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494 artworks, 149 artists
Abstract expressionism is an art movement style that arose and spread in the 1940s in the USA. Besides its official art history name, the trend received a number of names: action painting, colourfield painting, gesture painting, chaos art, and even the scribble painting school. The concept of abstract expressionism encompassed areas of abstract painting and sculpture, diverse in style and technique, and was applied to the works by the artists whose artworks aimed at spontaneous expression of the subconscious in a chaotic form. The motto of the new art artists was Freedom From Everything: formalism, logic, traditional canons of painting, rules for colour schemes and compositions. They painted quickly, sweepingly on large canvases, dripped and splashed paint till the full expression of their own feelings and emotions.
A number of objective factors contributed to the emergence and popularity of abstract expressionist paintings. First of all, it was the emigration of those European artists who escaped to the United States from the totalitarian regimes and the horrors of World War II. At the same time, the Americans themselves recovered from the Great Depression and were looking for a relatively safe and apolitical way to throw out the accumulated social and emotional stress. New abstract art has become energetic, rebellious, grotesque, anarchic, and most importantly – safe for display. As well as accessible to everyone, because each of the new trend followers’ crafts, even those of non-professional painters, could become a work of art.
The main creative principle of abstract expressionism is to use spontaneous, automatic application of paints to the canvas under the influence of the mood, emotions, and inner feelings of an artist. The stream of paint on the canvas symbolized and materialized the joy, passion, anger, fear. This expression was not limited by the size of the canvas, nor by logic, nor by the canons of art. The painting techniques used were extraordinary and unexpected: pouring paints from cans, spraying from a spray bottle, applying with a spatula, painting with brush strokes, filling a large area with one colour. Artists introduced into the paintings such elements of reality as collage, regular geometric lines and shapes, recognizable objects that never formed a holistic and obvious picture when put together. The colour palette could be black and white or express a riot of colours and a combination of tones without any aesthetic restrictions. The finished picture did not pretend to receive judgment, it required the viewer to understand the internal state of the artist, to feel the expressed emotions. Form as a symbol of logic was contrasted with colour as a symbol of the subconscious.