Abstract Expressionism, an

Characteristics of Abstract Expressionism Art

Qualities: Both Styles

In simple terms, the Abstract Expressionism activity encompassed two wide groupings. These included: (1) the so-called "activity painters" eg Jackson Pollock and Willem De Kooning whom dedicated to an intensely expressive style of gestural painting; and (2) the greater passive "colour-field" painters, particularly Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman and Clyfford However, who had been concerned with expression and state of mind. That said, it's not constantly easy to draw an exact range between those two forms of Abstract Expressionism, and lots of music artists contributed to both.

Action Painting

In 1947, after creating many "all-over" abstract paintings - see, including, Pasiphae (1943, Metropolitan Museum of Art) - Jackson Pollock, sustained by their partner Lee Krasner (1908-84), developed a radical brand new technique (the one that both Hofmann and Krasner had attempted earlier in the day) called "action-painting", which involved dripping thinned paint onto natural fabric set on the floor using wide and rhythmic sweeps of a large and loaded brush (if a brush ended up being utilized) or, more frequently direct through the can - a country mile off through the old-fashioned painterly method whereby pigment was used by brush to a canvas on an easel. Pollock worked in a very spontaneous improvisatory manner, notoriously moving across the fabric pouring, throwing and dripping paint into it. As a result, he reported is channelling their internal impulses right on the canvas, in a type of automated or subconscious painting. For more details, see Jackson Pollock's paintings (1940-56).

Pollock's paintings smashed all conventions of conventional US art. Their subject matter was entirely abstract, their scale was huge, and their iconoclastic production method became almost as important as the works themselves. This is because, for these Abstract Expressionists, the credibility of a painting set in its directness and immediacy of phrase: in the way the artist conveyed their internal impulses, their involuntary being. In a sense, the painting it self became an event, a drama of self-revelation. Hence the term "activity painting".

A significant feature for this "event" had been the "all-over" or shapeless personality for the paintings. Pollock's works in particular did actually flow beyond the canvas, being stop just because of the real restrictions of this canvas edges.

In short, Pollock (and others) jettisoned most of the standard concepts of composition, space, volume and level, enabling the flatness of the image plane to take center phase. And in addition, the paintings caused a sensation. The newest York Times art critic John Canaday had been very important, but Clement Greenberg proclaimed abstract expressionism overall and Jackson Pollock in particular, as the epitome of aesthetic value, enthusiastically promoting Pollock's run formalistic grounds whilst the best artwork of their time while the heir to an art form tradition - extending returning to the Cubism of Pablo Picasso, the cube-like photos of Paul Cézanne in addition to water-lily variety of Claude Monet - whose determining characteristic is the making of markings on a flat area. Harold Rosenberg highlighted the "existential" nature of Pollock's work, stating that "what was to carry on the fabric wasn't a photo but a conference".

Although Willem De Kooning can be grouped with Pollock in the extremely charged energetic particular Abstract Expressionism, their works will vary both officially and aesthetically to those of the latter. His violent and sinister lady a number of six paintings (1950-3), portraying a three-quarter-length female figure, exemplified his figurative design, although he also produced even more abstract works. See in addition his earlier masterpiece, Seated lady (1944, Metropolitan Museum of Art), a prototype for the girl show. Like Pollock, De Kooning was a strong believer in the idea that an artist acted out his inner impulses, and that something of his emotion or state of mind could be read by the viewer in the resulting paint marks. "we paint in this manner because I am able to keep putting more and more things engrossed – drama, anger, pain, love... during your eyes it once more becomes an emotion or a notion."

Various other crucial contributors to activity artwork include: Mark Tobey noted for his White composing type of calligraphic gesturalism; Franz Kline, a singer whoever works feature colour industry compositions including energetic gestural work, occasionally compared to gigantically increased fragments of Chinese calligraphy); Robert Motherwell (in his show entitled Elegy towards the Spanish Republic, along with his effective black-and-white paintings); Cy Twombly (in his gestural works predicated on calligraphic, linear symbols) and Adolph Gottlieb (noted for their abstract surrealist sets including Pictographs, Imaginary Landscapes and Bursts).


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