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Traces of the Unrepresentable in the Modernist Discourse of Clement Greenberg and Michael Fried

Author(s): Gal, Nissim

Journal: RIHA Journal
ISSN 2190-3328

Start page: 0074;
Date: 2013;
Original page

Keywords: Clement Greenberg | Michael Fried | Modernism | The visible | The unrepresentable

The present essay aims to remap the modernist writing of Clement Greenberg and his successor Michael Fried from the late 1930s to the 1960s. For many years these two critics/theorists were considered leaders of the American modernist camp that promoted the purity of the medium and the total dependence of reading art on the primacy of perception. Attentive reading of the canonical texts they authored will surprisingly reveal that between the theoretical lines of their writings dwells an essential element that contradicts the absolute dominance of eyesight. Lying at the heart of the Greenbergian act is a metaphysical foundation that poses the question of the invisible as part of the inquiry into the "essence of the visible". As such the modernist debate will be revealed not only as a means for assembling a canon of works, but also as a means to formulating an experience of revelation in terms of the visual. Attentive reading of the writings of Clement Greenberg and the early Michael Fried, reveals a theoretical element or regulative idea that will be termed here "the unrepresentable".
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