Movement Abstract Expressionism

Abstract Expressionism is a movement that seeks to represent emotions through abstraction. It rejects the concept of realism, and instead embraces the spontaneity of emotions felt during the creation of the work. Incorporating approximately fifteen major painters, Abstract Expressionism began in New York, in the midst of the 1929 economic crash, and dominated post-war American art from 1940 to 1962. It is also associated with The New York School, a collective of American poets, painters, dancers, and musicians who were active in the 1950s and 60s in New York City. It is additionally associated with the The School of Paris which was made up of French and émigé artists. Inspired by Surrealism, artists such as Jackson Pollock, Barnett Newman, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko created large-format paintings with little depth. Abstract Expressionists sought to reflect their feelings, and placed a great importance on the value of experimenting with their work and their freedom as artists. Painting becomes a form of self-expression, facilitating the communication of a variety of emotions.

There are two main artistic trends in Abstract Expressionism: Action Painting and Color-Field Painting. Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock are central figures in Action Painting, and prioritise physical encounters with the canvas when creating. The canvas is a witness to every action and gesture the artists make, using techniques such as dripping, blurring, splashing or smearing. Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko were major figures in Color-Field Painting, which literally consisted of painting in fields of colour. Colour is freed from context and becomes the very essence of the work; placing importance on the consistency and process of the piece.  

Supported by renowned gallerist, Peggy Guggenheim and critics Harold Rosenberg and Clément Greenberg, Action Painting and Color-Field Painting were considered as new directions for contemporary art. 

Mark Rothko: painter and one of the pioneers of American Abstract Expressionism. However, Rothko refused to be associated with this title as he found it “alienating." His hostility towards Action Painting resulted in a new, and more contemplative technique; Color-Field Painting. 

Jackson Pollock: a major figure in 20th century American art, his revolutionary creative methods influenced many artists during the Abstract Expressionism movement. His influence was heavily felt in contemporary art history, particularly his famous “dripping" technique. 

Barnett Newman: one of the most important figures of Abstract Expressionism and along with Mark Rothko, he was one of the practitioners of Color-field Painting. Newman wrote the preface for the AMA's (the American Modern Artists) first exhibition, which was a protest against the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which had banned modern art in its exhibitions.

Willem de Kooning: painter of Dutch origin (and later a naturalised American citizen), he was forerunner in the Abstract Expressionism movement. In 1942, he participated in the group exhibition called "American and French Painters," where he met Marcel Duchamp and Jackson Pollock.

Even the successors of Abstract Expressionism today let their unconscious guide them through their works. Despite their abstract nature, these works still intend to convey an important message to the viewer. Emotions, like artworks, vary greatly and here at Artsper we understand how personal choosing an artwork is! 

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