Abstract expressionism


A new avant-garde emerged in the early 1940s, primarily in New York , where a small group of like-minded artists created a stylistically diverse body of work that introduced radical new directions in art and changed the world’s approach to art. art. Breaking with accepted conventions in both technique and subject matter, the artists made works on a monumental scale that rose up as reflections of their individual psyches , and in doing so attempted to access universal internal sources . These artists valued spontaneity and improvisation, and attached the highest importance to the process. His work resists stylistic categorization , but can be grouped around two basic inclinations: an emphasis on dynamic and energetic gesture , in contrast to a reflective cerebral focus on more open fields of color.


What is abstract expressionism?

The Abstract Expressionism is a style of art that has meant one of the main manifestations of the spirit of the twentieth century. It substitutes figurative representation for autonomous visual language with its own meanings.


What is abstract expressionism?

Abstract expressionism was a pictorial movement that occurred in the twentieth century, whose main characteristic is the spontaneous affirmation that the individual has through painting. It is a non-figurative art that does not conform to the limits of conventional representation.



Its main characteristics are the following:

  • It has a preference for large formats .
  • It works mainly with oil paint on canvas .
  • They are abstract motifs , although figurative lines also tend to appear.
  • They cover the surfaces to signify an open field without limits.
  • It has a fairly limited chromaticism , and white and black are used more.
  • They represent features of anguish and conflict .
  • They reject aesthetic conventionalism , but have free and subjective expression of the unconscious.
  • They value the accidental and have intensity of purpose.
  • The gestural line predominates in the expressions, in addition to a great dynamism.
  • They use spots and lines full of rhythm.

History of abstract expressionism

The term was first used in Germany by the Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky in 1919, but was later associated with postwar American art .

The America of the 1940s, from which Abstract Expressionism emerged, was still fragile from the collapse of the world order brought about by World War II .  This influenced the country’s artists, who remembered The Great Depression and its relief programs, such as the Jobs Progress Administration.

The problem was that the two main art movements of the 1930s, namely regionalism and social realism, failed to satisfy their desire to break away from current thinking. In this, they were strongly influenced by the arrival of numerous modern artists who had lived in Europe , whose radical approach to art opened up a host of new possibilities.

Alfred Barr was the first American to use this term in 1929, and it was related to the works of Wassily Kandinsky . Robert Coates was an American art critic who popularized the term abstract expressionism when he applied it to such artists as Arshile Gorky, Jackson Pollock, and Willem de Kooning. The importance of these artists for the new American movement was already recognized in 1944 by Jackson Pollock himself.


Followers of Expressionism practiced the technique called Action Painting . A way was sought to involve spilling colors on large canvases to be able to create random abstract motifs .

Other abstract expressionists, such as Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman , developed Color – Field Painting , which was done by applying large expanses of color that was subtly modulated to the canvas. In Europe, a movement called Informalism developed in parallel, and in the 1960s new styles and movements began.


Sculpture in Abstract Expressionism is often regarded as a revolution and included different sculptors who challenged the traditional conventions of the medium. Open structures are seen that defy the heavy mass and volume generally associated with sculpture. Also, the technique adheres materials conventional little and often sequestered, as well as less common processes, such as welding .


As for architecture, materials that are minimally manipulated and materials of different origins are used in order to exploit the interaction that exists between physical characteristics . The application of paint in architecture is plastered with marbling effects and thick brush strokes to accentuate the literal character.

Artists (edit)

There are many artists who have dedicated their careers to abstract expressionism, one of the most important is Jackson Pollock who was a painter of American origin who stood out for being one of the main exponents. He received an important influence from Thomas Benton and in the 1930s, he also dedicated himself to Mexican muralism .

Most of Pollock’s paintings were lost, but some survived that allowed us to observe his personal pictorial language alluding to American Aboriginal art , rites and myths, and the interesting world of dreams.

Works of abstract expressionism

Some important works of Abstract Expressionism were:

  • Male and Female Philadelphia (Pollock)
  • Stenographic Figure (Pollock)
  • Mural University of Iowa Museum of Art (Pollock)
  • Moon-Woman Cuts the Circle (Pollock)
  • East wall (Conrad Marca Relli)
  • Mural painting, n. III (Robert Motherwell)
  • Woman in a Forest (Willem De Kooning)

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