Fried, Michael (1939--) By Child, Danielle
Michael Fried is an American art critic, literary critic and art historian. Fried is most well-known for his art criticism, which contributed to the debates on modernist painting and sculpture that were played out in the pages of American art journals, such as Artforum, during the 1960s. In 1958, while studying English as an undergraduate at Princeton University, Fried met Clement Greenberg, whose theories on modernist painting influenced Fried’s subsequent writings and art criticism. He later studied under Richard Wollheim while at Oxford University. The formalist influence of Greenberg’s art criticism is prevalent in Fried’s two canonical texts on modernist art: “Three American Painters: Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski, Frank Stella” (1965), the catalogue essay for an exhibition curated by Fried at Harvard’s Fogg Art Museum; and “Art and Objecthood” (1967). The former focuses upon three second-generation New York School painters, considered to be “high modernist.” The latter is a defense of modernist painting against a new form of three-dimensional work that he terms “literal,” now known as minimalist, sculpture. The argument initiated in these two essays formed a key moment in the debates that defined late-20th-century modernist art history. In the late 1960s Fried moved away from writing art criticism, focusing instead on modernist art in the 19th and early-20th centuries. He recently returned to contemporary art with his text Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before.