Abstract Expressionism Unit 9
After W.W.II American artists took the lead in establishing an original and powerful style that soon came to dominate the art world: Abstract Expressionism.

The first style native to the U.S., it was also the last style native to any country. (Global communications and transportation resulted in internationalism in the arts.)

Abstract Experssionism, which grew out of the influences of Surrealism, asserted individual expression through the act of painting.  Also known as the "New York School," this movement included two approaches.  Some were called "action painters" because of their focus on gestures and characterisitics of the paint.   "Color field" painters concentrated on unifying colors and shapes.   Some employed  combinations of both techniques.

Characteristics: nonobjective, huge canvases, covered edge to edge with swirls and drips of paint, synthetic paints, unprimed canvases, avoided elegant brushwork, highly emotional, highly intellectual.

Common frustrations during 1940s and 1950s included being criticised or neglected by the art establishment and being misunderstood by the public at large.

In 1950 a group of them publicly protested the exhibition policies of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (which rarely showed contemporary paintings).  Labeled the "irascibles," they rented a store in Greenwich Village where they sponsored discussions and opened a school to bring the message of Abstract Expressionism to young artists.  These efforts were mostly to no avail and their projects were eventually discontinued.

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Jackson Pollock
Number 1, 1950

National Gallery of Art

Action Painters

Jackson Pollock
Willem de Kooning
Franz Kline

Color Field Artists
Mark Rothko

Robert Motherwell

Other Abst.  Artists
Alexander Calder


Nat. Portrait Gallery