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Abstract Expressionism

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1 Abstract Expressionism


3 “It is far better to capture the glorious spirit of the sea than to paint all of its tiny ripples."
Jay Meuser California Abstract Expressionist

4 Wassily Kandinsky Composition VII, 1913 Oil on canvas 78.25 x in

5 Piet Mondrian Composition with Yellow, Blue and Red, 1937 – 1944 Oil on canvas x in

6 The dominant trend in western painting throughout the 1950s began with a handful of American artists later termed Abstract Expressionists. Their paintings were often made of shapes, lines, and forms not meant to depict a "reality" from the visible world. They believed that non-representational painting could express spiritual and emotional truths in the most direct way. These artists often used a spontaneous and physical process in order to present an immediate response to emotion.

7 Jackson Pollock Autumn Rhythm No. 30, 1950 Enamel on Canvas 105 x 207 in.

8 Mark Rothko Blue, Yellow, Green on Red, 1954 Oil on Canvas 195.7 x cm.

9 The Abstract Expressionists was a group of very different and individual artists, many of whom came together in New York’s Greenwich Village. Among the most famous were Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Helen Frankenthaler, Willem de Kooning, Philip Guston and Robert Motherwell. While the wild physical "action" paintings of Jackson Pollock have come to represent the revolutionary mood of the times, a number of other painters played crucial roles in this movement. Mark Rothko’s enormous fields of color expressed both the spiritual and monumental concerns of the time. Willem de Kooning, who had taught at Black Mountain College, created work centered around aggressive applications of paint that, through free expressive brush strokes, created emotionally intense imagery. The giant canvases of Franz Kline and Clyfford Still concerned themselves primarily with human fragility.

10 Willem De Kooning Woman and Bicycle, Oil on Canvas 76.5 x 49 in.

11 Lee Krasner Night Creatures, 1965 Acrylic on Paper 30 x 42 in.

12 Barnett Newman First Station, 1958 Magna on Canvas 78 x 60.5 in

13 The Abstract Expressionists addressed the great questions of human existence. The internal psychological struggle, the external struggle of man against nature, the spiritual quest for God -- these were topics that these artists felt needed to find expression in abstraction. For the Abstract Expressionists, understanding the process of painting meant understanding something at the core of the human desire to express oneself. In the end, making the process of painting an existential endeavor may have been their major achievement.

14 Grace Hartigan Ireland, 1958 Oil on Canvas 200 x 271 cm

15 Jose Guerrero Signs and Portents, 1956 Oil on Canvas 175.9 x cm

16 "Inner necessity" is, for Kandinsky, the principle of art and the foundation of forms and the harmony of colours. He defines it as the principle of efficient contact of the form with the human soul.

17 Wassily Kandinsky Improvisation 27, 1912 Oil on Canvas 47.5 x in.

18 Abstract Expressionism encompasses a diverse range of postwar American painting that challenged the tradition of vertical easel painting. Beginning in the late 1940s, Pollock placed his canvases on the floor to pour, drip, and splatter paint onto them. This gestural act, with variations practiced by William Baziotes, De Kooning, Adolph Gottlieb, and others, was termed “Action painting” by American critic Harold Rosenberg, who considered it a product of the artist’s unconscious outpouring or the enactment of some personal drama. The New York school, as these artists were called due to the city’s postwar transformation into an international nexus for vanguard art, expanded in the 1950s with the unique contributions of such painters as James Brooks and Hartigan, as well as energetic collagist-assemblers Conrad Marca-Relli and Robert Rauschenberg. Other painters eliminated the gestural stroke altogether. Mark Rothko used large planes of color, often to express universal human emotions and inspire a sense of awe

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