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190 artworks, 39 artists
Neo-expressionism is a movement in European and American art of the 1970—1980s. The paintings by neo-expressionist artists were distinguished by an aggressive manner of execution and combined primitivism and emotionality. The artists expressed social protest, expression, rage with bright colors and multicomponent textures, they painted on every accessible surface – from traditional canvas to city building walls. Creativity won its freedom to choose expressive means, materials, topics and ways of expressing the author’s inner world, reduced the control of the mind and the laws of logic over the subconscious of the artist and viewer.
In the late 1970s, conceptualism and minimalism lost their positions; artists began to return to traditional forms of painting. The society had a demand for figurative, lively and emotional art, accessible for understanding. The authors of the “new spirit and time” became popular in Europe and America, in Germany they were called “new fauves”, in France – artists of “the new figurativeness”, in the USA – representatives of “the bad painting”.
Neo-expressionists deliberately avoided the traditional principles and the techniques and materials used for centuries; they did not seek to become commercially successful and created the impression of brawlers, “bad guys” in search of condemnation of critics and art historians. The artists were not guided by the aesthetics of beautiful, smooth and eye-comfortable art. The “Punks of painting” extolled disharmony and the aesthetics of the ugly, they kicked up a row and caused an aesthetic shock.
Neo-expressionism contained many thematic lines: love and sacred subjects, historical events, myths and legends, exotic folk traditions, social and economic problems. The subjects were mixed and intertwined in an atmosphere of play, nostalgia, irony, romantic melancholy and daring fantasy. The artists preferred to create large paintings, and they used both synthetic and organic paint, as well as sand, glass, shards, pieces of wood and fabric. Paints of bright-saturated colors were sprayed with a large brush in sharp sweeping movements, allowing the drops to flow freely. The neo-expressionist artists depicted objects and human figures as recognizable, but they divided them into segments or rotated them, they scattered predatory animals, skulls or children’s toys among the city landscapes. The texture of the canvas remained rough, unprocessed and multi-level. Each artist created a manifesto painting, filled his/her work with aggression and nervous tension, allowing oneself an impromptu performance and the viewer – the freedom of interpretation.