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critics Thomas B. Hess

Thomas B. Hess


Synopsis

Thomas B. Hess was the editor of Art News, the oldest and most widely-circulated fine arts journal in the world. From editorial assistant to executive editor and finally to managing editor, from 1965 until his death, Hess was an early proponent of the work of Willem de Kooning, a close confidant of Elaine de Kooning and Harold Rosenberg, and an integral member of the famed Artists' Club on East 8th Street. Throughout his career Hess played an integral role in championing Abstract Expressionist art and art criticism.

Key Ideas

Much like his friend and contemporary Harold Rosenberg, Hess generally disliked the formalist approach to art criticism championed by Clement Greenberg (although both men did admire Greenberg's writing). Hess believed that this approach performed a disservice by ignoring the individual actions, and in some cases, struggles, of the artist.In any work of art, the thing that mattered most to Hess was the individual artist; his motivations, emotions, religious beliefs, personal behaviors, etc. For a critic to ignore the individual was to ignore an artwork's uniqueness. Hess had his doubts of the existence of an avant-garde in the arts. If one did exist, it was embodied in the achievements of the individual artist, and not representative of some larger movement.
Hess challenged the notion of an avant-garde in the arts, by which he meant a forward-thinking group of artists who continually stretched the boundaries of Modern art If one did exist, Hess believed, it was embodied in the achievements of the individual artist, and not representative of some larger movement.

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