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FIELD AGENT: THE ART OF JAMES BISHOP

James Bishop, Other Colors, 1964, oil on canvas, 59 x 59".

BY HIS OWN ESTIMATION, the American painter James Bishop never could do a “sixties painting in the Greenbergian sense.”1 Yet in the late 1960s and ’70s, when Bishop was living in France at midcareer, his work offered a central reference for the reception of Clement Greenberg’s writings in that country. It is surprising that Bishop’s work should assume this role, not only because of his professed inability to hew to a Greenbergian line but also because of the apparent unlikeliness of a resurgence of Greenberg’s ideas at that moment. The years following the 1960 publication of his now-canonical essay “Modernist Painting” saw the critic at the height of his power, but by the end of the decade a broad range of new practices (Minimalism, Pop, and performance art among them) had famously abandoned Greenberg’s strict modernist ideology and his emphasis on painting itself. In France,

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