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In his writings, he helped to enable Abstractist art to become the dominant movement in American art from 1945 until the 1960s.
Jones’s book will well serve those already deeply involved in Greenbergiana and its hefty index will make it a useful reference book.
However, the educated public still needs a text that is, Goldilocks-like, “just right"—somewhere between the turgidly academic and the sensationally prurient, a book which will seriously and lucidly discuss Greenberg’s art criticisms.
While Marquis and Rubenfield were criticised for their less than academic approach, focusing on his lifestyle more than his profession, Jones is likely to incur criticism from the opposite corner.
At the outset, Jones announces that “this book’s Greenberg is neither evil nor good, but instead both an emblem and a guidepost for generations”.
Caroline Jones’s book follows hot on the heels of Alice Goldfarb Marquis’s Art Czar: the rise and fall of Clement Greenberg, which itself succeeded Florence Rubenfield’s biography.
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These books present a multi-faceted Greenberg, one who swings between two poles: the arrogant, awkward, womaniser (Marquis and Rubenfield) and the authentic 20th-century “voice of American art”, the focus of Jones’s investigation.
Each of these is exhaustively researched; she dissects his essays with rigour and aligns his aesthetic tastes against those of his fellow critics.
The book’s title, Eyesight Alone, is taken from a statement made by Greenberg in 1958: “The human body is no longer postulated as the agent of space in either pictorial or sculptural art…now it is eyesight alone”.
Frustrated by the emerging art movements, Greenberg retired in 1968.
Almost 100 years since his birth, critic Clement Greenberg is currently enjoying a resurgence of interest in his life, work and writings.