PRINT January 1969

Problems of Criticism V: The Politics of Art, Part II

Perhaps it will be the task of an artist as detached from esthetic preoccupations, and as intent on the energetic as Marcel Duchamp, to reconcile art and the people.
––G. Apollinaire, The Cubist Painters, 1913.

. . . I believe that art is shedding its vaunted mystery for a common sense of keenly realized decoration. Symbolizing is dwindling––becoming slight. We are pressing downward toward no art––a mutual sense of psychologically indifferent decoration––a neutral pleasure of seeing known to everyone.
––Dan Flavin, “Some Remarks,” Artforum, December, 1966.

My monuments and other manifestations signal not the arrival of something but its disappearance, a leveling . . .
––Claes Oldenburg, notebook entry.

THAT AMERICAN ART OF THE sixties has polarized into two camps should be obvious to any reader of this magazine. In the following discussion, I want to attempt to define these positions so that the nature of the conflict between them will emerge more clearly.

Although their sources are identical up to a point—the paintings of the Abstract Expressionists in general and the work of Jackson Pollock in particular—two ideologically and esthetically opposed currents are discernible in recent American art. One current, color abstraction, has been championed by Clement Greenberg as the “mainstream” style, the only legitimate heir of Abstract Expressionism, and by extension, of the School of Paris. Color abstraction, or as Greenberg initially termed it, “post-painterly abstraction,” continues to espouse, notwithstanding certain crucial modifications, the esthetic of modernism formulated by the Post-Impressionists and Cubists. The common characteristics of post-Abstract Expressionist color painting have been sufficiently evident to identify it as a coherent style; but the common characteristics uniting “Pop” and “Minimal” art, which together make up the other polarity of American art in the sixties, remain to be distinguished.

I see Pop and Minimal as closely related—far more closely than generally acknowledged—particularly in their connection with earlier 20th-century American art and in their antagonism to “modernism” as a European or alien style.1 Several critics, most recently William Seitz, have understood the filial relationship of Pop art to American Scene painting. I think there is also a similar relationship of Minimal art to Precisionism, the Cubist version of the American Scene. The deliberate if ironic eschewal of the heroic by painters like Sheeler and Demuth, who chose the plain barns and factories they believed best represented the monumental in America, has obvious analogies with the ascetic simplicity of volumetric sculptures by Judd, Morris, Bladen, Grosvenor, et al., as well as with the puritanically anti-decorative paintings of young artists like Patricia Johanson, Robert Huot, and Jo Baer, if only on the level of imagery. Such a coincidence of imagery, however, is not merely superficial; it strikes deeply into attitudes towards the kind of art suitable to the American experience common to both Precisionism, and Minimal art.

If we examine the statements and works of American artists, both past and present, I believe we will find that certain esthetic prejudices consistently color American taste. The natural, the uncontrived, the immediate, the direct, the “honest” (about which I will say more later), the physical and the literal are not merely preferences of sixties’ artists; these qualities are constantly emphasized by American artists, often in conscious opposition to antithetical qualities in the European tradition. In many respects, the “heroic” postures of the Abstract Expressionists went very much against the American grain. Pop and Minimal attitudes toward the heroic—that it must be mocked or rejected—are far more characteristic of inbred American attitudes. The emergence in the sixties of native-born, largely non-East Coast, American artists, signals not only a resurgence of these tastes and attitudes, but also an attempt to expunge any vestiges of the European tradition that might oppose or dilute their expression.

In fact I am suggesting that the only way to understand what is at bottom the significance of Andre’s rock and brick accumulations or Smithson’s epicene disquisitions on the beauties of Passaic and the charm of airline terminals—as opposed to the elaborate and totally uncritical rationale provided for such didactic art by Jack Burnham—we must look back not only to Dada and Constructivism, but also to Precisionism, a native art movement which has so much in common, not only formally, but iconographically, with current tendencies.2

While it is true that the forms of the Precisionists were provincial simplifications of Cubist volumes, their iconography had a very different source. Both Sheeler and Demuth frequented the home of Walter Arensberg, collector, bibliophile, and friend to itinerant Dadaists. Here they came into contact with Duchamp, who was a crucial influence on both—a fact Demuth at least publicly acknowledged. Duchamp’s ironic acceptance of America in terms of the future as present, his own willingness literally to renounce the European past in order to live in that future—toward which he had a more than ambivalent attitude—provided an important example for the Precisionists.3

Formally, Precisionism was vastly in advance of the other versions of American Scene painting; a number of the Precisionists were good artists. Their determination to base an art on what was authentic in the culture, rather than adopting forms and subjects inconsistent with their experience, took great courage in the face of the esthetically impoverished quality of that experience. The Precisionists, however, were unlike other American Scene painters in at least one important respect: although they were determined to make art out of what was at hand, they did not simply embrace the available. Instead they passed judgment on what they saw, isolating what was best about indigenous American forms—their cleanness, integrity, efficiency and simplicity—all qualities sought after by contemporary Minimalists as well.

Precisionist attempts to convert the everyday into the monumental at best, or to locate the monumental in the everyday at least, also find echoes in Pop art. This is understandable, since America, unlike Europe, is a country without real monuments, a country in which the historical consciousness developed late, too late to celebrate ideals that were no longer practiced. In this respect, while Pop art responds to the tawdriness of American culture as it is reflected in films, newspapers, advertisements and mass literature, making a fetish of the "second hand’’ content-drained quality of these images, Minimal art responds to an equally important aspect of the environment: the American landscape, with its anonymous factories and water towers, and its painful absence of classical monuments. Indeed one might see Minimal art as the last act in the drama of the conflict between the American landscape, itself heroic and monumental, and the demands of the absent monument, the man-made embodiment of these traditional classic ideals.

Faced with this disparity between landscape and tradition, many artists have made desperate attempts to reconcile the heroic with, on the one hand, the overwhelming grandeur of the American landscape, and on the other, the overwhelming banality of much of the democratic experience. Deprived of a classical tradition, American artists have often attempted to create something positive out of the local culture, without falsifying it with a European veneer.4

I have stressed the importance of the Precisionist attitude toward the heroic because, following Duchamp’s lead, they were the first American artists to proclaim that what you looked at did not count as much as how you looked at it. The importance of photography to the Precisionists is related to this search for the classic in the everyday. Only a photograph can make the inside of the Ford Motor plant the equal of Chartres cathedral, because a photograph is the great equalizer. It can transform any subject, no matter how banal, into a classic formal arrangement. Moreover, it can do so without denying the significance or identity of the subject. In a photograph, formal and subject meanings can have equal value; and the abstract must remain indivisibly wed to the concrete.

The number of photographs—of earth projects, sites, parking lots, rubbish heaps and other typical local “monuments”—currently being made by American artists does not indicate any burning interest in photography as such, so much as it does the stubborn determination to deal with basically unesthetic material esthetically, while simultaneously flaunting its unheroic true identity. These photographs, then, represent “found monuments.” They project Duchamp’s object-matrixed esthetic beyond the gallery and the museum into the total environment. Their double-edged attitude toward their subject is but another instance of the American regret that there is nothing to remember. Smithson with his camera in New jersey is only illustrating the nostalgia of the Pop refrain, “Is it Granada I see or only Asbury Park?” Although Ed Ruscha’s remarkable series of classic gas stations, archaic parking lots and Spartan Los Angeles apartment houses have some undeniable poetry, they too reflect a similar cutting irony with regard to their subjects. These “found monument” photographs, earth sculptures, desert indentations, et al., are the literalist equivalent of the American Scene.

Such a search for meaning within the American context was more intelligently pursued by the Precisionists than by their opposite numbers, the Regionalists. Benton lost himself in a misunderstanding of the Baroque, but Sheeler discovered the purity of Shaker furniture and utensils and was able to base his art on their integrity of design. Today, Robert Morris echoes Sheeler when he explains the preference for rectangular forms in recent object art: “. . . it (the rectangle) stands as a self-sufficient whole shape rather than as a relational element. To achieve a cubic or rectangular form is to build in the simplest, most reasonable way, but it is also to build well.” The “reasonableness of the well-built,” as Morris terms it, becomes an end in itself—as the functional design of Shaker objects was for Sheeler an acceptable, in the sense of humble and unpretentious, classicism.

The notion that American art should be “self-sufficient,” like the good pioneer individualist, and humble, like common objects, barns and factories, permeates American art on many levels. Robert Henri, for example, described how he loved mechanical tools because “they are so beautiful, so simple and plain and straight to their meaning. There is no ‘Art’ about them, they have not been made beautiful, they are beautiful.” Henri’s fascination with the contents of hardware stores has been carried to its logical extreme in Minimalist appropriations of standard manufactured units that travel the route from Canal Street to Fifty-Seventh Street with astonishing rapidity.

Indeed, one might go so far as to interpret the current widespread use of standard units, “self-sufficient” non-relational forms and non-hierarchical arrangements of equal members as a metaphor for relationships in an ideally leveled, non-stratified democratic society. Other political metaphors, too, can be traced in recent American art. The most important is probably Oldenburg’s Store, a complex metaphor for the Utopian state, in which owner and employee are identical. Oldenburg’s identification with the proletariat in assuming the role of worker (baker, plasterer, housepainter, tailor) is not exceptional in American art. Both David Smith and Andy Warhol conceived of their studios as “factories” (which is not to compare them otherwise). But Smith’s was a distinctly one-man operation, where Warhol’s is a collective enterprise. Oldenburg’s program of action—literally to bring culture to the slums—was acutely focused. In the Store’s one-man operation, there was no room for the bourgeois middleman, nor, one might add, for the institutions that serve him, the gallery and the museum. In 1961 the political implications of the Store, Oldenburg’s temporary museum in the slums, were not clear. A revolutionary personality faced with an impasse in American politics, Oldenburg chose to mask his political content with public evasiveness. Yet even at the time, his insistence on the commodity status of art in a materialistic culture, brought home by selling “art” that imitated objects of actual use in a purely commercial “store,” heralded a reaction against the appropriation of art as an investment security. And it is the force of this reaction that colors a great deal of the new art we are seeing.

I have insisted on the connection between Precisionism and New York Dada because I see both Pop and Minimal art as a recapitulation of certain of their common attitudes, particularly toward heroic subjects and the complex, often misunderstood, relationship of American art to the European tradition. Much of the work Mr. Burnham refers to in his article Systems Esthetics5 is, among other things, abstract Dada. Artists who extend art beyond the object, attempting to take an affirmative, if ironic view of the American Scene, presuppose that untransformed piles of dirt, rocks, bricks, and the like, are beautiful, not because of intrinsic worth, but because the spectator views them as potentially esthetically satisfying. Beauty is, in this case, literally in the eye of the beholder. The intention of withdrawing esthetic content from art and making it a function not of what is seen but how a thing is seen is obviously yet another Duchampesque legacy. The artist’s intention is not necessarily to destroy art—although one ought not to write off that possibility—but to make art the property of everyman. The gift of the artist to his audience in this case is no longer a unique object that can only be owned by the rich and powerful or buried in the museums, but a way of seeing. The reduction of esthetic means invites everyman to become an artist as well, since the means are now equally at the disposal of all. If I like a Flavin well enough, I can go downtown and buy my own fluorescent tubes. When art and work both finally concern decisions rather than skill or labor, the possibilities of the creative life are unlimited. The question of whether everyone should be educated may well be supplanted by the question of whether everyone should be an artist.

Ironically, the success of American painting has permitted the current isolationism and chauvinistic rejection of the European tradition. Although to be fair, it should be pointed out that this rejection is based at least as much on a general refutation of the past in favor of an orientation toward the future as it is on a recurrent American antagonism toward an “alien” tradition. Therefore, as I have attempted to prove, it is a great mistake to view current links to earlier chapters in 20th-century art exclusively as links to European art movements, when in fact equally important bonds exist with native American art styles. As I now see it, what transpired in the Café Voltaire in Zurich had far less to do with the Future of American art than the gatherings held in Walter Arensberg’s living room on 67th Street.

For a time such a broad-based synthesis as Abstract Expressionism could marry the native and European traditions. In the sixties, however, the synthesis decomposes into the elements originally absorbed by the Abstract Expressionists. Late Cubism, modified of course by the intervening painterly experience, re-emerges as color abstraction. Dada-Surrealism and the American Scene run together in bizarre Pop and Minimal combinations, which together pose an alternate style, united not only in its opposition to the original decorative intent of Cubism, but also, even more crucially, to the Idealist esthetics on which Cubism, and consequently color abstraction, rest.

Beauty is Truth

A pragmatist . . . turns away from abstraction and insufficiency, from fixed principles, closed systems, and pretended absolutes and origins. He turns towards concreteness and adequacy, towards facts, towards action and towards power. That means the empiricist temper regnant and the rationalist temper sincerely given up. It means the open air and possibilities of nature, as against dogma, artificiality, and the pretence of finality in truth.
––William James, What Pragmatism Means, 1907.

Three dimensions are real space. That gets rid of the problem of illusionism and of literal space, space in and around marks and colors––which is riddance of one of the most salient and most objectionable relics of European art. The several limits of painting are no longer present. A work can be as powerful as it can be thought to be. Actual space is intrinsically more powerful and specific than paint on a flat surface. Obviously, anything in three dimensions can be any shape, regular or irregular, and can have any relation to the wall, floor, ceiling, room or exterior or none at all. Any material can be used, as is or painted.
––Donald Judd, “Specific Objects,” Arts Yearbook, 1966.

Objections to Idealist esthetics, which hold that the work of art is a timeless Absolute, whose value transcends any specific social and historical context, and is measurable by a changeless standard of quality, have been publicly voiced by Judd, Morris, Oldenburg, and Flavin, among others. The most important recent source for the anti-Idealist point of view is John Cage, who transformed Duchamp’s passive, negative pessimism vis-à-vis the role of art in the Machine Age into an aggressive evangelical mission of affirmation. Cage’s inclusive and permissive esthetic differs from Dada, however, in that its basis is not nihilism, but the improbable alliance of Zen and native American pragmatism. Thus, it is a mistake to consider its many ramifications as merely “neo-Dada” manifestations.

If an illustrator wished to adumbrate the history of American art in the sixties, he might do so in the single image of Greenberg and Cage with crossed swords. Simplistically condensed, Greenberg, the champion of the traditional values of Western culture contingent on the existence of a cultural elite, is challenged by Cage, the prophet not only of the technological future, but of a genuinely democratic art which extends the esthetic beyond the unique object into the life and environment of everyman.

To anyone who has followed the writings of these two men, this may seem an obvious observation. I am making it again here because I wish to demonstrate how such positions presume an equally opposed set of consequences for the future of art, and why partisans of each view must necessarily regard the two positions as mutually exclusive. Finally, I want to consider what special problems the co-existence of two such mutually exclusive esthetic positions raises for criticism, which presumably must attempt to create an equally applicable comparative standard of judgment.

Both Cage and Greenberg have strongly identified with the fortunes of the avant-garde. Yet even their respective understanding of the term is opposed. Greenberg identifies radicality not in terms of the role and function of art, but as a progressive internal development—regardless of public or critical acceptance or rejection. For him, radical form, not revolutionary function, is the hallmark of the avant-garde. Thus Greenberg is able to reconcile a decorative style that serves the middle class as embellishment and investment commodity with a concept of immanent radicality. For Cage, exactly the reverse is true—the radicality of art is defined not in terms of its form, but in terms of its disruptive function within a given social, political, economic or psychological framework.

The sources of Greenberg’s exclusive view are easily located in Kantian and Hegelian esthetics, modified by a Crocean acknowledgment of the subjectivity of “intuition” on which critical judgment is based. At this point, I want to suggest that Cage’s inclusive attitude, which focuses on the function of art, on the role of the artist in society, and on the whole behavioral complex implied by the notion that art is a certain kind of activity rather than a defined specialized mode or medium judged by preordained canons, norms and established standards of value, is equally tied to a specific philosophy. That philosophy, obviously, is pragmatism—the only uniquely American contribution to philosophic inquiry. Like pragmatism, Cage’s esthetic stresses function, behavior and concrete consequence in action.6

The first signals of a return to native attitudes occurred in the late fifties, and were directly related to Cage’s composition class at the New School. The pragmatic idea, as Oldenburg noted, that “anything can be used” (echoed in the Judd text quoted above) led to a determination to make art out of what was at hand, resulting in the junk and debris environments created from 1958–60 by Kaprow, Dine, Oldenburg and Whitman, among others. These works, unlike Rauschenberg’s tightly composed combine paintings, were closer to primitive bricolage than to collage. Kaprow’s rooms, Oldenburg’s street figures, as well as Whitman’s rubbish heaps, did not relate one element to another in the manner of Cubist “visual rhyming,” but accepted a more matter-of-fact, often random accumulation or accretion as a principle of organization. In this case, their willingness and that of American artists in general to go beyond the established fine arts tradition in appropriating non-art materials and techniques is as easily ascribed to native pragmatic attitudes, as it is to the influence of Dada.

The most striking evidence of the pragmatic basis of current tendencies, however, comes in the form of statements issued by McCracken, Kauffman, Flavin and Morris, among others, and, above all, by Donald Judd, whose seeming obscurity becomes quite comprehensible when placed in its proper context. Judd’s doctrine of “interest,” “credibility,” “concreteness,” and “power” as the primary art values even reads at times like a pragmatist text. His terse prose style is itself reminiscent of the common-sense pragmatist approach, and specifically of William James’s disdain for “useless questions and metaphysical abstractions.” Judd prefers three dimensions because “it opens to anything.” Three dimensions, like new materials and techniques, in other words, are means—and for an operational pragmatist, anything can be appropriated as means if it works. (The final test, of course, is always workability.)

Judd’s attitude towards forms, materials and techniques is based on William James’s prescription to adopt “Any idea on which we can ride, so to speak; any idea that will carry us prosperously from one part of our experience to any other part, linking things satisfactorily, working securely, simplifying, saving labor . . .”

As soon as one realizes that Judd is proposing a consistently pragmatist esthetic to replace the Idealist basis of Cubism, his prejudice against illusionism—which has been much misunderstood—begins to make sense. Judd’s rejection of illusionism is deeply rooted in the pragmatic tenet that truth to facts is an ethical value. For Judd, illusionism is close to immorality, because it falsifies reality. The pragmatist demands an absolute correspondence between facts and reality; things must be as they appear to be. Any disjunction between appearance and reality, such as illusionism, which distorts the facts, is sharply felt as an affront to truth, because pragmatism equates truth with the physical facts as experienced.

Once seen in the context of pragmatism, the current rejection of the metaphoric, the metaphysical and the symbolic functions previously attached to art becomes comprehensible as peculiarly American. Indeed, the literalism Michael Fried has discerned in contemporary American art is so consistent a feature of the American mind that it forms the basis for the sole philosophy created by Americans. Given this, we can hardly be surprised that as immigration ceases and the European current subsides, literalism has re-emerged as a central feature of American art.

Pragmatism differs from Idealist philosophy in another crucial respect which has consequences for current American art: it rejects any kind of mind-body dualism in favor of a synthetic perception, involving motor, retinal and kinesthetic as well as emotive factors in a single response. The direct physicality of American art, at least since Pollock, can similarly be seen as tied to pragmatic preferences. Robert Morris rejects internal relationships of any kind within a work because they “have a dualistic character in relation to the matter they distribute.” Any kind of duality, any discrepancy between process and end, is as repugnant as illusionism to the orthodox pragmatist. Moreover, the development of a holistic gestalt-oriented art must be seen in the light of anti-dualism of pragmatism.

What must be particularly offensive to the European-oriented upholders of elite cultural values is the cold-blooded haste with which the new pragmatists are ready to dump the whole of the European tradition. Judd’s casual remarks about European values going down the drain are bound to appall anyone whose entire value structure is dependent on perpetuating those values. But Judd’s impatience to get on with things, to rid art of metaphysics and metaphor, presumably because they are inefficient since they obtrude themselves as intermediaries between mind and matter, is just one more case of the American demand for direct experience. Charles Sanders Peirce might have summed it up for Judd: “Our idea of anything is our idea of its sensible effects; and if we fancy that we have any other we deceive ourselves.” Judd’s demand for “credibility” likewise becomes intelligible once we realize that Peirce defined the real as “that whose characteristics are independent of what anybody may think them to be.” For Judd, as for Peirce, “the only effect which real things have is to cause belief, for all the sensations which they excite emerge into consciousness in the form of beliefs. The question therefore, is, how is true belief (or belief in the real) distinguished from false belief (or belief in fiction ).” Obviously Judd must reject illusionism: it is a fiction. The specificity of materials Judd requires is predicated on a similar pragmatist rejection of the general and the abstract in favor of the concrete and the specific.

I am suggesting that nothing less than an artist’s conception of the nature of truth and reality is what is at stake in the current polarization of American art into idealist and pragmatist camps. William James summed up the nature of the present conflict many years ago when he wrote:

Pragmatism is uncomfortable away from the facts. Rationalism is comfortable only in the presence of abstractions . . . The pragmatist clings to facts and concreteness, observes truth at its work in particular cases, and generalizes. Truth, for him, becomes a class-name for all sorts of working values in experience. For the rationalist it remains a pure abstraction . . . Your typical ultra-abstractionist fairly shudders at concreteness: other things equal, he positively prefers the pale and spectral. If the two universes were offered, he would always choose the skinny outline rather than the rich thicket of reality. It is so much purer, clearer, nobler.

If as much American art as I believe is based on such pragmatic values as I have described, the question then arises: how does one go about evaluating this art with the tools of a criticism based on idealist absolutes and abstract standards? Is applying values derived from one world-view in judgment of an art based on a diametrically opposed world-view going to yield anything of use or interest, let alone of truth? I think not. And for this reason, I believe that at this time only a relativist criticism which begins by determining the context in which judgments can be made is possible. Comparative judgments are still necessary, but they must be made on the most general terms. Duchamp, for example, suggested that the esthetic “weight” of art could be calculated comparatively. I believe that one can arrive at a comparative judgment of the respective values of a Bell, an Olitski and a Judd, but not by judging the Bell and the Judd in terms that apply only to the Olitski. This kind of a judgment will be hard to justify because it will not conform to any pre-existing system of canons or norms proclaiming the superiority of flatness, purity of medium, truth to materials or any other such a priori criteria, but will be based only on the direct and immediate experience at hand, as it is weighed on the scales of the critic’s own judgment.

A contextual criticism might begin, as Peirce suggests, to “consider what effects, which might conceivably have practical bearings, we conceive the object of our conception to have.” Morse Peckham has already proposed a methodological structure for such a pragmatic criticism in Man’s Rage for Chaos, a book which I suspect owes more to Dewey’s Art as Experience than it might appear. If, instead of beginning with a set of mechanical tests for intrinsic value, we begin with the practical consequences of a given artist’s behavior or activity, we will have far more to say about much of what is being produced now than otherwise. This is the method I propose to use in Part III of this article to study the significance of certain current “anti-formal” tendencies.

Barbara Rose



1. Greenberg’s exclusion of the anti-formal chapters such as Dada and Surrealism from the modernist “tradition” has left a purified continuous development descending from Manet and Cézanne through Cubism and Abstract Expressionism that conforms more closely to the evolution of a single period style such as Renaissance or Baroque. Current antagonism is often directed toward this notion of modernism as a single coherent period style of European origin. One can in fact see the rejection of painting as the embodiment of an alien style in these terms. For Judd and Oldenburg, for example, painting becomes both conventional and decorative. It loses its vanguard status. In a sense, Judd’s and Oldenburg’s objections to the merely “decorative” into which they feel painting has degenerated during, as Oldenburg puts it, the “empire stage” of “money, fatness, ease, communication” are a recapitulation of the original Abstract Expressionist objection to Cubism as a purely “decorative” style. That art must do more than decorate is a leitmotif of American art in other words, and not just a current prejudice.

2. I was fascinated by Mr. Burnham’s ability to reduce to the same flattened level his various examples of “systems esthetics” from Tatlin to Flavin, as if no distinctions of originality, significance and above all, esthetic quality existed among the works discussed. Mr. Burnham’s self-hypnotic tone reinforced this sense of an absolute leveling of ideas and quality distinctions. The danger of any such narrowly defined and self-confined frame of reference, in which premises are never questioned, is that it allows the contemplation of one’s own navel to replace the painful search for underlying meaning and value discrimination which is the basis for criticism. That formal critics refuse to make discriminations of relative value outside their own extremely limited frame of reference, lumping all anti-formal examples together, only aggravates the situation.

3. Schamberg’s assemblage, God, for example, was undoubtedly inspired by Duchamp’s now all too familiar observation that the only sculpture America had produced were her plumbing and her bridges.

4. In The Roots of American Culture, Constance Rourke comments on the innate American prejudice against the ornamental and the frivolous, the superfluous and the merely entertaining that we may observe once again in Minimal art. The Shakers, she reports, “made a further ritual of cleaning, as symbolic of the exorcism of sin.” The extreme cleanness of form of Minimal art may be seen as yet another evidence of this recurrent American horror of the facile, the entertaining and, by inference, the merely decorative.

5. Artforum, September, 1968.

6. Harold Rosenberg missed an opportunity to observe that “pragma” is Greek for action, and that “pragmatism” is in fact action philosophy. The American stress on activity, and practical results in action can be remarked in the only distinctly American contribution to psychology; behaviorism. I ought to make it clear that my discussion of pragmatism, as the clearest example of the expression of literalism in American thought is not meant in any way as a defense of pragmatism as a philosophy, but merely as a description of its impact on current art thought.

Part III of The Politics of Art will be published in a subsequent issue.