Abstract Expressionist Art: Exploring the Movement
Ah, Abstract Expressionism. Many of us have seen its iconic works - Jackson Pollock’s ‘drip paintings’, Willem de Kooning’s broad brushstrokes, Mark Rothko’s blocks of color that draw us in and take our breath away. But what exactly is Abstract Expressionism, and how did it come to be? Let’s explore the movement that has etched its place in the annals of art history to understand it better.
1. Introduction to Abstract Expressionist Art
Abstract Expressionist Art is a movement that began in the mid-twentieth century in response to the impact of World War II. It was a radical form of art that focused on the idea of self-expression as its primary concern. This type of painting was an attempt to depict abstract emotion, making it a distinct category outside of traditional forms of painting.
When beginning to explore the unique elements of this form of art, there are some fundamental ideas to be aware of.
- Spontaneity: Abstract Expressionists encouraged the production of spontaneous pieces of artwork that aimed to capture an emotional truth.
- Emotion: This form of art is driven by emotion, which is an intentional choice to the artist. This emotion can be unleashed in the use of color, brushstrokes and scale.
- Scale: Abstract Expressionist artwork often has large-scale canvas, as this works to allow for the most expressive brush strokes.
It is important to understand the background of Abstract Expressionism in order to fully embrace the movement’s influence on modern art. Not only are the techniques and methods the artists used to create art unique to this movement, but so is the story behind the beginnings of the art form.
2. Exploring the History of the Movement
Abstract Expressionism, a post- WWII form of art, emerged in the United States during the 1940s. It was a response to the political and social upheaval resulting from World War II and quickly spread in the United States and across Europe. This highly influential movement is considered to be the first major radical development in European art since the Cubist period. As a concept, it sought to express emotion, power, and the individual’s autonomy from the collective environment.
1. Origin of the Movement
Abstract Expressionism emerged out of the ashes of World War II as a reaction to the political and social upheaval generated by the second global conflict. Artists like Marcel Duchamp, Hans Hofmann, Lee Krasner, Jackson Pollock, and Willem de Kooning are all credited with defining the character and principles of the movement. The origin of this form of art can be traced back to the 1930s, when groups of artists began to challenge the existing conventions of art through bold and dynamic forms of expression.
2. Important Influences
The movement was heavily influenced by movements such as Cubism, Surrealism, Expressionism, and Dadaism, as well as psychological theories, and ideas about automatism. Additionally, the movement was strongly influenced by the work of many European artists, including Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and Fernand Leger.
3. Key Ideas
The goal of Abstract Expressionism was to show inner emotion, power, and autonomy of the individual. It rejected traditional approaches to art such as representational realism and focused on creating works of art through direct action and improvisation. The result was a highly vibrant and highly expressive form of art that allowed the individual to express their emotions and feelings directly through their art.
4. Common Themes and Techniques
Common themes in Abstract Expressionism include themes of individualism, power, alienation, and fear. The movement also utilized a variety of painting techniques including gesturalism, action painting, and automatism. These techniques were used to create bold, dynamic, and energetic works of art free from the confines of traditional rules and conventions.
3. Key Figures in Abstract Expressionism
Abstract Expressionism is one of the most influential art movements of the twentieth century. The movement is often referred to as simply ‘Abstract Ex’, and it is characterized by works that explore both personal emotions and the artist’s subjective response to the world around them. Here, we will explore some of the :
- Jackson Pollock – One of the most widely recognized figures in Abstract Expressionism, Jackson Pollock was an American artist most known for his drip painting technique. He developed a completely innovative way of painting, one that focused on the physical and emotional act of painting and the consequences for the viewer.
- Willem de Kooning – Willem de Kooning was a Dutch-American artist who also had a significant role in the movement. He was one of the pioneers of Abstract Expressionism, and his works were often characterized by rough brushwork and vivid colors which reflected his bold and experimental vision.
- Mark Rothko – Mark Rothko was also instrumental in the development of Abstract Expressionism, and he is one of the most famous artists associated with the movement. His work focused on a vibrant combination of color and form, and he was known for his approach to composition, often creating works that felt dreamlike and surreal.
- Barnett Newman – Barnett Newman was an American artist who had a major role in developing Abstract Expressionism. He was known for his large-scale works which utilized vivid color and bold lines that often referenced a spiritual or metaphysical realm.
These were just some of the , although there are many more artists who played an important role in the development of the movement. But whatever their individual approach may have been, all of these artists embraced the idea of embracing personal emotion as a key factor in creating modern art.
4. Major Visual Characteristics of Abstract Expressionism
Abstract expressionism is a modern art movement that originated in the mid-20th century. It is marked by its emphasis on emotional and expressive elements. It is often characterized by the use of abstract, non-representational forms and radical subjectivity, and is represented by some of the greatest painters in history, such as Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko.
Although each abstract expressionist artist has a unique approach, there are some common features between the works:
- Large Scale – Abstract expressionist works are usually large, often measuring up to several metres tall. The large size allows the artist to convey a deep emotion or sense of power.
- Rough Textures – The artwork often features a rough texture, created by the application of thick paint to the canvas. This creates a contrast to the abstract forms, further emphasising the emotion being conveyed.
- Vivid Colors – Vivid and bright colours tend to dominate abstract expressionist works. These are often used to create tension between the abstract forms, adding depth to the composition.
- Dynamic Compositions– Abstract expressionist artworks often feature a highly dynamic composition, with forms and colours moving across the canvas. This has the effect of visually stimulating the viewer, conveying emotional energy.
Abstract expressionism is a powerful and influential form of modern art that continues to influence new generations. The major visual characteristics not only capture the emotion and expression of the artist, but also ensure the viewer can connect with the artwork on a deeper level.
5. Abstract Expressionism’s Legacy and Impact
Abstract Expressionist Art is one of the most influential artistic movements of the 20th century. This movement has had a lasting effect of the development of modern art. Here, we look at the legacy and impact of the Abstract Expressionist Art Movement.
The Impact on Anxiety and Emotional Expression: Abstract Expressionism has had a profound impact on the way society acknowledges and expresses emotion. This shift has enabled people to feel more comfortable in expressing their inner anxieties and emotions, an ideology that has also been seen in film and literature of the time period.
Parametricism: This artistic movement pushed forward the concept of parametricism, which places emphasis on art being a vital part of society. It’s idea of art being organic and coming from a place of understanding through emotional expression has resonated with various artistic generations that have come since the end of the movement.
Surrealism/Dream Theory: Abstract Expressionism often blurs the lines between subconscious and conscious, which can be seen in many pieces from this artistic movement. It is thought to have heavily influenced surrealism, which is based on the idea that our dreams can be interpreted and used to gain clearer understanding of our subconscious.
A Bridge Between Figurative and Non-figurative Art Forms: Abstract Expressionism also united two initially opposing movements, figurative and non-figurative art forms, by bridging the gap between them. Many artists relied on expressional values to bring out the emotional depth of what was being represented.
- Pollack’s Action Painting
- De Koonig’s Geometric Shapes
- Rothko’s Color Blocks
Many of these works have come to be seen as iconic pieces of art, with techniques such as Pollack’s action painting, De Koonig’s use of geometric shapes and Rothko’s color blocks being widely recognized and celebrated. This has helped to ensure that Abstract Expressionism’s legacy will live on for a long time.
6. Final Thoughts on the Movement
Abstract Expressionism moved art away from the formalism of the Renaissance and toward something far more individual, witty, and sincere. Like many artistic movements, it was one of rebellion, and key artists like Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, and Mark Rothko pushed it into unprecedented directions. The depths of emotion and mystery found in this art give us insights into life’s wonders, rather than just the surface.
The actual techniques employed by Abstract Expressionist artists were highly varied. They painted large canvases, often moving the brush across without any interruption, resulting in a trail of action and reaction. It was a matter of getting the feeling right. As these artists worked, they sought a harmony between randomness and execution – something uncontrolled and uncontrolled.
- Symbolism: Abstract Expressionism’s beauty lies in its symbolism, its power to express emotion or convey an idea in an image without discursive other forms of communication.
- Form: This movement often features bold colors, unconventional brushwork, and the freedom to express oneself through unconventional forms.
- Politics: Although the focus of Abstract Expressionism was primarily on aesthetic considerations, political contexts and implications were not ignored entirely. This movement used art to critique the status quo and challenge the beliefs of the traditional art world.
We can see Abstract Expressionism’s influence in everything from painting to design, but its influence on everyday life is perhaps even more significant. It encouraged us to embrace freedom, creativity, and individual expression, and showed us that even the seemingly meaningless can be a vehicle for profound meaning. In this way, Abstract Expressionism lives on, long after it ceased to be a movement.
Whether you’re just starting to look at abstract expressionism or if you’ve been a fan for years, it’s clear that the movement has had a lasting impact on the art world. Its explosive colors and impassioned brushstrokes continue to capture the attention of art fans everywhere. Hopefully, this article has inspired you to take a closer look at abstract expressionism and the artists who helped to define it.