From Stuart Hobbs, The End of the American Avante Garde:
In referring to the New York School artists of the Fifties and the work of some of the art historians who have explicated them Hobbs writes. These scholars describe how the avant garde created an art that expressed life-affirming mythological and religious themes, which members of the van[guard] hoped would contribute to the regeneration of Western culture.
Note: The New York School also runs parallel in significance with the “Beat” writers active in San Francisco in the 50s, as well as the Black Mountain community in North Carolina. Both avant-garde groups devoted to spiritual exploration and purpose.
In another passage:
In postwar America, journalists, critics, gallery owners, museum curators, educators and others interpreted avant-garde work in ways counter to the vanguard’s self-understanding. Far from transforming American culture, cultural Cold Warrior appropriated the radical van as a weapon in the Cold War; curators, gallery owners, and publishers absorbed the advance guard into traditional institutions of culture; and advertisers and businesspeople commodified the movement in consumer culture. The meaning avant gardists gave to their work which they believed was expressed in a form that tapped into a universal human subconscious, proved susceptible to diverse interpretations. Ironically, these alternative readings overwhelmed the vanguard intentions.
I had direct contact as a student with one of the key members of the vanguard, Milton Resnick. The reason I’m able to penetrate so clearly what happened is that from Resnick I learned exactly how the American Avant-Garde was destroyed, not just partially. But purposefully, systematically and entirely. This doesn’t mean the artists were destroyed, although the shattering of their spiritual foundations of the vanguard did kill some of the most noticed ones… Gorky, Pollock and Rothko. To believe in art as a manifestation of spirit and art’s purpose as that of the regeneration of a dying culture is not negotiable with a commercial marketplace. The post on Rothko is a pointed case that shows exactly the rapacious actions of the above community indicted by Hobbs: journalists, critics, gallery owners, museum curators, educators and others.
This same group, although the players have changed, maintain entire control of the narrative of Western Art and this, of course, extends globally now because what is being described is Capitalism not something confined to America. The primary realization is that, as Hobbs writes, these groups acted in opposition to the Avant-Garde’s self-understanding.
This was a power struggle in which the American painters had no weapons. The power was in the hands of critics like Clement Greenberg, as well as the financial class funding the burgeoning arts community. The Abstract Expressionists were a great artistic American triumph, but a complete failure in terms of their goals.
Reading in the recently released books on Guston, Resnick and Louis Finkelstein one is able to get a much clearer picture of how marginalized the beliefs and real artistic accomplishments of the New York painters had become by the time of the 1960s. I have run into no painters where I live, other than a painter who was with Guston in Rome on the Prix di Rome, who have even the vaguest notion of who the New York School painters were or what they stood for.
Greenberg and the vast network of newly formed arts interests made certain that the spiritual underpinnings and the underpinnings in the subconscious of those painters were obliterated in favor of formalist concerns that had nothing whatsoever to do with the intentions or the reality of the paintings themselves.