Time to get a sense of the termBy and large, the concept of "abstract expressionism" is not very accurate definition for the works attributed to it. In fact, this movement includes many different styles, each of which had only one or several artist representatives, and different techniques. However, despite the breadth of the concept, paintings of the style of abstract
Key points1. Most artists who are attributed to abstract
2. Abstract expressionists developed their own artistic style at the time when Americans suffered from economic problems and felt like provincials isolated from the world of art. Therefore, the movement of abstract expressionists joyfully proclaimed the first native American
3. Only artists are considered to belong to the abstract
4. The unstable political situation in Europe of the 30s led many leading surrealist artists, who had a significant impact on abstract expressionists through their style and focus on the unconscious, to the United States (mostly New York). Surrealists aroused interest in abstract expressionists in myths and archetypes, as well as they helped shape their attitude to painting as a whole, as to the struggle between self-expression and the chaos of the unconscious.
The Beginning: Art born by the DepressionThe predecessors of abstract expressionists include two notable figures: Arshile Gorky, who created suggestive biomorphic forms with thin lines and used liquid paint in his work, and Hans Hoffmann, whose works are distinguished by dynamic and textural strokes, while traditional composition at the same time.
As already mentioned, many of the abstract expressionists grew out of the first artistic experiments in the 1930s. The Great Depression spawned two popular art movements —
Be that as it may, many artists who experienced the horrors of the Great Depression, at the beginning of their career, were forced to turn to regionalism and social
In order to give life to this movement, many factors have developed. In 1947, Jackson Pollock invented the "drip" technique. The following year, an important exhibition of works by Willem de Kooning took place at the Charles Egan Gallery. Barnett Newman created his breakthrough canvas "The Unity, 1", and Mark Rothko began to paint his "multiform" paintings, the forerunners of his most popular works of his mature period. After one and a half dozen artists staged a boycott of the contemporary art exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, they were captured in a group photo for Life magazine and dubbed "The Irascibles". This way the abstract
"The Irascibles": Theodoros Stamos, Jimmy Ernst, Barnett Newman, James Brooks, Mark Rothko, Richard Pousette-Dart, William Baziotes, Jackson Pollock, Clyfford Still, Robert Motherwell, Bradley Walker Tomlin, Willem de Kooning, Adolf Gottlieb, Ad Reinhardt, and Edda Stern.
The action painting
Willem de Kooning developed his own version of the action painting: an energetic, even aggressive style, within which he alternated purely abstract works with powerful iconic figurative paintings.
For abstract expressionists, the reliability and value of their work was primarily in their directness and immediacy of expression. Each picture was supposed to serve to reveal the inner essence of the artist, and the energetic style of the action painting was the main sign of the living process of creation.
The Colourfield Painting
In the colourfield painting, as well as in the action painting, the size of the paintings played a significant role. Rothko, for example, painted on huge canvases, explaining it this way: "I draw big to be closer". One of the main ideas was to place these huge canvases in the exhibition space so that the viewer was surrounded by them from all sides and immersed as much as possible in the colour planes.
Rothko and Newman aimed to achieve the effect of "elevation, not beauty" in their works. Newman described his reductivism as one of the means of "liberating oneself from obsolete props and old-fashioned traditions… Liberating oneself from obstacles, such as memory, associations, nostalgia, legends and myths that were the means of Western European painting".
All that jazz
Norman Lewis worked in Harlem, a district of New York known for its artistic, musical and literary achievements, where mostly African Americans lived. Lewis often portrayed Harlem jazz clubs in his early figurative works. His later abstract works seem saturated with jazz lyrics and spontaneity. Once Willem de Kooning compared his technique with that of the famous trumpeter: "Miles Davis bends notes. He does not play them, he cambers them. And I bend my paint."
Abstract Expressionism: A crib
Significant worksJackson Pollock Number 1 (Lavender Mist) (1950)
This painting was one of 32 works by Jackson Pollock exhibited at his 1950 solo exhibition at Betty Parson Gallery in New York and was the only painting sold at this exhibition. Despite the praise of critics and the attention of the press, Pollock’s paintings made in the famous "drip" technique were not bought until the last years of his life. Pollock gave the name "Number One" to several of his works, but then he expanded these names. And although the paintings "Number 1" (1949) and "One, Number 31" (1950) are interconnected, they differ significantly in mood. The work "Number 1 (Lavender Mist)" is the brightest example of an action painting, in which paint was poured directly onto the canvas and applied with vigorous movements to reflect the artist’s inner essence. The expressive colours and the canvas space, formed of layers and drops of dense, opaque paint, create a textural picture surface, which almost makes the viewer dizzy.
Most of artworks by Mark Rothko are named after the colours used in them, and all of them consist of soft solid rectangular stripes, horizontally stretched on a canvas. "Red, Brown, and Black" is a vivid example of chromatic abstraction related to the so-called colourfield painting. Artists who worked in this style paid much attention to brush strokes and paint texture, but they all finally saw colour as the most powerful communication tool. Rothko owed his passion for mysticism, religion and mythology to the surrealists, and his colour fields create a contemplative, meditative space, in which the viewer can visually examine his own mood, caused by the palette of the canvas.
Willem de Kooning was another artist attached to action painting, however his style was different from Jackson Pollock’s technique. De Kooning used broad strokes and a light, pastel palette. His work suggested the search for genuine experiences, not only within creating of the picture, but also within the canvas embodiment of the past experience. Some critics believe that de Kooning was significantly influenced by cubism, since in many of his works he relies on peculiar mesh compositions in which colour is creating multidimensionality and texture. "The Door to the River" painting became part of a painting series created in the 1950—60s, where de Kooning seemed to apply completely spontaneous strokes to reflect the kind of the physical presence of not only the artist, but also the viewer himself.
You are an expert if:You realize that the greatest abstractionists grew out of the painting of the past. And they are even able to discern in Willem de Kooning’s "Excavations", for example, "the European roots of the artist, who recognized Rembrandt's dark drama, Van Gogh’s painful expressiveness and the post-war existential fear of Kirchner's German
You are a layman if:Looking at the canvases by abstract expressionists, you ask the question "What did the author want to say?" and hurry to see the catalogue to find out the name of the painting (in 90% of cases you’d have no luck) or to read what the curator and art historians say about it. Look at the picture instead and ask yourself: "What am I seeing here? What am I feeling right now? "
What's next? The Transformation and the HeritageAs with any group of artists whose paintings are widely recognized by critics and the public, abstract
The further events were inevitable: abstract
Equally inevitable was the change in the course of abstract