Abstract art had emerged in the early 19th century and started to be popular quickly in the early 20th century. However, in the 1940s and 1950s, American painters such as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Willem de Kooning developed new kinds of abstract art known as abstract expressionism. It’s typically distinguished by expressive brushstrokes or mark-making, as well as a sense of spontaneity (learn more about what makes a painting abstract expressionism).
Origin of the Style
The abstract expressionists became known as the New York school since they were primarily headquartered in New York City. The name alludes to their desire to create art that was both abstract and expressive or emotional in nature. They were influenced by the surrealist idea that art should emerge from the unconscious mind, as well as Joan Miró’s automatism. Abstract Expressionism is not an adequate description of the body of work done by these artists, despite being the accepted label. Indeed, the movement included a wide range of painting styles, each with its method and quality of expression. Despite their diversity, Abstract Expressionist paintings have a few commonalities.
Main Characteristics of Abstract Expressionism
As mentioned earlier, abstract expressionism draws several similar characteristics. These characteristics distinguish this form of art from other states, especially when it came up. The main features of abstract expressionism include the following:
- They value free, spontaneous, and personal emotional expression, and they use a wide range of techniques and execution methods to achieve this goal, with a particular emphasis on the use of paint’s changeable physical nature to elicit expressive qualities (e.g., sensuousness, dynamism, violence, mystery, lyricism).
- They place an equal emphasis on the unplanned and spontaneous application of paint in a type of psychological improvisation related to Surrealist automatism, intending to express the creative unconscious through art.
- They show the rejection of traditionally structured compositions comprised of separate and segregable pieces in favor of a single unified, undifferentiated field, network, or another image that exists in unstructured space.
- The paintings fill large canvases to give these aforementioned visual effects both monumentality and engrossing power.
Types of Abstract Expressionism
Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning headed the action painters, who worked spontaneously, improvisatory way, frequently using broad brushes to make sweeping gestural patterns. Pollock is well-known for laying his canvas on the ground and dancing around it, pouring paint from a can or trailing it with a brush or a stick. The action painters were able to directly project their inner impulses onto the canvas in this fashion.
Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, and Clyfford Still were in the second group. They were fascinated by religion and mythology and developed simple compositions with vast swaths of color to elicit the viewer’s contemplative or meditational response. From around 1960, this method of painting evolved into what is today known as color field painting, which is characterized by artists using vast expanses of more or less a single flat color.