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The Hiddenness of Art

American essayist Clement Greenberg defined modern art as the use of characteristic methods of a discipline to criticize the discipline itself.

He continued:

Realistic, naturalistic art had dissembled the medium, using art to conceal art; modernism used art to call attention to art. The limitations that constitute the medium of painting—the flat surface, the shape of the support, the properties of the pigment—were treated by the Old Masters as negative factors that could be acknowledged only implicitly or indirectly. Under Modernism these same limitations came to be regarded as positive factors, and were acknowledged openly.

End quote.

I really have nothing intelligent to add to this wonderful snapshot of art theory ... other than the suggestion of utilizing Greenberg's observation as a snappy retort against one's mid-19th century art connoisseur of an acquaintance. Don't use it when they're near a fragile work of art though - they might damage the property in their dismay.


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