Abstract Art Movement - Anirbas Art

Abstract Art Movement

The Abstract Art Movement
The Abstract Expressionism art movement was a form of American painting born off the streets of New York City. After World War II, "action painting", as it was sometimes called, was expressive, emotional content that was created by artists who were looking for meaning. This abstract art movement did not have a cohesive style, and broke away from traditional processes. Large scale canvases came off the easel, unconventional materials and wild movements were used to bring life to an art movement that is still alive today.

Cold War and Canvases

Although riddled with Cold War politics, 1940s and 50s America was a global power thanks to World War II. The Cultural Significance of Abstract Expressionism was apparent in the works of art created. Artists were trying to harness a sense of freedom across their canvases at a time when power, paranoia and concerns of Communist infiltration vibrated through the United States. Controversial pieces were birthed in NY studios by the likes of Pollock, Kooning and more.

Lower Manhattan Roots

Pollock on East 8th Street, Kooning and Guston on East 10th and Kline traipsing through the streets and taverns as well, artists of the Abstract Art Movement could be found all over Lower Manhattan. Late night debates and lectures about art could be heard at The Club. The Abstract Expressionism Art Movement bled into music too, particularly jazz. Jazz was expressive and deep. Harlem jazz clubs were often frequented by painters like Pollock, who would listen to music while he painted.

The New York School

Artists of this time were called "Abstract Expressionists" or "The New York School".
This small group of artists created a diverse body of work that took on new directions in art. These artists shifted the art world's focus with their wild works of art.

  • Jackson Pollock 1912-1956
  • Williem de Kooning 1904-1997
  • Franz Kline 1910-1962
  • Lee Krasner 1908-1984(one of the few women artists from this time)
  • Robert Motherwell 1915-199
  • William Baziotes 1912-1963
  • Mark Rothko 1903-1974
  • Barnett Newman 105-1970
  • Adolph Gottlieb 1903-1974
  • Richard Pousette-Dart 1916-1992
  • Clyfford Still 1904-1980

In both technique and subject matter, these artists broke away from accepted conventions in search of significant content. Monumentally scaled works displayed inner psyches bred from spontaneity and improvisation. In addition to music, philosophy and psychology, some also looked to ancient and primitive cultures for inspiring their gestural, expressive work.

Many of the artists above started their art careers in the 30s. At the time, The Great Depression produced the Regionalism and Social Realism art movements. Not satisfied with these, artists continued their search for rich content. Through European modernism, the opening of the Museum of Modern art in 1929 and exposure to groundbreaking exhibitions, Abstract Expressionists began to gain a sense of what they were wanting to create. War and its aftermath, a human's vulnerability and man's dark side fueled them, helping them to create powerful, meaningful pieces.

Action Painters vs. Color Field Painters

The different styles of Abstract Expressionism were action painting and color field painting. Action painters, as the name implies, were paintings made with purposeful, physical movements. Often called gestural, this type of painting involved pouring, dripping, wild brushing and splashing of paint. Pollock, Kooning, Gorky and Kline were all considered to be action painters.

As for color field painters, Rothko, Newman and Still created simple compositions using one color for the majority of their paintings. The single flat color was meant to invoke a response of contemplation or meditation, and engulf the viewer.

Beyond the Concrete Jungle

Abstract Expressionism put NY on the art world's stage. Beyond New York, the abstract art movement spread to Europe, their artists were exploring Art Informel. With its tachisme, lyrical abstraction and matter painting, artists were inspired by Abstract Expressionists of America.

The Cultural Significance of Abstract Expressionism

The cultural significance of this art movement was certainly felt the world over. Abstract Expressionism flourished, and could be seen in traveling exhibitions and in publications. However, by the 1960s a new generation of Expressionists were looking to step away from the seriousness birthed by those before them. Looking to showcase the beauty in art, artists like Frank Bowling came to New York to paint and create like the Expressionists before him.

Having such a great impact on both American and European art scenes, Abstract Expressionism artists slowly left the expressive action painting style. Gravitating to the color field, younger followers of the movement went on to create work with intuition, emotion and blocks of color.

Abstract Expressionism has gone on to influence modern and contemporary design, the automotive industry, architecture and even minimalism. Unlike the Expressionists, we can now be influenced by works of art from all over with just the click of a button. Now, one can be inspired by a painting on Pinterest, Instagram or from any online art museum and then go onto create anything from furniture to fashion.

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