DATE: The Art of Abstract Expressionism Introduction and Definition Abstract Expressionism or “AbEx” in the short form is a term that refers to a movement of largely non representative form of painting…
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Abstract expressionism is also known as Action Painting, Colour Filed Painting or Gestural Abstraction because the strokes of the painting brush revealed the artist’s process. The painting technique is the subject of art itself. According to Harold Rosenberg, Abstract Expression became an event and therefore, dubbed it “Action Painting” in 1952. Art historians however review that his definition of art as Action painting leaves out the aspects of control and chance. Abstract Expression therefore comes from three major sources: Kandinsky’s abstraction, chance according to Dadaist, and the Surrealist’s endorsement of Freudian theory, which embraces, sexuality, the relevance of dreams and the authenticity of ego, which abstract expressionism express through “action”. The term Abstract Expressionism was first coined in Germany, Europe in 1919 in the magazine “Der Stum” in regards to German expressionists. It was later adopted in the U.S in 1946 and was applied to the American art by critic Robert Coates. History Abstract Expressionism was spearheaded by a number of Artists in America (strongly influenced by European expatriates) who had grown up during the collapse of world order, influenced by World War II and the Cold War aftermath. The artists saw the two art movement of 1930s called the Social realism and Regionalism – failed to satisfy their desire for artistic growth. They were therefore, influenced by European refugees whose approach to art opened up new possibilities for artistic growth. The refuges included the German Expressionist George Grosz (1893-1959), Arshile Gorky the Armenian-born , who settled in the US in 1920, the Cubist Fernand Leger (1881-1955), the German-born Hans Hofmann who migrated to America in 1930, the Bauhaus abstract painter Josef Albers (1888-1976)the geometrical abstractionist Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) Dada artist Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968), and the Surrealists Yves Tanguy (1900-55), Max Ernst (1891-1976), Andre Masson (1896-1987) and Andre Breton (1896-1966). The Surrealist artists were extremely influential with Jackson Pollock taking up their idea of unconscious automatic painting. The exiles’ significance in the development of American art was acknowledged by Jackson Pollock himself. “The fact that good European Moderns are now here is highly powerful for they bring with them an understanding of the problems of modern painting.” The Development of Abstract Expressionism The development of abstract expressionism was influenced by a few key figures and indigenous painters. Albert Pinkham Ryder (1847-1917) was an early precursor of abstract expressionism. A key transitional figure between the years before the World War II and the years after was Stuart Davis who focused on the integrity of his pictorial structure. Stuart’s works were viewed as an American extension of Cubism. However, despite his close contact with Fernand Leger (A master of Cubism), Stuart’s works were brightly coloured, solid, clear and flat. Stuart’s works were of exceptional influence to the artists of the 1940s-1950s and consequently on Pop Art. In the same era, “Precisionists” also proved influential with their portrayal of contemporary America in a boldly coloured, hard-edged version of Cubism. However, the two most influential pioneers of Abstract Expressionism were Hans Hofmann (1880-1966) and Arshile Gorky (1905-1948), neither of whom was connected with the early European expressionist movement in Germany. Gorky’
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