Is it a paradox for a critic to love art and hate artists, or is it merely a commentary on modern esthetics? This portrait of Clement Greenberg is from “Jackson Pollock: An American Saga” by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith (Clarkson N. Potter).
“To be an artist is to be pompous,” Greenberg would later declare with characteristic certitude. “Painters are less cultivated than writers and therefore pretentious in ways writers know enough to avoid.” He was fond of the phrase “as stupid as a painter,” and frequently lamented that “all artists are bores.” When asked why he spent much of his career in their company, he answered: “Before analysis, I had a faculty for hanging around people I didn’t like.” His judgements of individual artists, even those whose work he supported, were curt and supercilious. Mark Rothko was “a clinical paranoid…pompous and dumb;” Marc Chagall, “a Yiddish theater version of genius;” Adolf Gottleib, “a pantspresser,” Arshile Gorky, “a violent anti-Semite;” Franz Kline, “a bore.”
Ronald knew Clement Greenberg, who said Ron’s resin and fiberglass Slabs and Dodecagons were like cloisonné enamels. “Oh, I see,” he told Ron. “They’re big drawings, colored in.” Ron and Clem once attended a Cream concert in Los Angeles along with artist Kenneth Noland.