You'll be looking at works of art today from between 1944 and 1966.
Abstract expressionism is considered the first American art movement in the context that followed the end of World War II. In a nutshell, abstract expressionism is anti-figurative, rebellious, emotional, and a visual experience.
The work of the artist Arshile Gorky marks a bridge of sorts between surrealism and abstract expressionism. He was influenced by the works of Picasso and Juan Gris, as well as the idea of automatism where works of art are created spontaneously. It was an idea shared by Dada and surrealist artists that more meaningful forms could be created by bridging the unconscious with the conscious mind. This is believed to be achievable through psychic automatism.
Although, the reality is that, where these ideas may have been brought forth through automatism, the translation on the canvas was hardly spontaneous. Works of art like Gorky's are carefully composed collection of forms.
The artist Willem de Kooning was a friend of Gorky's. Like Gorky's work, what may at first appear to be perhaps a jumbled or maybe amateurish representation of something, was actually very thought out and intentional. Kooning was one of the most important Avant-Garde artists working in New York, perhaps the most important of the 1950s.
Take a look at this example:
This painting in particular called Woman V was a carefully and skillfully painted depiction of what has been described as humanity's simultaneous esteem for and fear of feminine power.
Unlike Willem de Kooning's long and productive life, Gorky's was tragically short. It spiraled downward into a series of emotional and physically damaging events before he took his own life at the age of 44. His passing cleared the way for his rival, Jackson Pollock, to become even more renowned in the artistic community and beyond.
Pollock is known primarily for his development of and contributions to the style of painting known as action painting. Pollock had several influences for this type of paint:
His forms developed rather spontaneously at the moment. He mentioned it once that he became lost in painting but often reworked a piece after the fact when he became better acquainted with it. Like other abstract and expressionist works, the forms aren't as important as the feelings they inspire.
The art critic Clement Greenberg was a very important figure in the art and literature communities at the time. A huge fan of the action painter Jackson Pollock, Greenberg was also an enthusiastic supporter of abstract expressionism. His 1939 essay describing the distinction between high art, which is the Avant-Garde, and Kitsch, or popular culture, was particularly influential in how he regarded abstract expressionism. He stated that Avant-Garde is demanded more from its viewers in terms of education and resources, whereas Kitsch art is art for the masses.
His ideas of modernism were also quite influential in how he viewed true modernism as the act of using the methods of the discipline to critique it. An example of this would be in how modern art challenges the ideas of what art truly is.
Artists like Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman challenged and resisted his influence in their development of a new form a painting called ‘’’color field painting’’’. It was the first time of art that completely avoided any type of form whatsoever.
An example of color field painting:
Newman and Rothko were influenced by the writings of the philosopher Nietzsche and his idea of the tragically divided self. Using this as inspiration, color field painting portrays fields of color coexisting within the same space, but distinct from each other. Although very different from action painting, it is a form of abstract expressionism in a modern style that strives to express transcendence and the infinite through art.
Source: This work is adapted from Sophia author Ian McConnell