How did art critic Hilton Kramer get lost in the culture wars?
“In his heart of hearts, I think Hilton always prized heterogeneity. His first book—The Age of the Avant-Garde: An Art Chronicle of 1956-1972, which takes him from Arts toThe New York Times—reflects his considerable range of interests, encompassing appreciations of both the “icy voluptuousness” of Richard Lindner’s “erotic fantasy” and the “Whitmanesque ambitions” of Mark di Suvero’s sculpture. Hilton wrote with great feeling about modern sculpture, cared deeply for unsung pioneers of American modernism such as John Storrs, and when photography was still seen as somewhat marginal in the art world he wrote about it at the Times with great consistency, vigor, and seriousness. The Age of the Avant-Garde and The Revenge of the Philistines—panoramic art chronicles that Hilton surely patterned after Edmund Wilson’s literary chronicles—are a passionately lucid achievement, a steady eye trained on the crazy quilt of art in New York and beyond. Hilton’s main weakness as a critic, at least as I see it, is his tendency to back away from a climax. Too often the judiciousness stands in the way of his enthusiasm; I want him to expostulate a bit more about the things he loves. What is remarkable is his extraordinary scope and pinpoint detail.”
- Jed Perl, How Hilton Kramer Got Lost in the Culture Wars
Photo courtesy of The Guardian