However, Greenberg was not impressed with Willem de Kooning, another expensive modernist, who was highly regarded by Greenberg's rival, Harold Rosenberg.(2) Although Greenberg regarded the pioneers of abstract expressionism as highly original artists, the very success of the movement led (in his view) to the emergence of painters whose talent for imitation far exceeded their originality.
He believed that the tradition had been "reduced to a set of mannerisms" by these artists, and pinned his hopes on a younger generation with fresh ideas on how to maintain the purity of two-dimensional painting.
In particular, he championed the abstract expressionism of the New York School and, along with the wealthy collector Peggy Guggenheim (1898-1979), was one of the first to promote the work of Jackson Pollock (1912-56).
He also praised the 20th century sculptors David Smith (1906-65) and Anthony Caro (1924-2013).
He helped to arrange numerous introductions between his favoured artists and buyers like Leo Castelli (1907-99), and also helped to organize exhibitions.
For instance, he set up a solo show for Barnet Newman at French & Company - a show which proved instrumental in helping to establish Newman as an important contributor to abstract expressionism.He christened the work of this new generation "Post-Painterly Abstraction" in order to distinguish it from Abstract Expressionism, or "Painterly Abstraction", as he called it.Post-Painterly Abstraction was a term given to a variety of second generation abstract art that reacted against the gestural painting of earlier abstract expressionists.His only concession, was to admit that Pop art's transparency was a welcome distraction from the over-intensity of Abstract Expressionism.Given the fragmented, subjective and populist nature of postmodernist art, it is no surprise that Greenberg had a pessimistic view of contemporary styles, in America and around the world.Later, beginning with an exhibition of contemporary painting which he curated for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, he championed a new second generation of abstract artists under the label Post-Painterly Abstraction.Contemporary artists, such as those involved with Pop art, were something of a theoretical puzzle for Greenberg.PPA included Systemic Painting, such as the work of Josef Albers (1888-1976) and others; Hard-Edge painting practiced by the likes of Frank Stella and Ellsworth Kelly; Lyrical Abstraction, including works by Mark Tobey, and others; Colour Stain painting practiced by Helen Frankenthaler; and Minimalist art including pictures by Robert Mangold, Agnes Martin, and Robert Ryman.(3) Proper modern art (he called it avant-garde art) is inseparable from critical thought or observation.By contrast, "kitsch" is an erzatz or fake type of visual art produced for the consumption of the working class: a social group hungry for culture, but without the education or resources to enjoy proper modern art.Proficient in sketching from an early age, he studied at Syracuse University (graduating cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, in 1930) and at the Art Students League in New York.During the period 1930-37, he took a series of different jobs, married, had a child, and got divorced, before finding his metier as a writer.