Elaine began reviewing exhibitions for ARTnews in April 1948, working under Thomas B. Hess, with whom she had a romantic relationship. (She was also briefly involved with critic Harold Rosenberg.) Tutelage with critic Edwin Denby helped hone her craft. Her reviews ranged widely, deftly encapsulating an artist’s style and approach within the 200-word limit. In 1949, she switched to the magazine’s “X Paints a Picture” features, a detailed treatment of the featured artist’s process. The function of criticism is to “cast some light on” the work, she said, rather than to sit in judgment. But she maintained the critic’s right of interpretation, regardless of the artist’s intentions. Among the artists and writers she befriended during this period were Larry Rivers, Fairfield Porter, and Frank O’Hara. In 1955, she began writing about larger themes, beginning with “Subject: What, How or Who?” which bravely countered ideas promulgated by critic Clement Greenberg.
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