Abstract Expressionism

   Movement in painting, originating in New York City in the 1940s. It emphasized spontaneous personal expression, freedom from accepted artistic values, surface qualities of paint, and the act of painting itself. Pollock, de Kooning, Motherwell, and Kline, are important abstract expressionists.
   In Search of Nothingness
   By Charles Moffat - January 2008.
   The term "Abstract Expressionism" was first used in Germany in connection with Rusian artist Wassily Kandinsky in 1919 (referencing the German Expressionists with their anti-figurative aesthetic), but later became more commonly associated with Post-WWII American Art.
   Alfred Barr was the first American to use this term in 1929, also in relation to the works by Wassily Kandinsky. Robert Coates (an American art critic) later popularized the term Abstract Expressionism by applying it to similar artists like Arshile Gorky, Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning.
   By the 1951 Museum of Modern Art exhibition 'Abstract Painting and Sculpture in America', the term was used to refer to all types of non-geometric abstraction.
   There are two major groups within Abstract Expressionism, which was influenced by <> and <>:
   Colour Field Painters: Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, Clyfford Still worked with simple, unified blocks of colour.
   Gestural Painters: Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Hofmann used Surrealist techniques of automatic art.
   Not all the artists associated with the term produced either purely abstract or purely Expressionist work, but would sometimes delve into more realistic portrayals of objects or people.
   The term "Abstract Expressionism" was also difficult to understand. Harold Rosenburg preferred the phrase "Action Painting" and art critic Clement Greenberg preferred "American Type Painting". Because of the concentration of Abstract Expressionism artists in New York it was also known as the New York School. Abstract Expressionism was the first specifically American movement to achieve worldwide influence and also put New York City at the center of the art world, a role formerly filled by Paris.
   The key unifying factor for all the artists was their exploration of the avant garde of abstraction. Publications like "Tiger's Eye", an avant garde magazine, helped spread their Creationist/Existential ideas was an important part of the movement. Abstract Expressionists sought to express their subconscious through their art and shared an interest in Jung's ideas on myth, ritual and memory.
   Quite a few had a Surrealist background, having been inspired by the presence of Breton, Masson and Matta in New York in the 1940s and by retrospectives on the Surrealist Mirу and Kandinsky.
   Some of the artists saw themselves as disillusioned commentators on contemporary society after the Great Depression and the Second World War.
   As a movement the Abstract Expressionists were seen as rebels and sometimes even troublemakers. The extreme censorship of the McCarthy era after World War II was a hot topic amongst artists and because of the sheer abstraction the artists could not be censored because there really nothing in the paintings to censor.
   The movement gained recognition largely due to the fame of Jackson Pollock and a Time Magazine article claiming him to be greatest living artist in America. Pollock's purely abstract work polarized the public and the art critics and provoked discussions of "What is art?" and "Is that art?"
   Aftermath of Abstract Expressionism
   Jean-Paul Riopelle first introduced Abstract Expressionism to Europe in Paris in the 1950s. Two years later art curator Michel Tapié's groundbreaking book "Un Art Autre" was enormously influential in promoting the movement in Europe. Tapiй promoted the works of Pollock and Hans Hoffman in exhibitions across Europe.
   By the 1960s the movement's initial affect had been assimilated, yet its methods and proponents remained highly influential in art, affecting profoundly the work of many artists who followed. All the art movements of the 1960s (Tachisme, Color Field painting, Lyrical Abstraction, Fluxus, Pop Art, Minimalism, Postminimalism, Neo-expressionism) would be influenced by Abstract Expressionism.

Glossary of Art Terms. 2014.

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