An art movement occurs when many artists working in the same style over a lengthy period of time change the course of art history.
In the last century and a half, , the world experienced a plethora of art movements because of wider-reaching communication and technical advances. Impressionism, fauvism, cubism, modernism, dada and surrealism are some examples. None of them has been more durable than abstract expressionism.
Since its beginnings in the 1950s, abstract expressionism continues to be explored by art students and professionals. What is it about a style that confounds so many, whose images are frequently untitled or only numbered, and that probably fostered the quote, I dont know anything about art, but I know what I like?
Tracing the evolution of abstract art is arduous, so lets just begin with the emigration of European artists during and just after World War II. Among them were Hans Hofmann, Max Ernst, Andre Breton, Marc Chagall, Fernand Leger, Piet Mondrian and Roberto Matta. However, it was Hofmann who influenced American artists the most by openly sharing his modernist ideas.
Hofmann, whose teaching was based on Picassos composition and the color of Matisse, spread his notion of a pure art that concerned itself with the inter-relationship of planes. Hofmann saw art as being roughly comprised of three elements: nature and its laws, the artists personality, intuition and imagination, and the medium used.
It wasnt long before art was liberated by artists struggling to free themselves from formal limitations and vintage precepts; in painting, the strongest restraint had been that of subject matter upon composition. The evocative impact of line, color, form and texture could suddenly be explored free of physical representation.
While Hofmann and an organized group of American abstract artists created an impression on young abstract expressionists, it was the surrealists whose work fostered the development of gestural abstract expressionism. Additionally, the newly published psychoanalytic theories of Freud and Jung were particularly influential to the younger painters searching for substance.
None other than Jackson Pollock had said, The unconscious is a very important side of modern art, and I think the unconscious drives do mean a lot in looking at paintings.
The process of revealing what lies within an artists own psyche made his or her output unique. Conversely, while the visual appearance of his or her work might appear distinctive, there is an inherent universal content.
Art historian Serge Guilbaut said American abstraction was the product of a super avant-garde, and led to the end of the modernist movement. As a result, it placed the United States, (New York City in particular), at the epicenter of the art world.
To better understand abstract art, it helps to view the dynamics of gestural abstraction and to look at how the surface joins together similar elements; consider the work of Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline or Williem deKooning, for example. The images usually do away with traditional beginnings, middles and ends, while the artists emotions are expressed by free, unrestrained, almost automatic motion.
Its sort of a Rocky Mountain high.
Stew Mosberg is a freelance writer and has written about art regionally and nationally. Reach him at email@example.com.