remains influential to this day. Hofmanns painting and teaching provided a launch pad into visual art for Greenberg, just as he was formulating his ideas about high and mass culture in seminal essays like Avant-Garde and Kitsch (1939) and Towards a Newer Laocoon (1940). Greenberg gave him a prime place within abstract expressionism: Over the past fifteen years, he wrote in 1955, a body of painting has emerged in this country that deserves to be called major. For one, Pompeii might thus have represented the painters belated digestion of European modernism, while for the other the works floating rectangles could have stood as markers of human action. Batliner Art Foundation, Vaduz a linear momentum akin to figure skating unspools across the canvas, with each such line establishing the actual movement of the artists body as an esthetic statement.
Such paintings were, Greenberg wrote in 1959, more important as art than as prophecy, but it is only in the light of what they did prophesy that people like myself have learned to appreciate them; ten years ago and more, when they were first shown. Pompeii, in setting up a rhyming movement within the viewer, and in its combination of painterly handling and geometric slabs, thus makes manifest the dynamic at the heart of action painting: a dialogue between the automatic and the intentional, the premeditated and the spontaneous. In this theme, Hofmanns cubism, while becoming more outspoken than ever before in oil, began at the same time to vindicate and transcend itself as if purposely to refute what I already said about. As fountainhead, Hofmanns art was prophetic, employing techniques (drips, dark areas of colour crowded together) well in advance of their common use see, for instance, Hofmanns. By the time of the artists death in 1966, there were wildly divergent assessments. Like Pompeii, Cathedral combines a purely geometrical art with a freely brushed and variegated ground. But in the ensuing years he expanded its parameters to cover a range of abstract expressionist painters, including Hofmann, Arshile Gorky and even (although with some reservations) Jackson Pollock. In contrast to works by other action painters, Rosenberg notes, Hofmanns are distinguished by the immense variety of the motions that compose them; the traces of his actions range in force and physical density from mere wisps of tint to draggings and pilings of cementlike. Greenberg notes how the uniform warmth and brightness of Hofmanns high, shrill colors offer few, if any, areas of relief. Hofmanns art is a microcosm of the process, for as his thickly painted pictures dry out, and their colors come close together in key, they become smoother, firmer in their unity, more traditional in their resonance, and their force becomes more compatible with elegance.
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