culture gap in the mind of liberal theoreticians and suggested means for the continuance of an avant-garde . The new strategy for the avant-garde was conflated with Riesman's autonomy, which was to be derived from and in part fertility symbols, jade bracelets... (the guests) had come to meet 32 year old Allen Ginsberg... author of Howl, At length poet Ginsberg arrived wearing blue jeans and a checked black and red lumberjacking shirt with black patches ... with the crashing madness of a Marx brothers scene run in reverse, the Beatniks read their poetry, made their pitch for money for a new Beatnik magazine and then stalked out. 4 8 Greenberg, "The Plight of Our Culture", Commentary, vol.16, no.l, p. 55. determined by the lifestyle of conformity seen in America and exemplified in suburbia. The "true natural self", it seems, could only be discovered when faced by the ultimate similarity and conformity of middle-classness. Precariously balanced on the razor sharp hedge of the suburban lawn where individuality seems only a formal freedom amidst the standardized lawns , houses ,and lifestyles of American society ,the autonomous creative artist must make very particular decisions to guard and stay true to the integrity of his/her inner life. The ever present fear of being the same focuses the individual identity so that the autonomous individual must "choose themselves" out of a collective claustrophobia. The "nerve of failure" would allow this tenuous engaging with the center. Through it moral hegemony which the middle class only possessed in appearence could be retained and usurped by elite factions. William H. Whyte offers the classic delineation of this only surface conformity which disguised beneath a renegotiated individual with the possibility of transgressing authority. The man who drives a Buick Special and lives in a ranch type house, just like thousands of other ranch type houses, can assert himself as effectively and courageously against his particular society as the bohemian against his particular society. He usually does not , it is true ... but if he does, the surface uniformities can serve quite well as protective coloration. The organization people who are best able to control their environment, rather than be controlled by it, are well aware that they are not too easily distinguishable from the others in the outward obeisances paid to the good opinions of others. And that is one of the reasons they do control . They disarm society.49 4 9 William H. Whyte, The Organization Man , (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1956), p. 11. For Greenberg, Morris Louis was confronted as such. Living and working in the most bureaucratized of cities, he could realize this potential autonomy. Positioned within this new dynamic of America, the objective social processes of a society, on the whole benevolent , could be consciously tapped, and its processes codified on the canvas. Again this was to be achieved through a tenuous dialectical engagement with the Center, and a complicity in its social ethic of rationalization. Accessing the "nerve of failure", the artist could "sustain illusions and assuage doubt"50 permiting original and critical activity the resonance of moral insight, and seemingly affirmative in a larger sense. For Louis, and as well for Noland, like Greenberg's Kafka , the fence against history — that is, to negotiate modernist autonomy — was to be built out of "... middle-class orderliness , prudence, sedentary stability ... (and further) ... out of the treadmill of routine, permanence , and pattern with scrupulous thought as its constituent and enabling principle" 5 1 . Under the protective coloration of middle-class conformity, i.e. cloaked beneath the anonymity provided by the gray flannel suit, the artist possessed the ability to pursue a line of Utopian and original -- sophisticated — thinking , and hence a continued critical practice . 5 0 Riesman,"A Philosophy for Minority Living The Jewish Situation and the 'Nerve of Failure", Commentary, vol.6, no.5, Nov. 1948,", p. 413. 5 1 Clement Greenberg, "The Jewishness of Franz Kafka", Commentary, vol.19, Apr. 1955, p.322. In chapter 3, I use this article and Greenberg's construction of Kafka to show that Riesamn's vision of autonomy — and hence Greenberg's renewed avant-garde project — is fundamentally a dialectical notion of historical consciousness, with the individual aware of both his/her position as simultaneously subject and object of the historical process. The question, however, of how stain painting formally conveys a Utopian project in commiseration with the programs set out by Riesman , Bell , and Schlesinger cannot simply be answered through a re-delineation of intellectual negotiations and historical circumstance used as template , but has further to be pursued as coterminous and interlocked with plastic style. Somehow and somewhere locked within the tension between the base and rationalized reading I offer , and the intensity and impeccable nature of hedonistic color on surface, lies a polysemic meaning Greenberg valued. This will be explored in the next chapter. CHAPTER 3 In the preceding chapters a social, historical, and conceptual framework has been constructed in order to situate the politics of Clement Greenberg . Particular to those of his intellectual milieu was an attempt to seize the direction of American society and pinpoint the ideological forces which were driving the Cold War and fueling the economy. It would be missing the point to conceive of the preceding discussion and Greenberg's central position in it as a recanonizing or valorizing strategy to position him or for the maintenance of his particular aesthetic. Greenberg and his politics exist as a sign for something else; they are only important as part of a larger manifestation encompassing all facets of what America was becoming in the decade of the 1950s. Only Greenberg, Bell, Riesman , and Schlesinger studied this gathering momentum before the rest of the country. In this third chapter, the recouping of Greenberg's politics and its incumbent reconception of modernity, the individual, freedom, and avant-garde practice, will be used as an entrance into the cryptic works of high modernist stain painting. This chapter attempts to historicize the gap between the abstractions of ideological contingency which situate Greenberg in the early and mid 1950s, and the equally abstract problematics which constitute the formal and stylistic concerns of high modernist stain painting. Louis' early "Veils" and the aesthetic theory backing them were an attempt to transpose into visual terms one response to the mounting ferment and optimism in America at this moment. It was a time of limited but growing optimism when Greenberg was formulating a poetics of the visual. His articulation of color and flatness was a desire for prescience, or rather an undertaking involving an investigation into the historical process of form. This process of "becoming" in the internal history of modern art was especially highlighted in the early 1950s when American capitalism itself was "becoming" something other than before. Greenberg's articulation of formal values was closely synced to this larger cultural transformation, though justified only later by a surging historical continuum which matched the surfeit of optimism his circle had only arrived at through study. I will argue that the subtle push and pull of high modernism's stylistic unities, its intense and unbounded color, serve as a vection for the complexities of an intellectual position attempting to negotiate a critical space for a dialectical notion of history. The speculative project of the core intellectuals delineated in the first chapters, a meditation on the immanently utopic forces and contradictions of the new social totality, is encoded and given abstract reference. The Utopian impulse of modernism is charged with the simultaneously speculative and political desire of Greenberg's intellectual position, aligned with the prospects of American capitalism. Early on Greenberg's intellectual circle grasped the hints of transformation in American culture; it would be a very particular formal stylistics which could fulfill this course. Louis' first "Veil" series, produced in 1954 though not successfully exhibited until 1957, are contiguous with the historical prescience of this position. The works in this series, employing acrylic Magna paint poured down from the edges of a streched canvas, are much more than simply "veils" ; they are as representative of the new modernity and America's global position as were Greenberg's, Riesman's, and Bell's writings and theoretical practice of the period. The paintings are as much blueprints for a new society; they analyze that society like the critical texts of this intellectual circle and they propose a possible future. They are as much a promise, too, of progress. To complete an otherwise inadequate cultural armory which America would hold up to the world, the new generation of American painters would brandish openness and color as their "secret weapon"1 . All this becomes readily apparent in the period following the publication of "The Plight of Our Culture" (1953). In the two years subsequent Greenberg expands on an aesthetic prescription already firmly in place. Looking at key texts after the "The Plight of Our Culture" and bracketed by "'American-Type' Painting " and "The Jewishness of Franz Kafka: Some Sources of His Particular Vision", both published in the spring of 1955, a theory of modernism dialectically balancing formalist and materialist tendencies becomes readily apparent. Of the two disparate logics one acknowledges a philosophical debt to Kant via a theory of expression lodged within taste; the other acknowledges Hegel in its attempts to fashion dialectical transcendence from the whole to the particular. Greenberg's writing finds new enthusiasm in its defence of visual qualities which respond with freshness and vitality to the 1 Clement Greenberg, "Master Leger", Partisan Review , Vol. XXI, no. 1, p. 96. Though Leger is not related directly to American painting as such, the implication of Leger's use of color is meant as historical lesson. modern moment. It is in this period of time that both Louis and Noland begin experimentation in staining technique. It is also the period during which Louis produces his first "Veil" series, including Salient (fig. 2), and Atomic Crest (fig. 8) considered by Greenberg among his first "mature" works. This is a period almost before the fact and before the group receives any wider exposure, when the fluid hedonistic color in which Louis' images languished seemed anachronistic in a New York where abstract expressionism predominated. 2 It is this period when a sign is being built, when the plastic style of stain painting, even as practiced in the early 1960s, would be given genesis. One might ask then why the paintings, theoretically positioned and to be understood in relative autonomy from a Marxist definition of superstructure3 , seem so perpetually in opposition to their political vocation ? ... Why more than 30 years of art historical literature can only offer overworked and bogus formal readings, or palid investigations into working method4 , intended for a jingus audience of specialists and connoisseurs? The answer to 2 Remember in June of 1954 Louis sent 9 paintings to the Pierre Matisse Gallery for consideration. Upon rejection he returned to a more orthodox style in line with Abstract Expressionism. It would not be until 1957 that these early "Veils" would be shown, or indeed a new series would be produced. See Elderfield, Morris Louis The Museum of Modern Art, p. 178. 3 See Greenberg's "Plight of Our Culture", p. 561. 4 The large Veils have an existence far outstretching the physical parameters imposed by the Louis' breakfast nook, for instance. Certainly "the nook" in question, a room of only 14' X 12' 2" placed certain restrictions on production but to priorize such triviality as decisive and profound productivist revelation is stupid and defies understanding, as in Kenworth Moffett's reading. "I am quite sure that these physical limitations contributed to the creation of the Unfurleds, where paint is applied only at the two ends of what is often a very large peice of canvas." Morris Louis : Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. 1979, p.6. Diane Upright's catalogue raisonne is similar, wherein a chapter on technique occupies the culmination of a rehashed reading. both questions, a matter of reception, lies simply in a lack of taste that is a fundamental misunderstanding of the moment. I would suggest that following upon the argument forwarded in the first and second chapters that an open and polysemic nature is forefronted as a functioning aspect of style, and that its decrypting mechanism is triggered to the sophistication of taste, a sensibility keyed to the "nerve of failure". If stain painting as style and as mode of formal experimentation is reconnected to Greenberg's and Riesman's construction of the ideal constituency, functioning around the taste group, a stylistics defiantly asserting the autonomy of modernism immediately realigns itself with a political economy given articulation by those same intellectuals. This impulsion, enunciated as gestus , immanently political and charged with the historical and social, is directed toward a conception of elitism which figures centrally in the liberal project for democracy under corporate capitalism in the period roughly spanning 1950 to 1960. This visual project seeking equivalence to the theoretical practice of the core liberal intellectuals is revealed most fruitfully in Greenberg's articles from late 1953 to 1955. In these writings, an otherwise centrifugally driven complex of strategies focuses on avenues for artistic production and more specifically on the processes of encoding, or better, on the lack thereof, that is, on a "structure of expectation" which delimits the generation of meaning in modernism's production and in its reception. This delimiting of meaning depends on the one hand on a dual territorialization of the raw materials of painting by the ideological contradiction of the moment, and on the other hand by unmediated feeling or expressive effect. In Greenberg's equation, because formal particularity is engendered by a response to the dialectical processes of the historical moment and thus has the capacity to escape its "alien associations", indeed, any and all signification, it could thus be relatable to the experience one has in front of art. He writes: In his Critique of Aesthetic Judgement Kant demonstrated that one cannot prove an aesthetic judgement in discourse ... Kant holds that one can appeal only to the other person's taste as exercised through experience of the work of art under discussion ... Art, in my view, explains to us what we already feel, but it does not do so discursively or rationally; rather, it acts out an explanation in the sense of working on our feelings at a remove sufficient to protect us from the consequences of the decisions made by our feelings in response to the work of art. Thus it relieves us of the pressure of feeling. I agree with Aristotle that art is catharsis, but the catharsis leaves us no wiser than before.5 By 1954 successful art, in Greenbergian terms necessarily limited to that which heightened feeling or sense alone, is correspondingly delimited by the fluid processes of content which stained color on canvas explores and describes6 . The idiom of stain painting — and this is locked into Greenberg's criticism on art — envisaged a future very much of misuse and misinterpretation. With the example of abstract expressionism fresh in Greenberg's mind, the secondary production of meaning, i.e., its reception, had to be 5 C. Greenberg, Greenberg/Leavis correspondence. Commentary, vol. 20, Aug. 1955, p. 177. 6 In a response to F.R. Leavis , Greenberg writes: "Successful art heightens our sense of the possibilities of life, but I would say it works on that sense as a sense alone without indicating superior or inferior possibilities as such" Commentary , vol.19, 1955, p. 595. completely stemmed. The anxiety over secondary meaning becomes in a sense a productive motor of form, therein constantly challenging taste. Difficulty or crypticness may be investigated as the promise of desire which the speculative politics of the intellectuals explored. The open and polysemic nature of meaning in the images situates a meaning in the "force field" between subject and object; it becomes a function of the same processes of thought, sophistication, and dialectical thinking the politics of freedom necessitated in the early and mid 1950s. Signification is wholly circumscribed to an audience possessed of enough taste to apprehend the critical choices involved in the maintenance of aesthetic purity. Dialectics is here treated as that probing of the "force field" between subject and object — this mediation is crucial, for no meaning is absolute in the open work. Similarly the promise of desire is not inherent to the image but located in the process of diologizing - in the thought process as a quotient of the intellectualizing processes of taste.7 The extremes of aestheticism which Louis' first "Veils" explore were to place the images in a completly altered relationship to the world. They were to inhabit a new space. Yet the order of experience they offered was somehow contingent upon an advanced 7 This is discussed further in the section , "Kafka Sources of a Particular Vision" 8 Indeed this does appear to be the case. With Greenberg's internal history of modern art inescapably inscribed and dialectically bonded to its conditions of production, and further and very importantly, the conditions of consciousness of its producers, the look and content of art production becomes a forthright concern. In their negotiation of the complex modern moment and the problem of representation itself , the images belayed an affirmative politics allied with an ideological enunciation of the moment poised to take dominion. stage of capitalism. 8 I will trace in Greenberg's key writings the sense of sign which begins to emerge in this formative period. The resonance of color and openness is crucial and so too is a continued and intensified forefronting of process. The stylistic qualities in the work of Helen Frankenthaler, Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, and Clyfford Still, all integral to the teleological pursuit of modernist destiny Greenberg would champion, will inversely provide the means to distill qualities in relation to that which he is defending.9 To approach these issues I will use the locus of color and openness, the optimism this encoded, and the broader issue of aesthetic value. It is an exhibition review in January 1954 which will allow us to access these questions and which gave Greenberg the opportunity to voice his fully matured aesthetic insight. 9 These artists are introduced in Greenberg's article "American Type Painting" (1955). 1 0 This follows Christie and Orton's view on what they see as Greenberg's avant-garde project: "Back in 1940, in 'Towards a Newer Laocoon', Greenberg considered what he saw as the internal history of avant-garde painting ... The first variant is a restatement of what he had earlier written about the medium: the avant-garde inverted the relative status of subject matter and medium and concentrated on the problems and character of the medium particular to painting. The second project or variant was a tendency to investigate the medium particular to painting for its expressive effects: "There is a common effort in each of the arts to expand the expressive resources of the medium, not in order to express ideas and notions, but to express with greater imediacy sensations, the irreducible elements of experience". Christie and Orton, "Writing on a Text of the Life", Art History, vol. 11, no. 4, Dec. 1988, p. 548. "Master Ledger": Expression and "Ixion's Wheel" The Museum of Modern Art's Leger retrospective offered the pretext for an enunciation of Greenberg's own brand of dialectically faceted formalism by engaging in Leger's enthusiasms for color, his relation to Cubism, and the historical moment of 1910 to 1914. Greenberg takes up Leger's work for a number of reasons. Serving as an anterior link to avant-garde history and development it reaffirmed and clarified two variants of the avant-garde project as Greenberg had earlier defined it. This amounted, firstly, to a concentration on medium rather than on subject matter; and secondly, to an investigation and expansion upon that medium's expressive effects.10 In Greenberg's sketch of Leger's production, color emerges as a key functioning aspect in the internal history of modernist painting's concentration on medium and as well appears to contribute to the expressive effects of the medium. Simultaneously, Leger's work made specific its historical debt to the modern period. It would be the interface of these two responses which so appealed to Greenberg in the early 1950s. Indeed, it was for reasons similar to his own justifications earlier in conceiving of "The Plight of Our Culture" , therein responding to a mood of optimism originating from the contradictory impulses of modern industrialism and "a vaulting modernity"11 . 1 1 Clement Greenberg, "Master Leger", Partisan Review, Vol.XXI, No.l, Jan.-Feb., 1954, p.91. Whatever the reason, it came about that one of the greatest of all moments in painting arrived on the crest of a mood of "materialistic optimism". And of all the optimists, materialists , and yea-sayers, none was, or has remained, more whole-heartedly one than Ferdinand Leger. He has told us about, and we see, his enthusiasm for machine forms. And we also seem to see in his art all the qualities conventionally associated with "materialism"; weight, excessive looseness or else excessive rigidity of form, crassness, simplicity, cheerfulness, complacency, even a certain obtuseness. But what a mistake it would be not to see how much else there is in this art, which has succeeded better, I daresay, than any other in making the rawness of matter wholly relevant to human feeling.1 2 It is not only the picture of the naive socialist which Greenberg draws , but one which uncovers in Leger's work an optimism or a mood ~ enacted far and above the crude and simplistic renderings of worker and machine — that is a vection on the level of formal mechanics which explores the nonrepresentational experience of color and flatness as containing the possibilities of modernity. Leger's work succeeds for Greenberg because the material use of surface is made " wholly relevant to human feeling". In Louis' first "Veil" series of 1954 the raw materials of painting, that is , its sole content, would be allied in formal synthesis with the structures of painting's expression. Though Leger's work could only intimate this, being contained on a specific dimension and concealed by layers of associations, it nevertheless held in germinal form what was to be the destiny, exclusive content, and significance of stain painting. Politically, it was the deradicalized vestiges of Greenberg's dialectical Greenberg, "Master Leger", p. 91. thinking , after 15 years of demarxification13 . This was the interface where the homologies of historical process and form connected. 1 4 Along with Picasso and Braque, Leger was to pursue the problems inherited from the first modernists, the Impressionists and Cezanne. This "threesome", which made up Cubism, continued the avant-garde project 1 5 . Attempting to expand the medium's expressive resources, it carried the Impressionist threat of flatness, the questionning of the three dimensionality of the painted object itself, to its extreme form ... a point where color is almost entirely sublimated to surface. In the process, Greenberg writes, though cubism had solved the problem "... as Marx would say — only by destroying it: willingly or unwillingly, they sacrificed the integrity of the object almost entirely to that of the surface. This — which had, however nothing intrinsic to do with aesthetic value — is why Cubism constituted a turning point in the history of painting" 1 6 . For Greenberg the integrity of the object apparently meant the maintenance of medium-specific unities of color and flatness. Cubism had overstepped the bounds of the discursive field. Its great legacy to modernism lay in its definition of lack. By pushing the discursive field of modernism in painting in extremis toward flatness, color, one of two relatively autonomous and subordinate 1 3 This is in contrast to Lukacs article "What is Orthodox Marxism", which makes a claim for a dialectical methodology as the fundamental constituent of orthodoxy. 1 4 It is here, as Jameson would write in Marxism and Form "In its framework (that) the essentially abstract character of the ideological phenomenon suddenly touches earth, takes on something of the density and significance of an act in the real world of things and material production". Frederic Jameson, Marxism and Form , (Princeton, Princeton Univ. Press, 1971), p. 8. 1 5 See footnote 12 for Greenberg's conception of this. 1 6 Clement Greenberg, "Master Leger", p.92. unities which constituted the stylistic uniqueness of easel painting was identified.17 Leger's contribution, though unintentional, was the maintenance of the medium's integrity through a continued reliance on color, a construction of color which vented a material and empirical use of surface, as mood, or expressive of feeling. It was Leger alone of the three master Cubists who drove analytical cubism to its conclusion. Not that he arrived at the flat picture, as Mondrian ... or that he even approached the flatness of Picasso's and Braque's collages ... But he did accept, as Picasso and Braque did not, the full implication of the method of analytical Cubism: namely, that once objects are broken up into more or less interchangeable units they themselves are no longer necessary as entities — no longer necessary to the decisive effect — and the artist is free to work with the units alone, since these alone retain aesthetic pertinence. As it happened , the units into which Cubism resolved the object were planear units, but they could conceivably have been the chromatic units of the Impressionists and Neo-Impressionists.18 While Leger's paintings worked in the broad flat areas characteristic of cubism, the formal unity of his work at once retained the possibility for a space where the chromatic unit was left engaged. It was an unconsciously negotiated space where the medium specific unities of painting were to dialectically congregate 1 7 M.M. Bakhtin writes: " ... heterogeneous stylistic unities, upon entering the novel, combine to form a structured artistic system, and are subordinated to the higher artistic unity of the work as a whole, a unity that cannot be identified with any single one of the unities subordinated to it. The stylistic uniqueness of the novel as a genre consists precisely in the combination of these subordinated, yet still relatively autonomous, unities (even at times comprised of different languages) into the higher unity of the work as a whole: the style of a novel is to be found in the combination of its styles; the language of a novel is the system of its languages", "Discourse in the Novel", The Dialogic Imagination, (Austin: Univ. Texas Press, 1981), p. 262. 1 8 Clement Greenberg, "Master Leger", p.94. and merge. For Greenberg this was the site of expressive quality, aesthetic effect and, most basically, of absolute content, which are all conflated19 . This use of color and surface as historical form becomes for Greenberg a sign not simply for a personal optimism in industrialism, "an enthusiasm for machine forms" — most obviously apparent in the representational subject matter — but a much grander and essential manifestation of desire or fantasy structure, the driving forces behind the entire social totality in early 20th century France. Leger's unconscious working and insistence on color and flatness was giving the dialectic of the historical process a visual format. It is to this historical form that Greenberg attaches significance 2 0 and upon which he judges whether a work of art fails or succeeds . The formal signification of aesthetic value was a function of the dialectical play of formal signifiers at once autonomous and at once linked to the contradictory ideological 1 9 J.R.R. Christie and Fred Orton approach the problem of aesthetic value in Greenbergian criticism from the viewpoint of a theory of expression. Though they refer to articles from 1940 and 1967 respectively, a timespan during which Greenberg's position on this particular subject is consistent, they fail to come to terms with the varied historical nature of that consistency. In the period 1948 to 1955 their own conclusions require an addendum acknowledging the dialectical nature of Greenberg's position. They write: "We can isolate two things from these fragments from "Complaints of an Art Critic" and "Towards a Newer Laocoon". Greenberg is pointing out that you can say anything you want to about what you feel a painting expresses and not be corrected, and that for him ... 'content' or 'effect' or 'expressive quality' (which is in all paintings modern and pre-modern) is to be located neither in the subject matter of the painting nor in the problems of the medium; it is not what the artist intended his or her painting to be about; it is not in the medium used metaphorically, because metaphors are representations. The 'expressive quality' is unintended and carried in the medium as it is used to make the surface.", (Art History , vol.11, no. 4, Dec. 1988), p. 549. 2 0 This is in distinction to the work of art which Greenberg would find as possessed of aesthetic value or quality. forces of the social totality. In Greenberg's advanced criticism the actualizing forces of the social moment are themselves projected as the object of aesthetic criticism or value. It is no accident that this dialectical treatment of stylistics, contingent upon the contextual framework of liberal intellectual politics in the 1950s in America, should pick up Leger's particular contribution. Cubism had resolved prematurely the contradictory nature of the ideological, tapping only into the revolutionary acts of repudiation given metaphor by modernist flatness; it had neglected the affirmative and optimistic hope of color, encapsulated in the notions of a dialectic of history. Leger's contribution was distinct. His paintings maintained a space for the countervailing dynamic of the ideological forces of the modern. In 1953 the play of formal signifiers, the empiricist object of the aesthetic medium, had as its sine qua non the dialectical forces which constituted the social crucible of "American capitalism 11. The optimism and mood of promise, though heavily veiled and recently given life in Leger's work, is the same optimism which emerges in stain painting as self-consciously manipulated color. Whereas in Leger's production the elements of expression are obfuscated by a representational subject matter, that is, that the structures of expression only exist undistilled within content , in stain painting expressive quality and content become indisolubly fused and are focussed upon to the exclusion of all else. While the dialectical contradiction of social forces in the period 1910 -1914 assumes an uneasy formal balance, with the coming of age of the American paradigm of capitalism a dominant and intense open color reaches its apotheosis. Greenberg's conception of the avant-garde project after cubism is one of a progressive spectacularization of content21 , of an increasing fetishization of the material usage of surface, and of course all hinging on the uncolonized reservoir of color silently awaiting exploration.22 Thus these three could for three or four years execute a well-nigh unbroken series of works that were flawless in unity and abundant in matter, works achieving that optimum which consists in a fusion of elegance and power that abates neither. Then the matter, for them, was exhausted, and the rule lapsed. Henceforth neither they or any other artist could expand taste by these means, and to cling to them any longer would mean to depend on taste instead of creating it . 2 3 With modernist negation through flatness "exhausted and the rule lapsed", the use of color on surface acquires a germinal impetus as means to aesthetic or expressive quality; thus a new field for expanding taste. Herein the post-cubist, avant-garde project is re-evaluated: the locus of color and the nexus of taste are conceived of 2 1 By content I refer to the raw materials of paintings medium, color and surface. 2 2 This or Greenberg's model would of course not dismiss the history of painting before this point. Indeed in a New York Times Magazine (May 16, 1954) article entitled "The Very Old Masters", on prehistoric cave painting Greenberg affirms Jameson's characterization of dialectical process in Adorno. "In one of those paradoxical reversals that characterize the dialectical process, it is precisely this primitive, regressive starting point that determines the development of the most complex of the arts". Frederic Jameson, Marxism and Form:20th Century Dialectical theories of Literature (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1974), p. 13. 2 3 Clement Greenberg, "Art Chronicle: Master Leger", p. 95 as parallel constructions each expanding in homology. The acts of the avant-garde are conceived of anew as acts of prescience and affirmation. Their new alignment, offering promise and renewed faith for avant-garde practice rather than posing act of negation in opposition to capitalism, pits the challenge of individual originality against the dominant social ethic of conformity. The speculative project of Vital Center intellectuals, a conservatizing proposition for political economy, begins reconciling an ideal constituency amidst the collective and transindividual forces of the modern. It establishes a historical constituency possessed of taste and the "nerve of failure" to legitimitize a contemporary constituency for advanced art. Only an ideal public with the ability to decrypt ever advancing color as a quotient of a continuing historical development of medium could apprehend quality as such. Avant-garde history and development read in light of a theory of expression hinging on taste and the expansion of taste brings that history and development clearly within the sphere of Riesman's and Greenberg's reconception of individuality and freedom. The project of Vital Center intellectuals, in its attempts to predict and harness the social forces of corporate capitalism, in its attempts to keep original, free and individual thought alive in face of increasing functionalism, passive consumerism and conformity, structurally corresponds to a dialectical model for history being built into the historical form of stain painting. It is what Greenberg tries to uncover in Leger's production as "quality" and what is singularly focussed upon in a painting like Salient by Louis, i.e., where pure color and plastic style merge and become evocative of feeling or expressive effect. In both Leger's and Louis' case the use of color on surface is flagged and will be flagged for its potential vection as the hedonistic impulse replete in the politics of speculative imagination. In the case of Louis' painting, Salient , specifically, the absolute forefronting of an intense and open color possesses all the optimism the prospects of American capitalism held for those partial to a conception of democratic rule by elites and suspicious of populism. Salient' s fetishization of raw material, and the manner in which this is so literally presented in order to convey experience or expression with the utmost efficiency possible to the medium, tempts one to conceive of the image in a machinic sense. As exclusively a "machine producing effects"24 or more precisely a machine for expression. In the historical development of form, Louis' first "Veil" series seem driven by the same anxiety for efficiency which first drove the mythic Ixion to endlessly turn his wheel, the crank and hub of some unknown machine. Both having seemingly internalized "the anxiety that the rule of efficiency seems to provoke"25 , in one instance "weighs like a sense of sin" 2 6 on the shoulders of Ixion, driving him on despite the rhythms of seasons and of days; and in the other instance enervates authentic and high culture with the 2 4 Deleuze and Guarttari, Kafka : Toward a Minor Literature, p.xv. I of course recognize the methodological baggage which comes along with this poaching exercise, but would maintain the terminology is sufficiently predetermined in the discourse of the core intellectuals I take up. 2 5 Clement Greenberg, "Plight of Our Culture", p. 59. 2 6 ibid. p.59. fn. reads :"Once efficiency becomes a matter of conscience, the failure to be completely efficient — or even to be able to imagine what the perfection of efficiency is — weighs like a sense of sin. For no one is ever efficient enough." burden of choice inured by the delimiting of content to achieve ever purer expression. The internalization of efficiency as a matter of conscience is for Greenberg the key factor for the future if "industrialism is really to funct ion". 2 7 The notion weaves through Bell's writing and is fundamental to Riesman's conception of the "other directed" indiv idual . 2 8 The classical allusion to Ixion is not far-stretched either. For the American free enterprise system, a happier version of Jeremy Bentham's perfectly efficient panopticon29 and "almost a perfect model of a socialist economy"30 was the mythic Ixion of Daniel Bell's 1955 article, "Ixion's Wheel". The metaphor was not, I think, lost on Greenberg; he too points to socialism as the perfect model and American capitalism as its closest classical approximation. 3 1 Further, and integral to his strategies delineated in "The Plight of Our Culture", for avant-garde practice to survive it had necessarily to engage in the central tenet of capitalism, its ever increasing efficiency. Rather than advocate an outworn militant isolationism, his prolegomena for authentic culture is identical to his characterization for work. "And as work has become more concentratedly and actively work -- that is, more strictly controlled 2 7 ibid. 2 8 See Bells The End of Ideology especially pp. 227- 272. Also see earlier discussion on Riesman. 2 9 See Daniel Bell's "Work and its Discontents: The Cult of Efficiency in America", esp. pp. 227-229. in The End Of Ideology, 1960. 3 0 Daniel Bell, "Ixion's Wheel", The New Leader, July 18, 1955. p. 19. 3 1 See "The Plight of Our Culture", p. 59. by its purposes, more efficient"32 , so too would high modernism. He writes: Five thousand years of urban history have gradually separated these activities, with their implicit ends, and sealed them off from each other, so that we at last have art or culture for its own sake, religion for the sake of things knowable only outside life ( or, like art to some degree, for the sake of pure and simple states of mind), and work for the sake of exclusively practical, "objective" aims. The problem now is to restore intimate relations between the three, or ~ with religion, as I think, ruling itself out as social form — between the two. For if culture cannot be again closely related to work, it cannot be related closely enough to that reality which has again become fundamental for all of society.33 This entire schema, structured only by a theoretical armature intent on the efficiency of expression, i.e. on the purpose of the medium, has no place for the "instinctual" or "automatic" in its creative processes.34 An ever clearer enunciation of expression , attainable only through a deterritorialization of content, could only be realized via a pathway of rigorous thought and sophistication. As in Louis' Terrain of Joy (fig. 4), and Longitude (1954) (fig. 9) form and content is displayed nearing its inexorable destiny , its extremist and most arid distillation; ironically its most materially 3 2 Clement Greenberg, "The Plight of Our Culture", p. 58. 3 3 Clement Greenberg, "The Plight of Our Culture", p. 61. 3 4 Kenworth Moffett's reading is exemplary of this position'The first step of the creative act s one of taste, but taste that is willing to be challenged without at the same time abnegating its responsibility to itself. Maybe one should call this instinct instead of taste, an instinct or sense of where radical painting is at, where possibilites really lie"p. 3. and "Louis' ouvre takes us back to the work of the great modern painters of the later 19th and 20th century who one way or another always began with or depended on nature." p. 5. Morris Louis : Museum of fine Arts Boston , 1979. intense expression 3 5 . Color floods these canvases in a most hedonistic fashion, intensity and saturation of hues becomes a sole preoccupation in order that expression might be more clearly delimited. Freedom and individuality, earlier located as a managerial prerogative of the habituate anxiety inured of the problem of executive decision making, enters the dialogue of artistic practice as modernist endgame. The fetishization of raw material in these works links up to the promise of desire, contained within efficiency, that was located as the fundamental logic driving industrialism and the corporate model. The polarities of nature and its dialectically opposite approximation cultured efficiency, is apparently what distinguishes Louis' mature work from those paintings of lesser "quality" from before his breakthrough. Take the approximately 30 or so pictures Greenberg viewed in January 1954, in selection for the Kootz Gallery's Emerging Talent Show in Washington D.C. While all the pictures were made after Greenberg, Louis, and Noland's first meeting in New York, Greenberg recalled in slight disappointment that most contained floral motifs and those few others were still too obviously dependant on Pollock. Among those works by Louis chosen for the show, Trellis (fig. 1) is unmistakably aligned to Frankenthaler's and Pollock's production, pregnant as it is with nature in both textual and visual reference. It was later in the same year that Louis' fully matured painting would be realized. The paintings of the first "Veil" series are a repudiation of his previous 3 5 See Deleuze and Guarrtari's discussion of "What is a Minor Literature", in Kafka : Toward a Minor Literature . esp. pp. 18 -19. tendencies and experiments. They are the product in Greenberg's mind of a dialectical progression of form from a basis in nature to an entirely new synthesis, not organic, but rather a superstructural imagining of America's corporate culture.36 Such resonances contained in this nature / culture debate are integral to the images. Their importance was not limited to Greenberg alone; indeed, in a letter written by Louis to Greenberg in June of 1954 , artistic agency can be perceived as well as a decisive factor. Diane Upright mistakenly reads the letter as a vacillating admission of futility in the staining project encapsulated in the first "Veil" series37 . Its meaning lies on another dimension however. Louis writes: I don't care a great deal about the positive accomplishments in their (other painters) work or my own since that leads to an end. I look at paintings from the negative side, what is left out is useful only as that leads to the next try and the next. In this sense the positive accomplishments of Pollack [sic] or anyone else has little meaning for me and I acknowledge a debt to bad, but not indifferent, paintings and to students who so ineptly paint an intervention of what they feel, what little they know. The art experience in these often surpass Picasso and the muscular painters. I doubt that this backing-in approach is new either for, with all this, the painting seems to establish some bond with art; historically it becomes engulfed. Too, I can't help but wish, right or wrong, to take issue with those whose fetish is promoting painting from the stomach, orgasm or 3 6 This line of questioning is pursued further and in a formal sense in the next section under the sub-heading "Kafka Sources for a Particular Vision". 3 7 See diane Upright's catalogue raisonne Morris Louis: The Complete Paintings, (New York: Harry N. Abrams inc. 1981), . "In his moment of vacillation ... " This statement seems to imply that Louis thought the Veils represented an end, and that the "next try" lay more in the direction of the vigorous, compressed space he had introduced into his work in 1953 rather than in the Veils"simple pattern and slow motion", pp. 15-16. mouth. The psychology becomes a conformity to a mode of bad taste which rivals the good Anglo Saxons and the difference adds up to the sameness of focus. A school of non-conformists exists waiting for the next to negate it in turn. 3 8 Much is revealed in this letter written by Louis, especially in view of the preceding argument's attempt to fashion the import and weight of Greenberg's politics, and in turn his intellectual circles, in the conceiving of a stylistics and the reconceiving of avant-garde practice. Consciousness fundamentally structured in response to the modern moment is revealed and, too, strategies for the negotiation of artistic practice when marginality -- or traditional avant-gardist means — was invalidated. But in response to Upright's reading , I would not call the letter a submission of "negative accomplishment", but rather a commentary circling around a core issue of self-doubt, i.e., the "nerve of failure". In this sense a Riesmanesque self-reflection on the nature and moral anxiety of originality assailing the artist as intellectual cum autonomous individual. This is one of the crucial concepts of Riesman's theories, keeping alive the possibility for individual, original, Utopian thinking amidst the crushing pressures of conformity . It is worth requoting Riesman's passage on the "nerve of failure" in full, while considering also the dominant construction of the artist in over thirty years of historiography. Louis the supremely private man 3 9 , inward4 0 , a 3 8 Morris Loius letter to Clement Greenberg, 6 June 1954, Clement Greenberg correspondence, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C. 3 9 Clement Greenberg, "Louis and Noland", Art International , vol.IV, no.5, May 25, 1960. Greenberg's quotation is especially relevant."Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland, who both live in Washington D . C , which fact is not unrelated to the quality of their work. From Washington you can keep in steady contact 102 loner 4 1 , secretive of his work4 2 , isolated in the suburbs of Washington D . C . 4 3 , permitting no one access to his studio while working ( not even his wife)44 , and for all these reasons a man of remarkable integrity45 . All become rhetorical tropes for a new kind with the New York art scene without being as subjected as constantly to its pressures to conform as would be if you lived and worked in New York ... Louis and Noland are curious about what goes on in New York; they show there, and have learned alot there ... When they return to Washington to paint it is to challenge the fashions and successes of New York, and also its worldly machine ... (their painting carries with it a moral decision) — a decision not eased in their case by the fact that 250 miles separate them from the new Babylon of art. Those miles also isolate them, and insofar as they accept the consequences of their isolation they make all the more of a moral decision." p. 27. 4 0 Dora Ashton, New York Times , Thur. Mar.31. 1960, 4 1 EA Carmean, Jr, Morris Louis : Major Themes and Variations , (Washington D . C : National Gallery of Art, 1976), p. v. 4 2 Diane Upright, Morris Louis: The Complete Paintings, (New York:Harry N. Abrams inc. 1981), p. 35. 4 3 John Elderfield, Morris Louis: Museum of Modern Art,New York , ( New York: Mus. Modern Art, 1986), p. 9. 4 4 Diane Upright, Morris Louis: The Complete Paintings, (New York: Harry N. Abrams inc. 1981), p. 35. 4 5 Michael Fried, Morris Louis , (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1970), cat. p. 9. Fried's conception of integrity is important, it incorporates the dominant theory of expression, i.e. "natural expression" and "corresspondence", as does Greenbergs in order to circumscribe a communicative constituency."Among those who knew him there is universal agreement that Louis' integrity was remarkable. This integrity -- which, not suprisingly, appears to have made itself felt from time to time as something harsh , secretive even ungenerous — went hand in hand with a deep confidence in his powers..." p. 7. In reference to Louis' first Veil series he writes: "In pictures like Intrigue, Salient, and Iris Louis broke through (made count) his own powers, originality, vision, experience, and integrity", p. 12. Here integrity as a condition or quality of being pure, a state of freedom from corrupting influence or practice , carries with it an illusion to the fall of man and that divided nature reconciled. In an extremely cryptic way Fried seems to be intimating too, at a reconciling of the Kantian irreconcilability of subject object duality. Whether , in his work, this can be traced back to the material context and social forces of the 1950s as in Greenbergs case, is another question. Fried's position is somehow linked to the later manifestations — mid and late 1960s — of this same intellectual milieu. Probably close to the position of Norman Podhoretz for instance, who took over Eliot Cohens position as editor of Commentary in 1957. Podheretz's statement"the real adventure of existence was to be found not in radical politics in Bohemia, but in the moral life for adults", is exemplary.("The Young of artist , a far cry from the woolly Bohemianism of Greenwich Village and Pollock. The "nerve of failure" is the courage to face aloneness and the possibility of defeat in ones personal life or ones work without being morally destroyed. It is, in a larger sense, simply the nerve to be oneself when that self is not approved of by the dominant ethic of society ... (It) is needed only for really heretical conduct: when one renounces even the company of misery and takes the greater risk of isolation — that is, the risk of never rejoining the company 4 6 In Riesman's model the moral anxiety placed on the artist or intellectual as individual is critical. So, too, is the displacement of moral content from art in Greenberg's model47 . Both movements are related and contingent on the same factors, they share a common ground in a political economy suspicious of populism, favoring democratic rule by elite groups and with all trust falling upon the individual. As in the corporate hierarchy where a capacity for decision making and an eager acceptance of the burden of choice was the kernel of the managerial stratum , so possibility and potential lay in the society at large with those attempting to define themselves Generation", in Doings and Undoings , New York: Farrar, Straw's and Giroux, 1964, p.108.). 4 6 Riesman, "A Philosophy for Minority Living: The Jewish Situation and the 'Nerve of Failure", Commentary, vol. 6, no. 5, Nov. 1948, p. 413. 4 7 This assures the subject /object duality which Greenberg maintains is a result of trying to reconcile them. Especially revealing in this respect are Greenbergs correspondences with F.R. Leavis in the wake of Greenberg's article on "The Jewishness of Franz Kafka". Leavis suggests that art, following D.H. Lawrence, contains potentially explosive effects for living, it provides the model for modern progress.Whereas Greenberg would suggest the inscrutable future is housed only as dialectical contradiction in the formal nature of art , and this relatable only as experience, "leaves us no wiser than before". Commentary, Vol. 19, Jun 1955. pp. 595- 596. and Vol.20, Aug. 1955, pp.178- 179. 104 through choices made against a backdrop of conformity and consumerism. Within the framework of the Cold War it is a construction which allowed the absolute moralness of every citizen4 8 . This, through Riesman's continuum of taste, which established an active consumer on every level of cultural activity in America, privileged however the sophisticated taste of only a few. What was conceivably picked up by those few in an image like Salient for instance was consciousness fundamentally structured by, and formulated in response to the conditions of advanced corporate capitalism. 8 0 It's stylistic's, which posit the curious and troubling equation of efficiency with hedonism, access a state of human integrity and of freedom, the possibility for an intellectual response free of any corrupting influence, that could only be explored when done so consciously and in response to a psychic 4 8 The commodity, posited by Marx as the source of social man's alienation in America; was offering the terms of his liberation. Consumerism and conformity themselves — built into a cultural model hinging on a continuum of taste and amending the duality of high culture and popular culture in order to legitimate the most visible aspect of the American phenomenon — become essential means of achieving autonomy and individual integrity. For Greenberg's purposes, it was this complex of issues which Louis the individual was struggling with and which his art accessed through sensibility. 80Remember, Noland's art education, as a product of the G.I. Bill, and both he and Louis' suburban lifestyles, could only confirm that within their impeccable private visions were contained the constraints and potential of an entirely new sensibility, era, and nation.Whyte sums up the historical forces involved in the new climate and focussed on the suburban landscape in The Organization Man (1955). Here he locates amidst countervailing tendencies theevidence of as well the modern individual of integrity and merit, possesed of intellectual and moral virtues. Greenberg's new avant-garde possesed of the "nerve of failure" and situated in the suburbs of Washington D.C. was similarly responding to the social ferment and optimism America as a whole was generating however only earlier. Whyte writes: "For the Organization Man society has in fact been good — for this has been a sucession of fairly benevolent environments: college, the paternalistic if not always pleasant military life, then perhaps graduate work through the G.I. Bill, a corporate apprenticeship and high prosperity ... The system they instinctively conclude is essentially benevolent"(Whyte, p. 395.) reality defined by the social machine given functional form by corporatism. Above all, Salient is the self-conscious rational product of decision making. Like a sonorous figure responding to the abstraction of monotonous sound it was produced not from nature, but rather from the sophistications and abstractive processes of a monotonous and machinic origin. Kafka: Sources for a Particular Vision Throughout this thesis I have attempted to assert the parallel and unified political culture from which Greenberg's various interpretive projects stem, while simultaneously attempting to maintain the independence and integrity of each. As a last anchoring point before entering into the fluid and open sea of Louis' vision, I would touch on a few issues brought up by Greenberg in his article "The Jewishness of Franz Kafka: Some Sources of his Particular Vision". Written concurrently with "'American-Type' Painting" in the spring of 1955, it provides a means for approaching the stylistics of form in stain painting through what Greenberg valued in Kafka's fiction, i.e., "what makes it succeed"49 . Again, these are issues brought up previously and relate back to the politics I have explored. Importantly in this article, however, Greenberg galvanizes dialectics as contiguous with form and in doing so characterizes the responsibility of the autonomous individual as artist or writer. By 4 9 Clement Greenberg, "The Jewisness of Franz Kafka: Some Sources of his Particular Vision", Commentary, vol. 19, April, 1955. p. 323. integrating the issues explored herewith and above in conjunction with Greenberg's article "'American-Type' Painting", openness a formal quality separate from and integral to pure color and together the composite of plastic style may be branded with the political. In the framework of a history where the trend of reality itself is fundamentally incomprehensible , its processes as anonymous, it may or may not be perceived as ironic that the project of Greenberg's Kafka should be so penetrated by the same politics which were giving form to Morris Louis' artistic project; or that the two projects should be so intricately associated. Greenberg writes. Kafka seems to write with the aim of resolving the portents given him by his sensibility. He intends to be transparent, to deflate every mystery. The result is successful art precisely because he fails. Fictive reality remains throughout what it started out as in his sensibility: a tissue of figures, likenesses, parables. Yet without the sustained effort he makes to thread the tissue and rationalize it away — that is, if he were simply satisfied with his own "poetry" — Kafka would be no more than a fantasist, a kind of Jean Paul Richter: a writer of originality, no doubt, but one who would not move us deeply.50 Kafka, as intellectual, as dialectician, as sophisticated formalist, is constructed in terms of historical positioning, consciousness, and practice, as autonomous individual in a "claustrophobic" world, "all middle" 5 1 . Like Louis, a certain distancing from the ebb and flow of transindividual forces, those tarring a majorities seeming moral hegemony together, appear crystalline and fractured, enabling an 5 0 Clement Greenberg, "The Jewishness of Franz Kafka", p. 320. 5 1 Greenberg, "The Jewishness of Franz Kafka", p. 323 opaque historical foresight, a glimpse of some altogether sublime reality, a modernist foretaste of Utopia. 5 2 This their shared tendency extends from individual attempts to reconcile representation's subject/object duality. The genesis of form and the stylistics of each one's genre is consciously sought and considered as organically unified with social life. Herein lies the capacity for their work to "move us", for it is an expression of sensibility tempered by the historical moment and its downward focussing of forces of which the individual serves as crucible. Like Louis, manipulative, as conscious of the problems of form , content or raw materials struggle for autonomy , for an existence tensioned between material fact and ideological fantasm. Though through their sophisticated attempts to reconcile an abstract poetics with its dialectical component of historical process they fail, and expression succeeds; they realize or objectify a counterpart and just as inscrutable a missing link, that of dialectical process or thought 5 3 . Thus Greenberg writes, while "states of being are what are conclusive here"54 , he can simultaneously forward that ... Processes of logical thought constitute much of the "action" in Kafka, and the story is often that of the inefficacy of thought, and nothing more. No one has ever made thought so vivid as an object rather than subject. And no one has succeeded so well in capturing its processes for the ends of imaginative literature.55 5 2 The allusion is to Wyndam Lewis's fascistic Utopia in Tarr. 5 3 Thus Louis' project is distinct from the pure aestheticism or art for art sake of Jean Paul Richter for he attempts to link pure form with aestheticism. 5 4 Clement Greenberg, "The Jewishness of Franz Kafka", p. 323. 5 5 Greenberg, "The Jewisness of Franz Kafka", p. 321. A parallel structure of thought as "action" exists in Louis' paintings . Just as Kafka's heroes are manipulative representations of Kafka's own criticism attempting to come to consciousness, rationalizing his/their own existence, through his medium "Veil", Louis seeks a formal counterpart of rationalizing self-knowledge , dispossessed of reality and a function of experience. It is by virtue of this insight which implies that both Kafka and Louis were conscious of themselves as social beings, "...as simultaneously the subject and object of the socio-historical process"56 which enables each artist to guide their work toward capturing "... the production and reproduction of real life"57 or "logical thought" as "action". Thus, Greenberg writes the criticism of Kafka's heroes : ... embodies the anonymous, inscrutable yet somehow coherent trend of reality itself. And as the narrative unfolds, inside as well as outside his mind, he begins to see that it is not merely his settled way of life that is endangered by realities trend, but his very existence or his very reality — which can be interpreted, too, as his rationality or sanity insofar as the attack upon himself is delivered by those agents of reality which are imbedded in his own personality.58 5 6 Georg Lukacs, "What is Orthodox Marxism", History and Class Consciousness: Studies in Marxist Dialectics, trans. R. Livingstone, ( Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1971), p. 19. 5 7 F. Engels, letter to J. Bloch, Sept. 1890, quoted in Lukacs,"What is Orthodox Marxism", p. 18. Lukacs adds: " ...the production and reproduction of a particular economic totality, which science hopes to understand, is necessarily transformed into the process of production and reproduction of a particular social totality: in the course of this transformation, 'pure' economics are naturally transcended, though this does not mean that we must appeal to any transcendental forces. Marx often insisted upon this aspect of dialectics. For instance:"Capitalist production, therefore, under its aspect of a continuous connected process or as a process of reproduction produces not only commodities, not only surplus value, but it also produces and reproduces the capitalist relation itself, on the one hand the capitalist and on the other, the labourer." p. 14. 5 8 Clement Greenberg, "The Jewishness of Franz Kafka", p. 321. 109 The quotation underlines Greenberg's and Louis' position. It is in essence a redelineation of Marx's notions of consciousness, wherein the "production and reproduction"59 of an economic reality or "capitalist relation" is transcended and simultaneously reproduced in the processes of conceptualization. Where Marx and Greenberg part company is where Marx had earlier parted from the Kantian vestiges of Hegel. Greenberg's slow reactionary drift backward from the radical critique of Marx and his advancement over Hegel's false inner dialectic, lays to rest at the essential unresolvable duality between subject and object.60 In an America of vaulting prosperity, the 'effacement' of class lines, and the threat of populism and consumption trends, Marx's radical potential, i.e. class or proletarian consciousness of itself as simultaneously object and subject of historical process, was diffused and deradicalized to such an extent that only an emerging intellectual elite had the capacity for such consciousness.61 5 9 Georg Lukacs, History and class Consciousness , p. 15. 6 0 This was the point for Greenberg where aesthetic value lay. The duality of spirit and matter, theory and praxis, etc., had to be sustained for knowledge about art was "knowledge about an essentially alien material"(Lukacs, History and Class Consciousness, p. 16.)It was an altogether different knowledge however, by which Americas intellectual class comes to know itself in the years 1948-1955. 6 1 This was a peculiar conflation of Hegelian notions limited to the intellectual, however possessed of Marx's historical dialectic. Marx writes. " Already with Hegel, the absolute spirit of history has its material in the masses, but only finds adequate expression in philosophy. But the philosopher appears merely as the instrument by which absolute spirit, which makes history, arrives at self-consciousness after the historical movement has been completed. The philosophers role in history is thus limited to this subsequent consciousness, for the real movement is executed unconsciously by the absolute spirit. Thus the philosopher arrives post festum ." Karl Marx, (The Holy Family, ch. 6., p. 187.). Greenberg and Riesman priorize the intellectual as This intellectual consciousness is part of the dialectic of the historical process being built into the sign of Louis' work, enunciated as openness. As opposed to the line or edge as contour in Frankenthatler's Mountains and Sea , which delimit color areas and posit a reality in a natural objective sense, in a work like Salient Louis uses the effect of running stain and countless covering washes to efface line or "cutting edge" as a compositional tool. Openness as such explores a reality of an altogether different order, one positing as reality the abstractive process itself, i.e. "producing and reproducing oneself"62. In Louis' attempts to reconcile, through form and content, a more pure and machined quality of expression, he realizes the object process of dialectics as contiguous with that arts form. For Greenberg it was Frankenthaler's almost overzealous and regressive bounding of color by "wiry line" which provided Louis the bridge from Pollock to the future , 6 3 As a "negative accomplishment" her art permitted access to Pollock's "all-over" period from 1947-50. In Greenberg's teleology it was in this period, the height of Pollock's career, that his dripped, all-over line disobeyed its historical function and was no longer experienced as perforce figurative edge or bounding element. It was much more than the tangible cubist grid which Pollock was exploring; it was the dialectical opposite, that of facture, for it could only be grasped optically. In Salient spreading color assumes the agency of this facture , not only in its unbounded possessed of self-knowledge prior to the historical movements completing via the nexus of conformity. 6 2 Georg Lukacs, History and class Consciousness-,^. 15. 6 3 Here I owe a debt to Michael Frieds reading in Morris Louis cat. p. 19. quality but as well in the propensity for diluted paint to stain the cotton duck canvas rather than to tangibily cover the surface.64 Despite the implacable look of chance and ambiguous effect implicit to the fluid processes of technique, in Salient , color as surface provides a strict compositional armature, carrying with it a concealed and cryptic logic of construction. Its logic is dialectics which progresses through contradiction and contingency and in the form of openness, a stylistic equivalent to the ambiguousness of surface has been hesitantly assimilated. In Salient the "more purely optical" , a function of color as openness not in any way relatable to life experience, is relatable to expression and to the "anonymous and inscrutable trend of history"65 . A function of the material use of surface, of facture, opposed to line and drawing it was not the result of rigid causality, but of the 6 4 Despite the loss of historical specificity, I quote Greenberg writing in 1960, confident that on this empirical level his position though shifting wildly on other dimensions remains here constant. He writes. "The crucial relevation he (Louis) got from Pollock and Frankenthaler had to do with facture as much as anything else. The more closely color could be identified with its ground, the freer would it be from the interference of tactile associations; the way to achieve this closer identification was by adapting water color technique to oil and using thin paint on an absorbent surface. Louis spills his paint on unsized and unprimed cotton duck canvas, leaving the pigment almost everywhere thin enough, no matter how many different veils of it are superimposed, for the eye to sense the threadbareness and woveness of the fabric underneath. But underneath is the wrong word. The fabric, being soaked in paint rather than merely covered by it, becomes paint in itself, color in itself, like a dyed cloth: the threadness and woveness are in the color . Louis usually contrives to leave certain areas of the canvas bare ... It is a gray-white or white-gray bareness that functions as a color in its own right and on a parity with other colors; by this parity the other colors are levelled down as it were, to become identified with the raw cotton surface as much as the bareness is. The effect conveys a sense not only of color as somehow disembodied, and therefore more purely optical, but also of color as a thing that opens and expands the picture plane.Clement Greenberg, ("Louis and Noland", Art International, vol.IV, no .5. May 25, 1960), p.28. 6 5 This is a phrase Greenberg uses to suggest the dialectic of the historical process. Clement Greenberg, "The Jewishness of Franz Kafka", p. 321. inscrutable working of mind edging toward self-knowledge through a producing and reproducing of the social relationship, and hence in a state of flux and slow monotonous repetition.66 The dialectic operating within the image is a projection of the corporate reality outside , a projection itself constituting the consciousness of artist. The object is in a sense an immanent visualization of abstractive processes coming to terms with consciousness , coming to terms with its medium of representation. With the social form of the advanced capitalist relationship built in, the reception of image thus becomes a socially mediated phenomenon dependant on the degree of sophistication allowed by perception. The "more purely optical" built into the material usage of surface is conflated with the hierarchial ordering of the corporate and institutional superstructure. "'American-Type' Painting": Veiled Politics and Cultural Closure Greenberg's article "'American-Type' Painting" is structured and built around a conscious manipulation of dialectics and ideological closure. Despite the contiguity between Greenberg's aesthetic's and Louis' first "Veil" seires, Louis' production is written out of the text, it is consciously evacuated and expelled from history. 6 6 Greenberg intimates at the Halachic order of Judaism, its ethical tradition, as a fence against history and as strategy for originality in the face of crushing conformity. As in his and Riesman's earlier articles on the Jewish problem, an invisible minority ethics is employed as a stepping stone to distanciation and hence criticality. The article is important in the framework of the period for precisely this reason. It crystallizes the position of the key intellectuals I take up within a wider socio-ideological field, that is, dramatizing the time lag and the disparity of consciousness they had necessarily to construct between themselves and the rest of the nation. Specifically, in the wake of Louis' unrealized exhibition at the Pierre Matisse Gallery the year before, it provided Greenberg a material instance of the advanced degree of Louis' experimentation. The article exists as displaced metaphor for the ideological uncertitude which first greeted Louis' "Veil" series and hence as well, the prescience of the liberal project itself. Louis' exclusion from the in some ways suspect acolade an "American-Type" painter is related to the metaphorical gap or truth which his paintings expressed through color and openness in a larger cultural sense , 6 7 Louis' 1954 paintings were a premature cultural anomaly, permissable only because of a superior consciousness of history and modernity. Louis' "Veils" and Greenberg's text belong to the same network of power, are nodes within that system, and share a gnostic set of truths and integrity68 . In regard to this particular text, the first "Veil" series exist at the same epicentral position as Greenberg's 6 7 See T.J. Clark's most excellent disscussion of ideology in The Painting of Modern Life:Paris in the Art of Manet and his Followers, (London: Thames and Hudson.1985), p. 8. 6 8 Said writes of Foucaultian project that his "... whole enterprise has, he has argued retrospectively, taken it for a fact that if the text hides something, or if something about the text is invisible, these things can be revealed and stated, albeit in some other form, mainly because the text is part of a network of power whose textual form is a purposeful obscuring of power beneath textuality and knowledge." Edward Said, "Criticism between Culture and System", The World, the Text, and the Critic. (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1984), p. 184. aesthetic absolute; they are central to this invisible infrastructure, acting as the unutterable cog in a much, much broader practice of exclusion. This is built into the article via a survey and surreptitious trashing of America's avant-garde. Greenberg carefully leaves out the identification of Louis' first "Veil" series for the future reader, to be read post-festum as the inexpressible ideological certainty which he well knew in 1955 was methodologically impossible to cite. Between the coyly dressed sentences offering the achievement of the abstract expressionists, Louis' "Veils" cast a fantastic and paling vision upon the whole textual form; their presence as much a shimmering evocation of optimism as the gray flannel suit which would pulse America into the next decade. Greenberg begins his survey of abstract expressionism by a delineation of those most exemplary of its underlying tendency. This he would categorize as an exploratory recapitulation of the technical resource of value contrasts first initiated by the cubists. The works of Arshile Gorky, William de Kooning, Hans Hofmann , Adolph Gottlieb, Robert Motherwell, Jackson Pollock, Mark Tobey, and Franz Kline are all indicative of this direction. In their works an emphasis on black and white, used as a locus for form and structure reaches, as Greenberg writes, its highest "exaggeration or apotheoses"6 9 . He intimates that this implicit factor of Western painting, re-emphasized in cubism, is presented as explicit in abstract expressionism, and that if art intends to survive in modern 6 9 Clement Greenberg, "'American-Type' Painting", p. 189. society it will have to not only isolate such conventions, but "detach" them as well. 7 0 The abstract-expressionists emphasis on black and white ... represents one of those exaggerations or apotheoses which betray a fear for their objects. Value contrast, the opposition and modulation of dark and light, has been the basis of Western pictorial art, its chief means, much more important to perspective, to a convincing illusion of depth and volume; and it has also been its chief agent of structure and unity. This is why the old masters almost always laid in their darks and lights —their shading —first. The eye automatically orients itself by the value contrasts in dealing with an object that is presented to it as a picture, and in the absence of such contrasts it tends to feel almost, if not quite as much, at loss as in the absence of a recognizable image ... Black and white is the extreme statement of value contrast, and to harp on it as many of the abstract-expressionists do — and not only abstract expressionists — seems to me to be an effort to preserve by extreme measures a technical resource whose capacity to yield convincing form and unity is nearing exhaustion.71 Primarily, of course, the fundamental drawback in the works of this first group of abstract expressionists was their inability to "shake loose" or "detach" themselves, as Greenberg would say, from the cubist legacy of drawing and line. In these works value contrasts were still the basis of form and structure, and hence following the cubists, color was discredited as a means to form. 7 2 In Salient , as 7 0 Greenberg writes : "Though it (easel painting) started on its modernization earlier perhaps than the other arts, it turned out to have a greater number of expendable conventions imbedded in it or these at least have proven harder to isolate and detatch. As long as such conventions survive and can be isolated they continue to be attacked, in all the arts that intend to survive in modern society". Greenberg, "'American-Type' Painting", p. 179. 7 1 C. Greenberg, "'American-Type' Painting", p. 189. 7 2 Greenberg's disdain for de Kooning's work is telling. Like Picasso, he belongs to another sensibility and era. De Kooning epitomizes the discordance Greenberg sees existing in abstract expressionism, his "hankering for terribilita" , a nostalgia for tradition in painting, a reluctancy to let go of the we have seen, Louis boldly inverts this equation. The image bathes in brilliant color. Symmetries of green, pink, and yellow seemingly offer an internal structure to an otherwise amorphous form. A subtle black wash, diluted in the extreme with turpentine, can only leave the vanquished granular trace of its perpendicular flow. In the first "Veil" series modalities of dark and light — the last great shiboleth of Modernism in painting — are pulverized and dispersed across the surface of the canvas by the luminous structuring presence of color. Such a burst of insight as extrapolated above is of course only contingent on the space of blindness which Greenberg writes into the text, a space which exists in the negative and is predicated by a perfect and prior opposition, but which nevertheless exists as a loaded space carrying the burden of Greenberg's speculative vision. In spite of the abstract expressionists inadequacies and subsequent lack of force Greenberg does find solace in some of their work, namely, a decorativeness , an "all-over" aspect resulting from the use of extreme value contrasts on large canvases. The functioning of line is herewith redefined, and as in the middle period Pollocks, it is set free of its traditional usage as delimiting or bounding element American cultural heritage and hence a forestalling of the future, all signal a refusal to accept the benificence and future potential of America. "He, too, hankers after terribilita, prompted by a similar kind of culture and by a similar nostalgia for tradition. No more than Picasso can he tear himself away from the human figure, and from the modelling of it, for which his gifts for line and shading so richly equip him. And it would seem that there was even more Luciferian pride behind de Kooning's ambition: were he to realize it, all other ambitious painting would have to stop for a while because he would have set its forward as well as backward limits for a generation to come." Greenberg, "'American-Type' Painting", p. 188. and gains a degree of opticality. For Greenberg, Mark Tobey's, Robert Motherwell's, and Franz Klines' achievement are at moments as clear: ... compelled to do huge canvases by the fact that they had increasingly renounced an illusion of depth within which they could develop pictorial incident without crowding; the flattening surfaces of their canvases compelled them to move along the picture plane laterally and seek in its sheer physical size the space necessary for the telling of their kind of pictorial story.73 Greenberg's interest here is in "openness", or in what would later function, in an altogether altered form, as "opticality". Not surprisingly, this was a function of historical form, contingent upon ideological resonance wherein expressive quality was contained. The masterpieces of abstract expressionism had approached this quality — a quality more given to the suppression of value contrasts as in the late Monet and other Impressionists -- despite its continued reliance on the hard edge of line and shading of drawing. The decorative or open, as in the case of Pollock and Tobey was achieved, "unconsciously"74 , through a spidery interlacing of line. For Greenberg this was a response to a shift in American culture at large — a shift registering as a change or expansion in sensibility or taste. In a gallery going public this is noted as the "sudden" 7 3 Clement Greenberg, "'American-Type' Painting", p.188. 7 4 Clement Greenberg, "'American-Type' Painting". "One of the unconscious motives for Pollocks "all over " departure was the desire to achieve a more immediate, denser, and more decorative impact than his late cubist manner had permitted", p. 187. propensity for the late Monet and Impressionists.75 A late 19th century quality of openness achieved from the standpoint of close valued color, which was tweeking a contemporary public was somehow linked to the "all-over" quality being explored by a few of these abstract expressionists. Though the allusions are heavily veiled, it is possible to link the "unconscious motive" 7 6 which propelled these abstract expressionists toward their version of an "all-over" style, with the phenomenon of an emerging national consciousness. Greenberg realized this slight shift in aesthetic practice was an encapsulation of larger cultural forces. Although — as we shall see ~ it did not respond entirely as he thought appropriate, it was a kind of resonant form. The tendency toward openness was a correct one, but its achievement was attained through the wrong devices. In Pollock's case, line was the mechanism of openness. It had been disenfranchised from its orthodox use to such an extent that it gave color an opportunity for agency. Pollock's and Tobey's "all-over" effect registered new historical forces; however, their uncertainty about what to do with open color sacrificed the nature of those same forces and its relation to the American moment to the seeming moral hegemony of the middle class. For Greenberg, Pollock's and Tobey's "unconscious" move toward openness was being achieved by an undermined pursuit of decorativeness. The problematic relationship and inversion between 7 5 Greenberg, "'American-Type' Painting", p. 190. Again later whose works had "suddenly (stood) forth as more advanced in some respects than cubism". "'American-Type' Painting", p. 191. 7 6 Clement Greenberg, "'American-Type' Painting", p. 186. 119 high culture and middlebrow culture which left middlebrow the crucial level where "the fate of the whole ... may be decided"77 was surreptitiously misleading the destiny of modernism. Greenberg had, of course, delineated the problem earlier in "The Plight of Our Culture" It would seem therefore that it is middlebrow, not lowbrow, culture that does most nowadays to cut the social ground from under high culture. The middlebrow aspect is taken more and more for culture as such, for representative culture, even by educated people who still regard culture as a matter of personal parts instead of as a means merely of asserting status. Active high culture is left increasingly to specialists, and the middlebrow becomes the highest form to which the amateur, or dilettante, can aspire. There have almost always been specialists of culture, but their interests and concerns used to merge intimately with those of the educated and socially powerful amateur. Today, however, there is a growing estrangement. And since the socially powerful amateur, whether he be few or many, still controls our kind of culture, the middlebrow level tends to become its crucial one, where the fate of the whole of our culture may be decided.78 For Greenberg, the dilettante , or "socially powerful amateur", while possessed of a sensibility for painting, had only the capacity or mechanisms for utilizing received taste. It is of a second tendency within the first generation of abstract expressionists — so named the "Still school" by Greenberg— in which the aesthetic momentum of middle-brow taste first perceived in Pollock gains a more complete ascendency.8 1 In 1955, the "Still school" composed of Clyfford Still, 7 7 Clement Greenberg, "The Plight of Our Culture", p. 55. 7 8 Clement Greenberg, "The Plight of Our Culture", p. 55. 8 Greenberg writes: "I was impressed as never before by how estranging and upsetting genuine originality in art can be, and how the greater the pressure Barnett Newman, and Mark Rothko, was exploring an originality, and expanding taste, through an extreme form of decorativeness. This most advanced tendency in American painting had resumed the late Monet and exposed the value contrast as only one more expendable convention in the medium of painting. Allowing only condensed and tight value contrasts, these painters had made the unprecedented first step of replacing color as a structuring or building element. Importantly, it was this fertile concentration on the use of color as surface which drew Greenberg to their works. Even so, there is the suggestion that theirs is only an "experimental quirk" 8 2, a misleading project, bound ultimately by hindsight for as "prophetic a venture " 8 3 as Malevich's White on White . Above all else this was contingent upon a populist base manifesting itself through two qualities: first, that their advancement was a function of the decorative, and carrying this to an extreme; and secondly, theirs exemplified "buckeye painting" which carried a particular kind of optimism. Concerning the former Greenberg would write: A concomitant of the fact that Still, Newman, and Rothko suppress value contrasts and favor warm hues is the more emphatic flatness of their paintings. Because it is not broken by sharp differences of value or by more than a few incidents of drawing or design, color breathes from the canvas with an enveloping effect, which is intensified by the largeness itself of the picture. The spectator tends to react to this more in terms of decor or environment than in those usually associated with a picture hung upon a wall. The crucial issue raised by the work of these three on taste, the more stubbornly taste will resist adjusting to it." Clement Greenberg, "'American-Type' Painting", p. 190. 8 2Though the reference is not made directly the association is clear, p. 190. 8 3 Clement Greenberg, "'American-Type' Painting", p. 190. artists is where the pictorial stops and decoration begins. In effect, their art asserts decorative elements and ideas in a pictorial context. (Whether this has anything to do with the artiness that afflicts all three of them at times, I don't know. But artiness is the great liability of the Still school.)84 The prospect of a convergence of the aesthetic realm with the purely decorative is anything but hopeful for Greenberg.85 The direction pursued by the "Still" school, for Greenberg a school of "decorators"86 , could only mean the ultimate loss of integrity which for so long the medium had worked to distill. But , as is invariably the case with the internal and dialectical history of modern art, it would be precisely this "negative accomplishment" which would affirmatively realign advanced art. What is crucial in the work of these three artists, Greenberg would claim, was the extent to which they had unconsciously pushed, exaggerated, or even exceeded the discursive field of the pictorial and entered into that of the decorative. The resulting "enveloping effect"87 of color, accentuated by the size of the picture itself, mitigated a reception "more in terms 8 4Clement Grennberg, "'American-Type' Painting", p. 194. 8 5 At first glance it appears Greenberg posits the aesthetic convergence of easel painting with that of the enjoyment of Persian carpets as a gleeful prospect. This would be however anything but hopeful for Greenberg. It would be a dark and forbidding future indeed. He concludes: "The limits of the easel painting are in greater danger of- being destroyed because several generations of great artists have already worked to expand them. But if they are destroyed this will not necessarily mean the extinction of pictorial art as such. Painting may be on its way toward a new kind of genre, but perhaps not an unprecedented one — since we are now able to look at, and enjoy, Persian carpets as pictures — and what we now consider to be merely decorative may become capable of holding our eyes and moving us much as the easel picture does."'American-Type' Painting", p. 196. 8 6Clement Greenberg, "'American-Type' Painting", p. 194. 8 7Clement Greenberg, "'American-Type' Painting", p. 184. of decor or environment"88 than of integrous object. Certainly for Greenbergian modernism the object's integrity had to remain sacred and intact. Louis' first "Veils" are exemplary of this. In both Salient and Terrain of Joy the centrality and singular unity of the image is affirmed. Muted variations in pastel colors prevent the "enveloping" or "jumping" effect that contrasting warm and cold colors are prone. This in conjunction with the replacement of the rectilinear and geometrical echoes of cubism by arcing and curving symmetries reduces the dramatic push and pull of abstract expressionism to the most subtle dimension. Consciously building with color for the purpose of openness rather than the decorative content unforgivingly pursues facture. In Salient, muted color without jarring contrasts spreads over the picture surface in an unbroken manner. The stained edge does not exist as such, but rather as a diffuse and ambiguous interface, wherein the hue changes while simultaneously retaining continuity and an unbroken quality across the picture surface. This, and the degree of facture paint thinned with turpentine allowed for, best facilitated the ambiguous flatness, i.e., the formal integrity of surface which openness demanded. In Salient, the qualities of openness and color, each mutually contingent on the other, were a sign not only of the contradictions of the historical moment, but of the optimism Greenberg's intellectual circle saw as expressive of the moment. The Still school had, in essence, pointed to openness as the domain of color, and edging in that direction their art carried with it 8 8Clement Greenberg, "'American-Type' Painting", p. 184. 123 an essentially affirmative optimism. Nevertheless, since their conception and manipulation of raw materials had not consciously sought this program and instead followed a mid-cultish desire for the decorative, the historical form which resulted was at core anachronistic, the optimism intimated of the wrong sort. In respect to Greenberg's reconception of avant-garde strategies, which incorporate the self-knowledge and prescience of Riesman's autonomous individual, such practice failed to consider in its conception and production the altogether new constellation of order and the conscious manipulation of that order required for artistic practice. The notion of "buckeye" painting — which characterized the Still school's production for Greenberg -- is central to their problematic negotiation. Greenberg uses the concept of "buckeye" painting 8 9 as a roundabout way of accessing the issue of a prevailing national 8 9 " I seem to detect its beginnings in Old Cromes oils and the Barbizon School, but it has spread only since the popularization of Impressionism ... Its practioners can draw with a certain amount of academic correctness, but their command of shading, and of dark and light values in general, is not sufficient to control their color — either because they are simply inept in this department, or because they are naively intent on a more vivid naturalism of color than the studio born principles of value contrast will allow. 'Buckeye' painters, as far as I am aware, do landscapes exclusively and work more or less directly from nature. By piling dry paint — though not exactly impasto — they try to capture the brilliance of daylight, and the process of painting becomes a race between hot shadows and hot lights whose invariable outcome is a livid, dry, sour picture with a warm brittle surface that intensifies the acid fire of the generally predominating reds, browns, greens, and yellows. "Buckeye" landscapes can be seen in Greenwich Village restaurants (Eddie's Aurora on West Fourth Street used to collect them)' Sixth Avenue picture stores (there is one near Eighth Street) and in the Washington square outdoor shows ... Still at any rate , is the first to have put "buckeye" effects into serious art ... it represents the conquest by high art of one more area of experience, and its liberation from Kitsch". Clement Greenberg, "'American-Type' Painting", p. 192. consciousness in America. He exposes the sudden turn and expansion in an art publics sensibility for the late Monet and Impressionists read as a further "feat of naturalism"90— as a misguided impetus for a frontier past and nature, rather than the pragmatic forward-looking vision America required; in other words a historical consciousness but a stunted, underdeveloped one. Still's shift to openness through the decorative had registered an "underground change" in sensibility91; it was affiliated to "...the emergence of a new kind of taste which, though running counter to the high traditions of our art and possessed by people with little grasp of these..."9 2, had linked up to a mounting mood of optimism in the American way. "Buckeye" painting was the vector of this mood. Still's is the first really Whitmanesque kind of painting we have had, not only because it makes large, loose gestures, or because it breaks the hold of value contrast as Whitman's verse line broke the equally traditional hold of meter; but just as much because, as Whitman's poetry assimilated, with varying success, large quantities of stale journalistic and oratorical prose, so Still's painting is infused with that stale, prosaic kind of painting to which Barnett Newman has given the name of "buckeye." Though little attention has been paid to it in print, "buckeye" is probably the most widely practiced and homogeneous kind of painting seen in the Western world today.93 The allusion to Whitman is at the same time both vitally important and damning. Though "buckeye" in its Whitmanesque 9 0Clement Greenberg, "'American-Type' Painting", p. 191. 9 Element Greenberg, "'American-Type' Painting", p. 191. 9 2Clement Greenberg, "'American-Type' Painting", p. 191. 9 3Clement Greenberg, "'American-Type' Painting", p. 192. appropriation of popular culture offered an affirmative and original way of conceiving the new modernity, it failed completely in understanding the complex and altered project that the avant-garde must pursue under conditions of advanced capitalism. Certainly at the turn of the century in Walt Whitman's America and earlier in the France of the late Impressionists' optimism in technological progress, the mass media and the workings of the state would not have been considered crude or naive. However, for Greenberg these issues were incredibly pressing, especially so when an entire nation felt closer to the sentiments of this former period. The swing in the publics' sensibility for the late Monet, the Impressionists, and indeed the Still schools own priorizing of the decorative and of landscape in the "buckeye" mode was sadly, despite its capturing of a mood of optimism, all for the wrong reasons, grounded as it was in an inadequate grasp of the historical moment, by a majority bound by the hegemonic forces of conformity. The first generation were wholly unsuited to meet the requirements of the speculative project of Greenberg and the Vital Center intellectuals. "Advanced art — which is the same thing as ambitious art today"94 as Greenberg wrote, carried with it a rider that denied the abstract-expressionists' entrance to or any resonance in America's heightened form of modernity. Their privileging of the unconscious natural self -- the ethos of an earlier avant-garde — only vilified their project in light of the sophisticated intellectualism and self-conscious rational practice which the historical moment 9 4Clement Greenberg, "'American-Type' Painting", p. 196. 126 necessitated. Working from the landscape, more or less from nature, they belonged to a transitional and isolationist America, an America of the WPA Art projects and the New Dea l 9 5 . Ambitious individualism alone was insufficient to break away from this past; it could offer advanced art but only within circumscribed limits.9 6 Thus, even while Still, Newman, and Rothko had affiliated themselves with a new sensibility, it was an optimism which was not in tune with the corporate industrial machine. Rather it was a misguided retrograde optimism, the product of populist inclinations, unable to escape its own history of isolationism and provincialism. With an avant-garde sensibility more akin to Riesman's "inner-directed cowboy" than his "other-directed advertising man", the pragmatism of the Vital Centers' position was lost to a hopeless romanticism. For what hope could an outworn non-conformity offer from this perspective, especially when the "nerve of failure", itself contingent on Hegel's notion of historically conscious self-knowledge, 9 5 It is tempting to link up Greenberg's remarks on the ambitious and individualist character of the first generation to that of Riesman's inner-directed character type. More prone to channel personal choice through a "rigid though highly individualized character"(Riesman, The Lonely Crowd , pp. 13- 17) the source of direction or goals in life are implanted early by parents and remain fixed and inescapable. The inner-directed person characteristic of a transitional growth society — like that of the American pre-war period — could not cope in a society of accelerated capital and other-direction like that of the American model. Change built into this system occurs so quickly that pragmatism, flexible direction, and hence conformity is an utter necessity. 9 6Clement Greenberg, "'American-Type' Painting", p. 195. "The abstract-expressionists started out in the '40s with a diffidence they could not help feeling as American artists. They were very much aware of the provincial fate around them. This country had had good painters in the past, but none with enough sustained originality or power to enter the mainstream of American art ... But aside from their culture as painters and the fact that their art was all more or less abstract, what they had in common from the first was an ambition — or rather the will to it ~ to break out of provinciality." Greenberg, p. 195. was the only pathway to originality? For Greenberg, Whitman's frontier optimism, translated into visual form by the Still school, did in no way fulfil the cultural needs of an emergent super power engaged in the Cold War. A l l this adds up to a fairly pessimistic opinion of artistic practice and the publics of art in the United States ... that is, i f not for Greenberg's purposeful and gratuitous forefronting of the ideological limits of his text, which leave a space open for future possibility. Involving a structuring of knowledge and empirical fact, the text offers or pushes an overprescribed visual syntax to ever circulate around but never touch upon the constructed absolutes of color and openness which, as I have indicated, surface at points in the text. In the implacable workings of Greenberg's universe and mythology of painting, Louis ' production was the invis ible expression of ideological circumstance; it had the capacity to contact the speculative future of corporatism. His production 'succeeded' precisely because it was a projection of the gap and silence of ideological contradiction , expressive of truth and aesthetic quality. In distinction to the limited and rigid vocabulary which was driving abstract expressionism Louis, like Greenberg, valued taste as a function of its dynamics and challenge. His use of color as a structuring element incorporated this principle of challenge or expansion. In the "Veils" radical eliding of orthodox formal and structural integrity, questions of disciplinary logic were raised, a "promising kind of chaos" 9 7 tapped. The oleaginous and fluid 9 7 Clement Greenberg, "'American-Type' Painting", p. 185. qualities of thinned color in Salient appear accidental; they appear beyond compositional means, despite the fact the strictest of compositional rules are employed. Greenberg writes that " what is good in abstract expressionism owes its realization to a severer discipline than can be found elsewhere"98 . It is precisely the chaotic and ambiguous which is the outcome of this rigorous rationale; it involves the use of color as surface as a pathway to pure color and openness. Accessing the nexus of taste the chaotic or ambiguous i.e., the pushing of the discursive limit beyond its contiguous framework, revealed the original. Morris Louis' first "Veil" series fulfilled a set of aesthetic priorities for Greenberg, while Helen Frankenthaler's works and those others mentioned in "'American-Type' Painting" could only approximate this standard. The latter production was more prone to exhaustion and poverty than the new mode of stain painting . The speculative potential and vections of one form, and the sterility of the others, was bound up in a new definition of modernity Greenberg held and demanded painting to encode. Pollock, in his claim as nature; Newman, Rothko, Still, in their "buckeye" ties to landscape; and Frankenthaler in her gendered link to the organic, become anachronistic in the rational and technologically intensive reality of consumer America. They assume the threatening characteristics of the social formation itself. Their material processes and use of surface did not answer the pragmatic call for freedom and truth negotiated via the burden of choice, so 9 8 Clement Greenberg, "'American-Type' Paionting", p. 180. integral to Greenberg's and Riesman's strategies in the early 1950s." In Louis' work, rigorous intellectualizing processes of dialectical thinking territorialize the realm of signification; the coming to consciousness of their terms is blocked by the delimited form of stain painting itself. 1 0 0 Anonymous process is consciously manipulated to reveal the dialectic linking historical process and intentionality of production 1 0 1 . Such historical consciousness is a far cry from the positioning of the abstract expressionists indelibly linked to an awry populist sensibility. This is the basis of the discursive "structure of closure and disclosure"102 which renders Louis' "Veils" unutterable and the abstract expressionists work possible in a larger cultural sense. Louis' first "Veil" series were not historically valid in the early and mid 1950s as such, indeed unthinkable , because their own prescience as historical form matched the foresight of speculative imagination possessed by Greenberg's intellectual circle. Their achievement was culturally premature or unrealizable in America, that is, until that social formation itself had caught up to the stage of 9 9 In "The Plight of Culture" he writes "Reality is what we are concerned with in discussing the plight of our times, not in order to prise it, but for the sake of truth, the lack of which will do genuine culture more harm than any number of jukeboxes." Greenberg, p. 62. 1 0 0 Kafka's fiction operates in a similar manner Greenberg writes:" It would be wrong to pin Kafka down to specific allegorical meanings. There is allegory in his fiction — the most sucessful allegory in a century and more of literature — but what makes it suceed when it does is that it transcends all final interpretation by virtue of its form" "The Jewishness of Franz Kafka", p. 323. 1 0 1 For Greenberg, Louis' images struck a dialectical balance between the blind and anonymous forces of history and the individual subjects voluntary will. 1 0 2 T.J. Clark, The Painting of Modern Life:Paris in the Art of Manet and his Followers. (London:Thames and Hudson, 1985), p. 8. self-consciousness which only this select band of intellectuals had attained. It was their's and Louis' particular brand of criticism most visibly tensioned against a popularizing of cultural phenomenon but equally formulated in careful response to emerging social forces, retuned for an accelerating and colonizing capitalist economy, and closely synched to a Riesmanesque conception of autonomy which allowed both a textual and visual expression of actualizing forces. CONCLUSION In an age when objecthood ultimately had no hope, of remaining uncolonized by the forces of capitalism, or even the traps of signification, the gestured brush stroke of abstract expressionism fell hopelessly short of the carefully manipulated intellectualized production of Riesman's autonomous individual. What is fundamental was the realization, by critic and artist alike, that the last and only possibility for art was as passive medium, celebrating outward anonymity and given over to a visualization of the impossible moment of conception before the processes of thought were enunciated or materialized and claimed by the real. Rather than in abstract expressionism where the canvas is forefronted as the site of struggle, as the site of contestation, stain painting focuses on conception as that crucial signifier of individuality, where the battle for freedom hinges on the secret stipulation of interiorized decision making. The hands-off technique of stain painting, which displaces the visual primacy of the gesture with an altogether self-effacing and ambiguous color and form, veils its critical insight and originality in a way homologous to strategies proposed by David Riesman for the continuance of imaginative or Utopian thinking. Only individual action tempered by the prevailing mode of conformity and the collective or objective experience would be engaging of the new age. Only freedom, divested of its concrete status and instead cryptically presented as veiled and anonymous abstract f o r m , 1 0 3 could negotiate the modernist dilemma then facing painters in the wake of abstract expressionism. Only an avant garde negating its marginality, or casting off its sign of particularity, could out-negotiate the instrumental rationality of the period. 1 0 4 It is in this aspect of historical consciousness, integrated into Riesman's reconception of the "autonomous individual", that Louis' images offered a new avenue of originality for advanced art. Louis' "Veils" posit nature as no longer implicit in the social character; consciousness itself was fundamentally a product and structured by the economic relations of corporate capitalism. The original in art was located, or to be concentrated, at the intersection or dialectical blending of the mediums' two specific unities, i.e., color and flatness. Hence, it was where the orthodox certainty of drawings' structuring abilities gave way to the ambiguous space of surface and nature of color. Louis' productive process, hinging on conception and realized through a use of raw materials, accessed or approached a dialectical 1 0 3 The subject in materialized form is commodifiable , only the object as unrealized has any claims to freedom, or individuality. See discussion of Greenberg's Kafka on subject / object relationship. 1 0 4 The influence of the Frankfurt School is clear both on Greenberg's aesthetic position and on Riesman's sociological analysis of conformity. Adorno and Horkheimer provide the rational for the flight of abstract expressionism's "homeless representation". They write "What is individual is no more than the generality's power to stamp the accidental detail so firmly that it is accepted as such. The defiant reserve or elegant appearance of the individual on show is mass produced like Yale locks, whose only difference can be measured in fractions of millimeters. The peculiarity of the self is a monopoly commodity by society; it is falsely represented as natural. It is no more than the moustache, the french accent, the deep voice of the women of the world, the Lubitsch touch: finger prints on identity cards which are otherwise exactly the same, and into which the lives and faces of every single person are transformed by the power of the generality. Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment, trans. John Cumming. (New York: Continuum Pub. 1988),p.l54. 133 response to the historical moment with an optimistic mood built upon a corporatized machinic efficiency. He offered a way to conceptualize the new American situation and its heightened global position. His art, his character, encapsulated or was in some way equivalent to the self assured potential of the nation itself. Louis' vision was the new age, the modernity of the Democrats, and as such culturally inexpressible until Kennedy became President and the Vital Center's platform led the country. Even though Greenberg's early attempts to reactivate a connection between an affirmative avant-garde and a new corporate elite fail, his greater project , one shared with Riesman, Bell, and Schlesinger, was given historical force and remained intact. Louis' 1954 "Veil" series was a calculated failure. Its metaphoric code, a method of testing the waters of national consciousness, came up with only a rising swell. The intendant formal qualities of Salient , of intense color, of openness through facture, and of anonymity or impersonality of production would begin to gain resonance and indeed meaning, only as the politics of these liberal intellectuals themselves gained in dominion. Like the anxious wife in Whyte's analysis of the new suburbia "... so ashamed of the emptiness of her living room, that she smear(s) the picture window with Bon Ami: (and) not until a dinette set arrived did she wash it off"9 7, the anonymity offered by opaque and ambiguous surface legitimated an interior and private existence which hid absolutely nothing from the viewer, excepting of course the blind expectation and culturally 9 7 William H> Whyte, The Organization Man, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1956), p.313. contingent knowledge of a viewers select community and historical moment. 135 Figure 1: Morris Louis, Trellis , 1954 , Acrylic resin on canvas, 6'4" X 8'8". (Source: John Elderfield, Morris Louis: The Museum of Modern Art , New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1986.) 136 Figure 2: Morris Louis, Salient , 1954, Acry l i c resin on canvas, 6'2" X 8'3". (Source: John Elderfield, Morris Louis: The Museum of Modern Art , New York : The Museum of Modern Art, 1986.) 137 Figure 3: Helen Frankenthaler, Mountains and Sea , 1952, oil on canvas, 7'2" X 9'9". (Source: John Elderfield, Morris Louis: The Museum of Modern Art , New York : The Museum of Modern Art, 1987) Figure 4: Jackson Pol lock, Number 1 , 1949, oi l on canvas, 5'3" X 8'6". (Source: Michae l Fried, Morris Louis , New Yo rk : Harry N. Abrams, 1970.) Morr is Louis , Terrain of Joy , 1954, Ac ry l i c resin on canvas, 6 7 " X 8'9". (Source: John Elderfield, Morris Louis The Museum of Modern Art , New York : The Museum of Modern Ar t , 1986.) 140 Figure 6: Morris Louis, Spreading , 1954, Acry l i c resin on canvas, 67" X 8'1". (Source: John Elderfield, Morris Louis: The Museum of Modern Art , New York : The Museum of Modern Art, 1986.) Figure 7: Morris Louis, Iris , 1954, Acrylic resin on canvas, 6'8" X 8'10". (Source: John Elderfield, Morris Louis: The Museum of Modem Art , New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1986.) 1 4 2 Figure 8: Morr i s Lou i s , Intrigue , 1954, Ac ry l i c resin on canvas, 6'8" X 8'9". (Source: J o h n Elderfield, Morris Louis: The Museum of Modern Art , New York : The Museum of Modern Ar t , 1986.) Figure 9: Morris Louis, Atomic Crest , 1954, Acrylic resin on canvas, 9'9" X 6*5". (Source: John Elderfield, Morris Louis: The Museum of Modern Art , New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1986.) Figure 10: Morr is Louis , Longitude , 1954, Ac ry l i c resin on canvas, 8'l/2" X 5*6". (Source: John Elderfield, Morris Louis: The Museum of Modern Art , New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1986.) Figure 11: Morris Louis wearing suit in question. BIBLIOGRAPHY Books and Articles: Adorno, Theodor. 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