Abstract Expressionism

Abstract Expressionism

The Story of Abstract Expressionism -  

A revolutionary broad movement in the art world, Abstract Expressionism took place in the post-World War II America in the 1940s dominating the art scene trends in the 1950s. Artists such as Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko and many more of the time consisted of this group - known as Abstract Expressionists. The group never represented itself as a part of formal society, but was always agreed upon subject matter of their works. The group formed as the Abstract Expressionism worked, lived or exhibited in New York City and hence were also known as New York School. Abstract expressionism was and is still also called Action painting. 

History of Abstract Expressionism - 

During the Great Depression period in Europe in the 1930s, two very popular art movements kickstarted, they were known as Regionalism and Social Realism. A group of artists started offering rich content focusing on rural and agrarian culture in relation to strong political and social responsibility. Influenced by European movements, Abstract Expressionism emerged in New York in the 1940s via academic institutions, museum exhibitions and major European artists inspired during World War II. During this time of Abstract Expressionism, American Art movements were evolved as an expression for freedom. Abstract Expressionism portrayed expressions for freedom in many ways, like the freedom symbolized by action painting and freedom to create controversial works of art. 

The term Abstract Expression was first used in 1929 by the Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky in Germany. However, it was later associated with the post-war American art. Alfred Barr became the first American to use this term heavily to propagate the work of Wassily Kandinsky. Gradually, it kept on upgrading the works of the generation of artists in New York from the 1940s and 50s.  

Some popular artists who have contributed towards of the works are Willem de Kooning (1904-1997), Jackson Pollock (1912-1956), Franz Kline (1910-1962), Clyfford Still (1904-1980), Lee Krasner (1908-1984), William Baziotes (1912-1963), Mark Rothko (1903-1970), Barnett Newman (1905-1970), Adolph Gottlieb (1903-1974), Richard Pousette-Dart (1916-1992) and Robert Motherwell (1915-1991). 

The Abstract Expressionists have hugely contributed towards the spontaneity and improvisation of one’s own style while making a piece of art. These artists valued form as an important aesthetic of their works, wherein the same spontaneity and improvisation of making a piece of art becomes important. The formlessness and the dynamism of movement characterized their work.

The Abstract Expressionists in New York City - 

The city of New York and its culture was hugely influenced by the center of the Western art world. The Abstract Expressionists were firmly rooted in Lower Manhattan, which is the current downtown area of New York. A walk along 8th Street to the Waldorf Cafeteria area belonged to the artists who, due to their penniless pockets created “tomato soup” from the free hot water and ketchup available. However, the artists did not stop themselves from creating new, lavish, different, spontaneous pieces of artworks. Except for the spontaneity and improvisation of the artworks, the features of creating them remained the same. The paintings were almost always created using oil paint on large canvases, inclusive of abstract motifs, and surfaces representing limitless open fields. These paintings appreciated great dynamism while rejecting aesthetic conventionalism and subjective expression. 

As the movement progressed and more and more artists fell into the realm of Abstract Expressionism, various types of the movement came into being – Neo Plasticism, Suprematism and Art Informel. Each one of them manifesting its own ways to present abstract art. Today, they can be found in the creations of various famous artists like Pablo Picasso and Piet Mondrian. In fact, the usage of dots to create paintings has also become a technique of abstract art during the Impressionist movement known as Pointillism. 

Abstract Expressionists followed many techniques and hence they were also called Action Painting. They looked for various ways to involve spilling colors on huge canvases which helped create abstract motifs. Other Abstract Expressionists like Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman propounded the Color-Field term. In this kind of painting, the artists would apply large extensions of color which then subtly modulated on the surface of canvas. 

A revolution in this genre, Abstract Expressionist sculptures involved different sculptors who challenged the conventional structure of sculpture-making. Abstract Expressionists adhered to unique and often sequestered materials with less than commonly known process used for traditional sculptures. 

Abstract Expressionistic artworks are a popular concept for large-scale paintings. It is way different from traditional processes, as it takes the canvas off of the easel and use eccentric materials such as wall paints, spray paints, found or scavenged objects and lesser-known processes. Abstract Expressionism is known for its advancements in painting. Its ideas have deep resonance in various forms of arts that include drawing and sculpture. 

Combination of Abstract Expressionism and Jazz - 

During the awakening of Abstract Expressionism, Jazz became popular among the artists. Several Abstract Expressionists including Jackson Pollock would prefer a listen to music while painting. In fact, Norman Lewis had depicted Harlem Jazz clubs during many of his early works. Later on, he started integrating lyricism and spontaneity of jazz into his abstract paintings. He would compare his technique of painting with the legendary trumpeter Miles Davis. He would say that like Davis does not play but bend, similarly would not paint the painting but bend the paint. 

Impact of Abstract Expressionism -  

Abstract Expressionism had left a great impact on both the American and European art scenes during the 1950s. This movement marked the shift of the modern painting arising from Paris to New York City during the post-war decades. In the course of the 1950s, a lot of young art aspirants started following color-field painter. By 1960, Abstract had become hugely popular among artists of all genre. 

Important works of Abstract expressionism Art - 
• Stenographic Figure (Jackson Pollock) 
• Moon-Woman Cuts the Circle (Jackson Pollock) 
• Mural painting, no. III (Robert Motherwell) 
• East wall (Conrad Marca Relli) 
• Male and Female Philadelphia (Jackson Pollock) 
• Woman in a forest (Willem De Kooning)