Day: March 22, 2021

Alexander Nemerov’s biography of artist Helen Frankenthaler finds transcendent value in her work

The Frankenthaler portrayed in art historian Alexander Nemerov’s biography “Fierce Poise” (publishing Monday by Penguin Press) comes from a world that we now find in many ways incomprehensible. It is an age held in disrepute, in which male artists behaved abominably to women and to each other; in which alcohol and drugs weren’t just the lubricant of social discourse but a substrate in which civilized norms were regularly dissolved. Greenberg is now seen not as a greatly talented and greatly flawed intellectual but simply as an ogre, the embodiment of criticism as gatekeeping, the mansplainer in chief of abstract expressionism, who could make or break careers, including those of the women with whom he slept.

Nemerov is connected to Greenberg through his father, the poet Howard Nemerov, a lion of mid-century American culture who served two terms as the country’s poet laureate. While researching the book, the author delved into

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