Abstract Expressionism is the term applied to the new forms of abstract art developed by American painters such as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Willem de Kooning in the 1940s and 1950s. It is often characterized by gestural brushwork or marks, and the impression of spontaneity
Abstract Expressionism - The Blue Poles by Jackson Pollock
Although it is the accepted designation, abstract expressionism is not an accurate description of the body of work created by these artists. In fact, the movement comprised many different painting styles that vary in both technique and quality of expression. Despite this variety, Abstract Expressionist paintings share several general characteristics. They often use degrees of abstraction; that is, they represent unrealistic forms or, in the extreme, forms not drawn from the visible world (non-objective). They emphasize free, spontaneous, and personal emotional expression, and exercise considerable freedom of technique and execution to achieve this goal, with particular emphasis on exploiting the variable physical character of painting to evoke expressive qualities (e.g., sensuality, dynamism). , violence, mystery, lyricism). They show a similar emphasis on the intuitive and unstudied application of that painting in a form of psychic improvisation akin to the automatism of the Surrealists, with a similar intention of expressing the force of the creative unconscious in art. Artists often display a similar emphasis on abandoning the conventionally structured composition built from discrete, segregable elements and replacing it with a single, unified, undifferentiated field, network, or other image existing in unstructured space. And finally, paintings fill large canvases to give these aforementioned visual effects both monumentality and absorbing power.
The Abstract Expressionists were primarily based in New York City and were also known as the New York School. The name evokes his goal to make art that, while abstract, is also expressive or emotional in its effect. They were inspired by the surrealist idea that art should arise from the unconscious mind and the automatism of the artist Joan Miró.
In the Big Apple, a small group of loosely affiliated artists created a stylistically diverse body of work that introduced radical new directions in art and changed the focus of the art world. Without being a formal association, the artists known invariably as "Abstract Expressionists" or "The New York School", shared some common assumptions. Among others, artists such as Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Lee Krasner, Robert Motherwell, William Baziotes, Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, Adolph Gottlieb, Richard Pousette-Dart, and Clyfford Still boldly advanced formally in search of meaningful content. Breaking with accepted conventions in both technique and subject matter, the artists created works on a monumental scale that stood as reflections of their individual psyches, and in doing so attempted to access universal inner sources. These artists valued spontaneity and improvisation, and placed the utmost importance on process.
Abstract Expressionism - Abstraction by Willem de Kooning
The work of the Abstract Expressionists resists stylistic categorization, but can be grouped around two basic leanings: an emphasis on energetic, dynamic gesture, contrasted with a thoughtful, cerebral focus on more open fields of color. In any case, the images were mainly abstract.
The early Abstract Expressionists had two notable forerunners: Arshile Gorky, who painted suggestive biomorphic forms using a free, delicately linear application of liquid paint, and Hans Hofmann, who used dynamic, heavily textured brushstrokes in abstract but conventionally composed works. Another major influence on nascent Abstract Expressionism was the arrival on American shores in the late 1930s and early 1940s of a host of Surrealists and other leading avant-garde European artists fleeing Nazi-dominated Europe. . Such artists greatly stimulated native New York City painters and gave them a more intimate view of the cutting edge of European painting. The Abstract Expressionist movement is generally considered to have begun with the paintings by Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
Abstract Expressionism - A Year the Milkweed by Arshile Gorky
Abstract Expressionism - Such is the Way of the Stars by Hans Hofmann
Types of Abstract Expressionism
Despite the diversity of the abstract expressionist movement, three general approaches can be distinguished. One, "action painting," is characterized by loose, rapid, dynamic, or forceful handling of paint in sweeping or slashing brushstrokes and in techniques partially dictated by chance, such as dripping or spilling paint directly onto the canvas. Jason Pollock first practiced action painting by pouring commercial paints onto raw canvas to build complex, tangled skeins of paint into exciting and suggestive linear patterns. De Kooning used extremely vigorous and expressive brush strokes to create images rich in color and texture. Kline used broad, powerful black strokes on a white canvas to create starkly monumental forms.
The middle ground within Abstract Expressionism is represented by several varied styles, ranging from the more lyrical and delicate imagery and flowing forms of the paintings of Guston and Frankenthaler to the forceful, clearly structured, almost calligraphic imagery of Motherwell and Gottlieb.
The third and least emotionally expressive approach was that of Rothko, Newman, and Reinhardt. These painters used large areas, or fields, of flat color and thin, diaphanous paint to achieve calm, subtle, almost meditative effects. The color field painter was Rothko, most of whose works consist of large-scale combinations of rectangular areas of solid color and soft edges that tend to shimmer and resonate.
Within abstract expressionism there were two large groups: the so-called action painters, who attacked their canvases with expressive brushstrokes; and the color field painters who filled their canvases with large areas of a single color.
Action painters were led by Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, who worked in a spontaneous and improvised manner, often using large brushes to make gestural sweep marks. Pollock placed his canvas on the ground and danced around it pouring paint from the can or dragging it from the brush or a stick. In this way, action painters brought their inner drives directly onto the canvas.
The second group included Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, and Clyfford Still. These artists were deeply interested in religion and myth and created simple compositions with large areas of color intended to produce a contemplative or meditative response in the viewer. In an essay written in 1948, Barnett Newmann said: "Instead of making cathedrals out of Christ, man, or 'life,' we are making them out of ourselves, out of our own feelings." This approach to painting developed around 1960 into what became known as color field painting, characterized by artists using large areas of more or less a single flat color.
Abstract Expressionism developed in the context of diverse and overlapping sources and inspirations. Many of the young artists had started in the 1930s. The Great Depression produced two popular art movements , regionalism and social realism, neither of which satisfied the desire of this group of artists to find content that was rich in meaning and with a smell of social responsibility, but free of provincialism and explicit politics. The Great Depression also prompted the development of government relief programs, including the Works Progress Administration (WPA), an employment program for unemployed Americans in which many members of the group participated and which allowed so many artists to establish a career.
But it was the exposure and assimilation of European modernism that set the stage for more advanced American art. There were several places in New York to see avant-garde art from Europe. The Museum of Modern Art opened in 1929, where artists viewed a rapidly growing collection acquired by director Alfred H. Barr, Jr. They were also exposed to innovative temporary exhibits of new work, including Cubism and Abstract Art ( 1936), Fantastic Art, Dadaism, Surrealism (1936-1937) and retrospectives of Matisse, Léger and Picasso, among others.
Another forum for viewing more advanced art was the Albert Gallatin Museum of Living Art, which was housed at New York University from 1927 to 1943. There, Abstract Expressionists saw the work of Mondrian, Gabo, El Lissitzky, and others. The forerunner of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Non-Objective Painting, opened in 1939. Even before that date, its Kandinsky collection had been on public display several times. The lessons of European modernism were also spread through teaching. German expatriate Hans Hofmann (1880–1966) became the most influential professor of modern art in the United States, making an impact on artists and critics alike.
The crisis of the war and its aftermath are key to understanding the concerns of the abstract expressionists. Concerned with the dark side of man and anxiously aware of human irrationality and vulnerability, these young artists wanted to express their concerns in a new art of meaning and substance. The European surrealists opened up new possibilities with their emphasis on touching the unconscious. A surreal resource to free oneself from the conscious mind was psychic automatism, in which automatic gesture and improvisation gain free rein.
At first, the Abstract Expressionists, searching for a timeless and powerful subject matter, turned to primitive myth and archaic art for inspiration. Rothko, Pollock, Motherwell, Gottlieb, Newman, and Baziotes sought expression in ancient or primitive cultures. His first works present pictographic and biomorphic elements transformed into a personal code. Jungian psychology was also convincing in its assertion of the collective unconscious. Openness of expression was paramount, and best achieved without forethought. In a famous letter to the New York Times (June 1943), Gottlieb and Rothko, with the help of Newman, wrote: "For us, art is an adventure into an unknown world of the imagination that is free from fantasy and opposed to violently to common sense. There is no such thing as a good painting on nothing. We affirm that the issue is critical.”
Abstract Expressionism - Rhodes by Adolph Gottlieb
Abstract Expressionism at its peak: action painting
In 1947, Pollock developed a radically new technique, pouring and dripping diluted paint onto a raw canvas laid on the floor (instead of traditional painting methods in which pigment is brushed onto a stretched canvas laid on an easel). ). The paintings were completely non-objective. In their subject matter (or apparent lack of one), scale (enormous), and technique (no brush, no stretchers, no easel), the works struck many viewers. De Kooning was also developing his own version of a highly charged gestural style, alternating between abstract work and powerful iconic figurative imagery. Other colleagues, including Krasner and Kline, were equally committed to creating dynamic gesture art in which every inch of an image is fully charged. For abstract expressionists, the authenticity or value of a work lies in its directness and immediacy of expression. A painting is meant to be a revelation of the true identity of the artist. The gesture, the "signature" of the artist, is evidence of the real process of creating the work. It is in reference to this aspect of the work that the critic Harold Rosenberg coined the term “action painting” in 1952: “At a certain point, the canvas began to appear to one American painter after another as a stage on which to act, in rather than as a space in which to reproduce, redesign, analyze or 'express' an object, real or imaginary. What was going to go on the canvas was not a painting but an event”. ” is evidence of the actual process of creating the work. It is in reference to this aspect of the work that the critic Harold Rosenberg coined the term “action painting” in 1952: “At a certain point, the canvas began to appear to one American painter after another as a stage on which to act, in rather than as a space in which to reproduce, redesign, analyze or 'express' an object, real or imaginary. What was going to go on the canvas was not a painting but an event”. ” is evidence of the actual process of creating the work. It is in reference to this aspect of the work that the critic Harold Rosenberg coined the term “action painting” in 1952: “At a certain point, the canvas began to appear to one American painter after another as a stage on which to act, in rather than as a space in which to reproduce, redesign, analyze or 'express' an object, real or imaginary. What was going to go on the canvas was not a painting but an event”.
Abstract expressionism at its peak: the color field
Another path lay in the expressive potential of color. Rothko, Newman, and Still, for example, created art based on simplified, large-format, color-dominated fields. The impulse was generally thoughtful and cerebral, with pictorial means simplified to create a kind of elemental impact. Rothko and Newman, among others, spoke of a goal to achieve the "sublime" rather than the "beautiful", recalling Edmund Burke in a drive for grandiose and heroic vision as opposed to a calming or comforting effect. Newman described his reductionism as a means of “freeing us from the obsolete accoutrements of old-fashioned and antiquated legend…freeing us from the impediments of memory, association, nostalgia, legend, and myth that have been the devices of painting.” of Western Europe”.
For Rothko, the soft-edged rectangles of luminescent color should give viewers an almost religious experience, even bringing tears. As with Pollock and the others, the scale contributed to the meaning. For the time, the works were large-scale. And they were intended to be viewed in relatively close-up settings, so that the viewer would be visualized practically involved in the experience of facing the work. Rothko said, "I paint large to be intimate." The notion is towards the personal (authentic expression of the individual) rather than towards the grandiose. so that the viewer was virtually involved in the experience of facing the work.
Abstract Expressionism: its impact
Abstract Expressionism had a huge impact on the American and European art scene during the 1950s. Indeed, the movement marked the shift of the creative center of modern painting from Paris to New York City in the post-war decades. Over the course of the 1950s, the movement's younger followers increasingly followed the lead of the color field painters, and by 1960 its participants had generally moved away from the highly charged expressiveness of the action painters. .
At this time the works were widely seen in traveling exhibitions and through publications. In the wake of Abstract Expressionism, new generations of artists, both American and European, were deeply marked by the advances made by the first generation and created their own significant expressions based on those who paved the way.
Kuadros, a famous painting on his wall.