All About Abstract Expressionism

All About Abstract Expressionism

It is known as art without face or form. Called abstract expressionism, it crowned New York City as the center of the western art world in the post-World War II era. Abstract art is a painting or sculpture that does not depict people or things as they appear in the natural world. Instead, abstract art is intended to appeal to human emotions or beliefs, to form a kind of connection between the artist and the viewer.

Until the 20th century, most artists attempted to produce works of visible reality. One of the first to move away from that perception was Russian-born Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944). He spent the last years of his life in France where he produced some of his most prominent works. Kandinsky believed that art and sound were the same. He said he could hear as well as see the color blue. He wanted the viewer to share that experience so his later abstract paintings are vivid depictions of color intended to show immense physical emotions. They are meant to produce a spiritual experience in the viewer.

By the 1940s, a group of artists interested in pursuing the ideas of Kandinsky and other Europeans settled in New York City. From their efforts to produce a new American art came the beginnings of abstract expressionism with its general brushwork, vivid color, and free form. This freedom with canvas is represented in the work of Jackson Pollock.

Pollock was born in Cody, Wyoming, in 1913. He moved to New York City in 1930 where he began experimenting with painting techniques while battling alcoholism. By experimenting with huge canvases laid out on the floor instead of hung on a wall or on an easel, Pollock developed his “drip” technique. He poured and dripped paint on the canvas floor from all directions. Pollock said he felt more a part of the painting as he moved around the canvas. His drip painting method is seen in some of his most famous abstract paintings. Pollock died in 1956, and Time magazine acknowledged his contribution by calling him “Jack the Dripper.”

The excitement over abstract expressionism has ebbed since the mid-1950s to take its place alongside other forms of art expression. In the 21st-century art world, there is a general sense of making room for many different artists in whatever ways they wish to speak through their work.


 Abstract Expressionism History

Abstract Expressionism originated in America, in the years 1940’s -1950’s which the collapse of World War II was. The war (WWII) had a major influence on art and the country’s artists.

Reference: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Abstract Expressionism Definition

“Abstract Expressionism was an American post- World War II art movement” in New York between the 1940 and 1950 which was when the development of Abstract Art originated. Abstract Expressionism is showing how abstract art is also expressive and/or emotional in Modern Paintings especially modern/old abstract paintings. Abstract Expressionism is also sometimes referred to as “Gestural Abstraction” because the brush, scraper, painting knives etc. reveals the artist process/ how they work.

Reference: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

American Abstract Artists

In 1936, in New York City, an Arts organization called the American Abstract Artist (AAA) was formed to encourage and support the understanding of abstract art. They contributed to the development and acceptance of abstract art in the US, which is a very historic role. The American abstract Artists helped many understand abstract art, making it very well know.

Reference: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia




Abstract Painting by Mirek Bialy January 2013 ” Entry to your dream”


“It is widely accepted notion among painters that it does not matter what one paints as long it is well painted. This is the essence of academicism. There is no such thing as good painting about nothing.”

Mark Rothko

“The stuff of thought is the seed of the artist. Dreams from the bristles of the artist brush.  And as the eye functions as the brains sentry to communicate my innermost perceptions through the art my worldview”

Arshile Gorky

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak”

Hans Hofmann

“The gallery had slightly threating look- as through.  It the visitor could eventually find himself pinned to the wall, while the art works wandered around making their sweet or sour remarks respectively.”

Edward Alden Jewel – New York Time “on Art of this Century”

“The attitude that nature is chaotic and that the artist puts order into it is a very absurd point of view, I think.  All that we can hope for is to put some order into ourselves.”

Willem de Kooning

“I’ve explored a variety of directions and themes over the years.  But I think in my painting you can see the signature of one artist, the work of one wrist”

Helen Frankenthaler

“Aesthetics is for the artist like ornithology is for the birds”

Barnett Newman

“There are as many images as eyes to see.”

Sam Francis

“I have no fears about making changes destroying the image etc. because the painting has a life of its own.”

Jackson Pollock

“If you pick up some paint with your brush and make somebody’s nose with it, this is ridiculous when you think of it, theoretically and philosophically. It’s really absurd to make an image, like a human image, with paint, today.”

Willem de Kooning

“It’s been said many times in world art writing that one can find some of paintings meanings by looking not only at what painters do but at what they refuse to do.”

Ad Reinhardt

“I kept returning to the (Ancient Roman) Wall” paintings with their veiled melancholy and elegant plasticity”

William Baziotes

“Abstract painting is abstract it confronts you. There was a reviewer a while back who wrote that my pictures didn’t have any beginning or any end. He didn’t mean it as compliment but it was a fine compliment.”

Jackson Pollock

“What is the explanation of the seemingly insane drive of man to be painter and poet if it is not an act of defiance against man’s fall and assertion that he returns to the Adam of Garden of Eden? For the artists are the first men.”

Barnett Newman

“I have sought unified world in my work and use a movable vortex to achieve it.”

Mark Tobey

“A picture lives by companionship expanding and quickening in the eyes of sensitive observer. It dies by the same token. It is therefore a risky and unfeeling act to send it out into the world. How often it must be permanently impaired by the eyes of the vulgar and the cruelty of the impotent who would extend the affliction universally!”

Mark Rothko

“Demands of communication are both presumptions and irrelevant. The observer usually will see what his fears and hopes and learning teach him to see.”

Clyford Still

“I am an eclectic artist by chance; I can open almost any book of reproductions and find a painting I could be influenced by.”

Willem de Kooning

“My favorite symbols were those which I didn’t understand.”

Adolph Gottlieb

“The thing is that a person who wants to explore painting naturally reflects:  How can I in my work be most expressive?  Then the forms develop.”

Franz Kline

“Art is not only the eye; it is not the result of intellectual considerations.  Art is strictly bound to inherent laws dictated by medium in which it comes to expression. In other words, painting is painting, sculpture is sculpture, architecture is architecture.”

Hans Hofman

“To us art is an adventure into an unknown world which can be explored only by those willing to take a risk”

Adolph Gottlieb, Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko

“A constant searching of oneself”

Jackson Pollock

“At the certain moment the canvas began to appear to one American painter after another as an arena in which act….what was to go on the canvas was not a picture but event”

Harold Rosenberg

Reference:  Abstract Expressionism by Barbara Hess 2006 Taschen



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