Published: April 1, 2002 By

[1]   BERELOWITZ: In your book you discuss the embodiment of gender in American art of the first half of the 20th century and trace an unfolding and connected discourse in American modernism from the early days of the Stieglitz circle in the 1920s through Regionalism in the 30s and onto Clement Greenberg’s writing on Jackson Pollock in the 40s and 50s. What most struck me was your establishment of a continuum of body-focused interests weaving through these very different aesthetic engagements – a continuum that is, at the same time, marked by acute points of difference. I can think of no other scholar who has done this. Most scholars tend to treat critical writing about the Stieglitz circle, the Regionalists, or Pollock as discrete phenomena with little or no connection to the criticism that came before or after. What led you to focus on the unfolding mutations of what you have called “embodied formalism” in American modernism?

[2]   BRENNAN: Perhaps I should begin by explaining the term “embodied formalism” a bit, as this is the operative theoretical concept that threads through the entire study. Initially, the notion of embodied formalism may seem counterintuitive. When one thinks of formalist criticism, the image of the body is probably not the first thing that springs to mind, other than perhaps the trope of the omniscient “floating eyeball” that signifies a powerfully detached, mastering gaze. Yet, when undertaking the research for this study, I was surprised by the degree to which notions of sensuousness, gender, and corporeality represented recurrent tropes in period critical discussions of the 1910s through the 1940s. That is, critics repeatedly read notions of gender and embodiment into the formalstructures of artworks, within such formal issues as brushstroke, color, and composition. Thus, rather than an absolute categorical distinction guiding the relations between form and content (as formalist methodology tends to be understood today), the historical record is instead filled with numerous examples of form-in-content. And most often, the imputed content of Stieglitz circle imagery was the sexed and gendered subjectivity of the artist who created it, even if the artwork’s literal or manifest content was that of a landscape, a still life, or even an outright abstraction. I was particularly fortunate in working on the Stieglitz circle artists, as their group project contained so many suggestive permutations of the embodied formalist model, as did the debates that took place among their rivals Thomas Hart Benton and Clement Greenberg. After identifying a larger interpretive engagement among these artists, a set of questions stayed with me throughout the writing and revising of this study: How could an abstraction have a “body”? That is, how and why would images that were ostensibly not about bodies, such as landscapes and abstractions, continually be discussed in terms of the sexed and gendered human body? And why did these interpretations prove to be so durable that they were sustained over nearly three decades?

[3]   BERELOWITZ: You make the claim that “the term ’embodied formalism’ denotes a type of circular logic whereby gender provided critics with a means to discuss actual and symbolic bodies, and in turn such conceptions of embodiment enabled writers to ascribe gendered characteristics to abstract painterly forms” (9). Would it be fair to infer that without recourse to issues of gender and sexuality, critics would have had little to comment on; that if for some reason, they did not know the sexual identity of an artist, they would have been at a loss to address the work?

[4]   BRENNAN: It is very interesting to speculate on the ways in which Stieglitz circle artworks could have been discussed historically apart from such discourses on gender and sexuality, and whether these alternative interpretations could have been as appealing or successful in sustaining a coherent group identity for the artists. Two other prominent leitmotifs recur in Stieglitz circle criticism, but interestingly, both of these themes are deeply engaged with conceptions of gendered and embodied subjectivity. These two larger ideas concern issues of cultural nationalism within the construction of “Americanness”; and notions of transcendence, spirituality, and metaphysics in conceptions of abstract art. Regarding the first issue, Stieglitz and his critics repeatedly framed their version of American modernist aesthetics as a reaction against the repressive legacy of Puritan and Victorian traditions. Because this formulation is so explicitly dialogical, it is difficult to separate the Stieglitz circle’s embodied formalist rhetoric from the circle’s conceptions of a viable, organic model of American national culture. Along these lines, Stieglitz circle discourses often posit a purposeful convergence between notions of spirituality, purity, and transcendence, with materialist conceptions of sensuous, embodied physicality. As I argue in my discussion of Dove and O’Keeffe, Stieglitz circle criticism tended not to adhere to conventional Western metaphysical dualisms that are predicated on binary oppositions between physicality and spirituality, representation and abstraction, exteriority and interiority, form and content, and detachment and absorption. Instead of positing absolute categorical distinctions between these concepts, Stieglitz circle writers tended instead to describe an inclusive relation between them. As a result, the artworks could be very powerfully characterized as suspended between two states of being and able to mediate between them. As a result, the paintings could be seen simultaneously as embodied and spiritual, naturalistic and abstracted.

[5]   BERELOWITZ: Your suggestion that Americanness and heterosexuality were intertwined concepts is very interesting, as well as your point that this was the basis for a “viable, organic model of American national culture.” Could you elaborate on the imbrication of Americanness and heterosexuality within the context of 1920s/30s aesthetics? What investments was this imbrication made to carry?

[6]   BRENNAN: In Stieglitz circle discourses from the 1910s onward, Americanness was repeatedly associated with art that was vital, organic, and infinitely full of promise. The heterosexualized public identities of Dove, Marin, and O’Keeffe were often equated with the generative aspects of such aesthetic and cultural production. However, this gendered nationalistic formulation was explicitly dialogical. As I argue in the chapter on Demuth and Hartley, Symbolist and Decadent tropes of artificiality and “unnaturalness” were repeatedly paired with notions of dandification, delicacy, and morbidity, all of which were associated with sexual difference. Thus while the art of Dove, Marin, and O’Keeffe was made to signify the passion and promise of a budding new America, Hartley’s paintings in particular were read as atavistic examples drawn from a decaying, Old World civilization.

[7]   BERELOWITZ: Reading critical commentary of the 20s and 30s on Arthur Dove is an astonishing experience for a reader in the early 21st century. Contemporary writers like Paul Rosenfeld seemed to assume that a masculinist reading of Dove’s work was inevitable – that Dove’s paintings, whether of plants, landscape, or animals, were pregnant with signifiers of maleness – in Rosenfeld’s words: “[a] male vitality is being released” in Dove’s work. This is very far from the kind of reading that we, some 80 years later, would be likely to make of the work. Could you comment on how and why the Stieglitz circle so carefully constructed gendered readings of the work of its members?

[8]   BRENNAN: There is no doubt that the success of the Stieglitz circle’s project lay in part in the connections that you describe, as critics such as Rosenfeld repeatedly identified gendered corporeality within the aesthetic character of the Stieglitz circle’s abstracted modernist paintings. What is especially interesting, though, are the ways in which the gendered public identities of all five Stieglitz circle artists were constructed within a larger group dynamic. Thus critical conceptions of Georgia O’Keeffe’s idealized heterosexual femininity were often loosely based on Freudian-inflected notions of interiority, receptivity, and penetrability, which were supposedly manifested in the desire to incorporate the (implicitly male) other into the inner corporeal and psychic regions of the self. In turn, notions of Arthur Dove’s idealized male heterosexuality became coded aesthetically through images of fertilization, potency, dominance, and penetration. John Marin’s paint handling was similarly characterized as uniting a “virile” form of ejaculatory touch with a transcendent and sublimated sense of vision. In contrast, the artistic productions of Marsden Hartley and Charles Demuth were seen as “deviating” from these normative structures as their paintings were described in Symbolist and quasi-Freudian terms as displaying an overall sense of homogeneousness, preciousness, delicacy, and narcissism. These personal and artistic qualities were seen as stemming from Demuth’s and Hartley’s inability to differentiate between dissimilar entities, a tendency that was supposedly manifested in the artists’ proclivity for same-sex object choices. Because of these fundamental differences, the artists’ identities could be constructed in explicitly relational terms. And for this reason, a comparative methodological approach that draws on feminist theory and queer theory can productively be brought to bear on the complementary, dominant constructions of heterosexual masculinity that underpin canonical modernism.

[9]   BERELOWITZ: You made the claim that the “limitations of the Stieglitz circle’s embodied formalist model are perhaps most clearly demonstrated by the group’s most marginal members,”(199), that is, Demuth and Hartley. Could you elaborate?

[10]   BRENNAN: When I was writing the chapter on Demuth and Hartley, I noticed a significant discrepancy between the ways in which these artists were repeatedly represented in Stieglitz circle discourses versus the dynamic range of modes that they adopted to represent themselves in their own artworks and writings. Because Stieglitz circle criticism was often structured loosely around a Freudian-based model, the ensuing critical discourses became relatively predictable in the gendered subject positions that they could accommodate. The Stieglitz circle’s dominant, heterosexually-oriented aesthetic model was unable to account for the complex and creative conceptions of identity and difference that are often at play in Demuth’s and Hartley’s imagery. Rather than constituting a fixed, predictable, or stable set of representations, Demuth’s and Hartley’s pictorial modes often encompassed subtle, shifting, and richly enigmatic (self) expressions. In contrast, Stieglitz circle discourses sought to pin down that which could not be pinned down, and to present it within a stable relational framework.

[11]   BERELOWITZ: In reading your discussion of John Marin’s theory of the virile “pull forces” (146) that undergirded his art, I could not but think of Hans Hofmann, the German émigré art teacher who was so influential in New York during the 30s and 40s and who was a major influence on Greenberg. With Hofmann – and hence with Greenberg – the “push/pull” refers to a formal surface tension. With Marin there seems to be something else at play, something more sexually charged. Could you, perhaps, elaborate on the difference between Marin’s and Hofmann’s advocacy of “push/pull”?

[12]   BRENNAN: In the critical statements that accompanied exhibitions of Marin’s work, the artist drew on the notion of “pull forces” in order to characterize his own embodied response to the architecture of New York and to the landscape around him. In these structures, Marin perceived a form of dynamism embedded within the motion, tension, and rhythms of architecture and urban life, and a sense of the energy that holds all things together. In the statements that accompanied exhibitions of his work at 291, the artist described a sense of the pushing and pulling of “great forces,” and a necessity within the frames of the pictures for “a balance, a controlling of these warring, pushing, pulling forces.” Thus the concept of “pull forces” served as a rhetorical and graphic notation that allowed Marin to express the kinesthetic responses he reportedly experienced within his own body when engaging the world around him. In contrast, Hans Hofmann’s discussions of the formal surface tensions, and the related expressions of force and movement in painting, tend to be much more technical and axiomatic, and less subjective and avowedly personal, than Marin’s. Hofmann’s writings, such as “On Pictorial Laws,” “On the Picture Plane,” and “On Movement,” establish a general set of pictorial laws and propositions that are phrased in the third person rather than the first person. As such, Hofmann’s aesthetic theory is less explicitly invested in crafting a personal, empathic, and embodied response to painting than Marin’s .

[13]   BERELOWITZ: Your account of American modernism in the first half of the 20th century is very much focused on the issue of the articulation of psychological interiority, on artworks being invested with a kind of lusty sexuality – indeed, you mention Marin describing painting as a “lusty” experience. (153). While I realize that this lies beyond the scope of your book, I wonder if you might comment on the turning away from “lustiness” that marks Minimalism, a movement that followed the heated expressivity of Pollock?

[14]   BRENNAN: I appreciate this question because in the book project I am currently working on, I trace a similar trajectory, as I reconstruct the transition from discussions of sensuous physicality in the artworks of Matisse and the New York School during the fifties to the loss of the body within the formalist critical discourses associated with the Post Painterly Abstractionists Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland. During the sixties, a new emphasis was placed on the “purely optical” qualities of advanced modernist painting, along with the “lucid” and “non-tactile” effects of “disembodied” painterly fields. Yet, for all of the distinctions that were purposefully drawn between the art of the New York School and their successors, the Post Painterly Abstractionists, key similarities also informed these projects. Notwithstanding the repeated references to “disembodied” optical fields that were made throughout the sixties, the works of Pollock, Louis, and Noland all were made to signify the idealized masculinity of their producers. So even as there is a departure from previous constructions of gendered corporeality in abstract painting, a reinscription of these crucial preoccupations continued to inform formalist discourses well into the sixties.

[15]   BERELOWITZ: I want to turn now to consider the art historical writing on O’Keeffe. In spite of the social contextualization that you and other scholars like Anna Chave, Barbara Buhler Lynes, or Anne Wagner have been at pains to present in relation to O’Keeffe’s work, there still seems to be a strong tendency to read it along the lines so carefully constructed by Stieglitz, i.e., that it is about forms and feelings internal to her body, that it is charged with a kind of biomorphic eroticism. In other words, her work seems to be inescapably marked by the sexological readings of the 1920s. Do you think there is any way to view the work outside of that reading?

[16]   BRENNAN: This is an interesting question because it exemplifies the porousness of the boundaries between the historical record on O’Keeffe and the historiography surrounding the artist. While the readings of O’Keeffe that emerge in the writings of Barbara Buhler Lynes, Anne Wagner, Anna Chave, and myself are quite distinct, all of our interpretations draw more or less explicitly on such constructions of biomorphic eroticism. There is no doubt that this proclivity reinscribes (in either positive or negative terms) the dominant models that Stieglitz and his critics advanced around O’Keeffe, discourses that she herself participated in constructing. Yet, a departure from this interpretive pattern would thereby entail a divergence from the historical and archival record surrounding O’Keeffe herself. My sense is that most scholars wish to situate their theoretical interpretations within a secure historical base, and so it is difficult to imagine a reading of O’Keeffe – or of any of the Stieglitz circle artists for that matter – that could escape these thematic preoccupations and still remain historically grounded.

[17]   BERELOWITZ: Although many writers on O’Keeffe represent her as profoundly disturbed by the sexualized reading Stieglitz and the critics imposed on her work, you make the point that her protests focused on the fact that the interpretations were overlyethereal, not because they were sexual. I find your “correction” of the record interesting because for O’Keeffe not to have subscribed to sexualized readings would seem to place her outside of a context and a reading that must have dominated her life. It would seem almost impossible for O’Keeffe to have subscribed to any reading of her work other than that it was an expression by a woman of her internal experience of her sexuality. What we call “essentialism” seems to have been an unavoidable reading in the 1920s and 30s. Could you comment?

[18]   BRENNAN: I agree that gendered essentialism represented an endemic component of the readings advanced not only around O’Keeffe, but around all of the Stieglitz circle artists, from the late teens through the forties. Once again, an interesting way to approach this question is to speculate on what other types of interpretive modes would have been available. While O’Keeffe protested excessively ethereal interpretations of her work, it was because these readings were often reducible to “transparent” pronouncements on her emotional and psychic life, while O’Keeffe herself clearly valued her privacy and was often quite circumspect about her work. At the same time, when the dominant interpretations of her artworks are placed within the larger context of Stieglitz circle criticism, it becomes clear that gendered and sexual essentialism represented a historically powerful discourse both for her and for her male colleagues. To dismiss this provocative and influential interpretive model would have been for her to place herself outside of this group discourse, and hence, outside of certain modes of power.

[19]   BERELOWITZ: It seems that with the sole exception of O’Keeffe, there was no place for women in a discourse which focused on virility and potency. Could you comment on the significance of a woman’s presence in the Stieglitz circle for the articulation of a gendered embodied discourse? Further, given the masculinist, heterosexist reading imposed on various works by Marin, Benton, and Jackson Pollock – either by the artists themselves or by critics – what space does that leave for homosexual artists?

[20]   BRENNAN: It is absolutely striking the extent to which canonical modernism is repeatedly framed as a heterosexual masculinist proposition. So many of the predominant aestheticized modernist tropes of desire, creation, and sublimation are coextensive with gendered period formulations of heterosexual masculine identity. Once again, these conceptions often seem to turn on a central paradox, as the white heterosexual male artist is repeatedly characterized as embodied (i.e. as a male) and as disembodied (i.e. as a transcendent subject) at once. In this manner, the male subject was gendered and yet not reducible to gender, since he could be characterized in universalizing humanist terms. In contrast to this complex dualistic positioning, both women and homosexual artists were often seen as occupying marked bodies, and hence, they could not be characterized as being “within” their body and “above” it at the same time. As exemplified by O’Keeffe’s position in the Stieglitz circle, a feminine presence often served as the necessary relational counterpart that underpinned this idealized, paradoxical construction of heterosexual masculinity. Thus O’Keeffe constituted an absolutely pivotal presence in Stieglitz circle aesthetics, since formulations of both the heterosexual masculine identities of Dove and Stieglitz, and the homosexual masculine identity of Hartley, were specifically derived in relation to opposing constructions of her receptive, heterosexual femininity. In the Stieglitz circle, women and homosexual men were thereby relegated to occupying a relational space that was subordinated to the heterosexual masculine subject position.

[21]   BERELOWITZ: You pay considerable attention in the first part of the book and again at the very end to an early 20th century critic I’d not previously heard of: James Gibbons Huneker. You suggest that Huneker was important and innovative for his having advocated removing the imaginary “fourth wall” that separated the spectator from the interiority of the artist’s creative expression and in reading paintings as “living human documents.” Could you expand a little on why you consider him to be so important for the development of Stieglitz circle aesthetics? Do you think that he has been unfairly slighted in historical accounts and is it time now to give him further consideration?

[22]   BRENNAN: Huneker is a very important figure who has virtually fallen through the cracks within the critical histories of modernism. Kermit Champa, who was my advisor when I was at Brown, has done some very interesting work on Huneker, and it was he who encouraged me to study the Huneker Archive at Dartmouth College. Huneker is an especially rich and challenging figure in part because of the influential position that he held historically. During the first decades of the twentieth century, prominent critics such as Huneker wielded an enormous amount of power as journalists because newspapers served as a prime educational source on cultural matters. It may be somewhat difficult for a contemporary audience to relate to this phenomenon, but during the first decades newspapers represented a powerful medium for the dissemination of informed critical opinion. In turn, the coverage of culture in the media became an increasingly competitive business. In this context, Huneker served not only as an art critic, but as an aesthetic critic whose writings encompassed music, drama, and literature as well as painting and sculpture. Many of his journalistic critical reviews formed the basis of the more than 17 books that he published during the first two decades. Huneker was thus very well positioned at the center of a dense nexus of artistic creativity at precisely the time when modernism became introduced to an American audience. His own tastes favored the Symbolists, Aesthetes, and Decadents. Like Stieglitz, Huneker was committed to liberated personal and sexual expression in the arts. Ultimately, one index of Huneker’s power is that it was he who had to be rhetorically deposed so that a Stieglitz circle critic, Paul Rosenfeld, could be named as his successor within aesthetic criticism.

[23]   BERELOWITZ: You draw an interesting contrast between two approaches to subjectivity adopted by the Stieglitz circle and by Greenberg. Stieglitz’s model of embodied formalism argues that artworks offer a “transparency” to their maker and allow for a “corporeal merger” (13). By the later 1940s, Clement Greenberg, in contrast, argues that Pollock’s works are characterized by a closed, dense painterly system of autonomous subjectivity and that the surface, far from being “transparent,” is now marked by an impenetrable flatness. Could you elaborate on how one approach gives way to the other?

[24]   BRENNAN: To a considerable extent, I read the transition between transparency and opacity in formalist aesthetics as representing Greenberg’s innovation on the Stieglitz circle’s embodied formalist paradigm. Rather than wholly appropriating the Stieglitz circle’s emphases on sensuous physicality and intersubjective merger, Greenberg reformulated key aspects of this proposition, thereby shifting the weights and balances accorded to the terms of the analysis. Instead of discussing “transparent” painterly surfaces that seemingly provided direct, authentic views into the interior states of gendered corporeality and psychic existence, Greenberg tended to frame the “masculinity” of Pollock’s abstract art by emphasizing the discrete, impenetrable boundaries that could symbolically contain the integrity of the masculine subject. In so doing, Pollock’s art could be characterized as resolutely and aggressively masculine while being described as autonomous and self-referential. In this context, the many contemporary photographs of Lee Krasner in Pollock’s studio, combined with the domestic scenes of the artists together at their home in Springs, Long Island, functioned as important supplements that securely established the heterosexual valence of Pollock’s public identity, while simultaneously locating a complementary feminine presence outside of the boundaries of the drip paintings themselves.

[25]   BERELOWITZ: Although you don’t say so directly, there is a suggestion in your book of a Freudian father-son relationship between Stieglitz and Greenberg. It seems, for example, that as Stieglitz becomes old and therefore a less potent force in the New York art scene, Greenberg rises up to challenge him, to discredit the potency of his authority, and to impose his own. Indeed, Stieglitz, by presenting himself as the lover and lover/creator of O’Keeffe seems, in many ways, to have laid himself open to attack on the score of his generative potency. Could you comment?

[26]   BRENNAN: Yes, there does seem to be such a contest of masculinist authority between Greenberg and Stieglitz. In their exchanges of the 1940s, power was more or less explicitly invested in the gendered terms of masculine potency. Once again, this makes me wonder whether the contest for authority that developed between Stieglitz and Greenberg could have been framed apart from such a gendered dynamic, and if so, what this might have looked like. Since both men worked professionally with gendered models of power and were deeply invested in these conceptual structures, it is probably not surprising that their public identities resonated so deeply with the interpretive strategies that they brought to bear on works of art.

[27]   BERELOWITZ: What is striking is that in critical discourses about the Stieglitz circle and about Pollock there is a marked tendency to package American modernism as a form of masculine heterosexuality – a clear thread that runs through your book. Clearly Stieglitz achieved this via his portrait study of O’Keeffe. A similar effect was achieved for Pollock (as you note) by the inclusion, in published photographs of the artist, of the image of his wife, Lee Krasner, in the background. I wonder if you would care to expand a little on the use of photography as a tool in the “heterosexualization” of the American artist in the first half of the 20thcentury?

[28]   BRENNAN: This is actually an idea that I am working on right now in my next book project, which is tentatively entitledModernism’s Masculine Subjects and is being conceptualized as a sequel to Painting Gender. For both the first and the second American avant-gardes, photography served as a crucial and highly effective tool for the “heterosexualization,” or structural encoding of a heterosexual artistic identity, within public representations of the artists. Stieglitz’s case is particularly interesting for a number of reasons, not the least of which is his strategic usage of a mechanical device, a view camera, to create images of intersubjective human merger, many of which were further heightened by an erotic investment in his subject. Paradoxically, Stieglitz not only humanized the machine (and thus, a device external to himself), but he drew on images of others, most notably O’Keeffe, to forge his own public identity. The most salient example of this is the retrospective exhibition of Stieglitz’s photographs that was held at the Anderson Galleries in New York in February of 1921, a show that marked Stieglitz’s comeback in the New York art world after the closing of 291 some four years earlier. Given the intimate nature of many of the images of O’Keeffe that were exhibited in the show, it is difficult to think of any other subject that could have affirmed the “potency” of Stieglitz’s personal and artistic identities to such a dramatic extent.
This event also sheds light on a central paradox that repeatedly seems to inform representations of heterosexual masculinity within American modernist aesthetics. On the one hand, the creative masculine subject is often constructed as an independent, autonomous, and self-sufficient being. Yet, on the other hand, heterosexual masculinity is necessarily an intersubjective identity that is deeply interwoven with the complementary presence of a feminine counterpart. This paradox enables the heterosexual masculine subject to be constructed as somehow independent and intersubjective at once. Similarly ambivalent representational patterns can be identified in the various images of Lee Krasner and Elaine de Kooning that were taken in Pollock’s and de Kooning’s studios during the forties and fifties. Once again, a supportive and relational feminine presence implicitly affirms the autonomous creative production of the heterosexual masculine artist. If anything, the women seemingly help their husbands to produce a body of work that could subsequently be seen as even more fully and uniquely their own. At the same time, it is interesting to consider the significant differences between the first and second American avant-gardes, and specifically, the visual means through which gendered ideological work is accomplished. Can you imagine nude photographs of Lee Krasner accompanying an exhibition of Pollock’s paintings during the early fifties?! The impossibility of incorporating such literal, and overtly eroticized, reference points into the dominant masculinist constructions of the New York School artists is one of the central themes of my next book project.

[29]   BERELOWITZ: In your final chapter you present very interesting discussions of two theorists who were of great significance to Greenberg: Wilhelm Worringer and Immanuel Kant. Could you expand a little on the ways that each was significant for Greenberg and his version of embodied – and highly masculine – formalism?

[30]   BRENNAN: Worringer’s important texts Abstraction and Empathy and Form in Gothic provided Greenberg with venerable art historical precedents for formulating clear categorical distinctions between the Stieglitz circle’s ostensibly pantheistic, fetishistic, organic, empathic, and retrograde version of modernism versus Pollock’s reportedly masculinist, violent, Gothic, abstract, and highly original artistic practice. This key differentiation allowed Greenberg to frame Stieglitz circle art as being reducible to the physical existence of the material world, whereas Pollock’s art could seemingly revel in concrete materiality while preserving the option of transcending its practical and philosophical limitations. Similarly, Greenberg adopted a version of Kantian aesthetics that enabled him to characterize Pollock’s art in terms that encompassed judgment and pleasure, reason and desire. This strategic usage of Kantian philosophy allowed Greenberg to describe Pollock’s works as being embodied and disembodied, sensuous and rational, at once. Taken together, Worringer and Kant thus provided Greenberg with a complementary set of theoretical tools through which key paradoxes around Pollock’s masculinist artworks could be sustained. In so doing, Pollock’s innovative abstract paintings could be securely located within a formalist teleological structure that made his radical and unfamiliar images seem all but historically inevitable. For these reasons, the appeal and the longevity of the critical discourses that Greenberg advanced around Pollock are inextricably intertwined with the complex ways in which formalist criticism could compellingly frame modernist abstract painting as an aestheticized discourse on the (male) body.


Works Cited

  • Chave, Anna. “O’Keeffe and the Masculine Gaze,” Art in America78 (January 1990): 114-24.
  • Greenberg, Clement. Art and Culture. Boston: Beacon Press, 1961.
  • _______. The Collected Essays and Criticism. Ed. John O’Brian. 4 vols. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1986-1993.
  • Kant, Immanuel. The Philosophy of Kant: Immanuel Kant’s Moral and Political Writings, Ed. Carl J. Friedrich. New York: Modern Library, 1993.
  • Lynes, Barbara Buhler, O’Keeffe, Stieglitz, and the Critics, 1916-1929. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1989.
  • Wagner, Anne M. Three Artists (Three Women): Modernism and the Art of Hesse, Krasner, and O’Keeffe. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1996.
  • Worringer, Wilhelm. Abstraction and Empathy: A Contribution to the Psychology of Style. Trans. Michael Bullock. New York: International Universities Press, 1980.
  • _______. Form in Gothic. Trans. Herbert Read. London: G.P. Putnam’s Son, 1927.