Monday, January 3, 2011

Abstract Expressionism

What a place to start? I am already having doubts about doing this in alphabetical order. Obviously any movement is influenced by what has gone before it and starting with an ‘ism’ from the the 1940s/50s is somewhat putting the proverbial cart before the easel.

BUT....where do you start?

I am reminded of a friend who always reads the last pages of a novel first.....don’t ask me I will plough on with list...I must admit getting to “stuckism” near the bottom is very motivating. Stuckism is definitely going to be my new saying for 2011....I just have to find out what it means.

Because I have so many ‘isms’ and such a short amount of time to get it done (I’m not kidding myself that I will have much time when I get back to work) I have worked out a loose sort of scaffold to work to:

1) 10 pieces of information (note: I am avoiding the word ‘fact’ here)

2) Prominent artists and their art

3) Creation of a timeline with all the ‘isms’ in place

Yippee! This is just like the projects I did in fourth grade – deep down I’m a primary school project sort of girl.

Abstract Expressionism

1) 10 pieces of information

• 1940’s and 1950’s – New York

• First ‘American’ art movement – called the “American Style”

• 2 types – a) action painting , b) colour field painting

• Term ‘abstract expressionism was first used by Alfred Barr in 1929 (or 1919?) for works by Wassily Kandinsky

• Robert Coates first used the term to apply to American Art in 1946

• Not so much a style as an attitude ie a revolt against conventions and a desire for spontaneous expression (how often do you think I am going to use this phrase over the next couple of weeks?)

• There were some conventions that could typify an ab ex painting though ie:

o Huge canvases

o Flatness of space

o Importance of process

o Individuality of artist is important

• New York came to be known as the centre of the art world after this movement (replacing Paris). Wow! Is this true?

• Indebted to the European Abstract painters who fled to New York during WWII – but probably most indebted to the surrealists.

• Suggestion of role in American cultural imperialism – ‘cocacolonisation’

2) Artists:

Pollock , Krasner, de Kooning (willem and Elaine), Kline, Guston, Rothko, Gorky

Bourgeois, Still, Frankenthaler etc etc





A couple of interesting quotes attributed to artists:
Elaine de Kooning - "A painting to me is primarily a  verb, not a noun, an event first and only secondarily  an image."
Still - "It's intolerable to be stopped by a frame's edge."

 would these ideas have been new in the 1940's? (time will tell)


  1. I feel in love with ab-ex in high school (yr 10, pete told the tale of pollock killing himself in an auto accident..... I have a vivid imagined picture of the car, the girls, and pollock smashed to smithereeeens.... hey I never said I was attracted to the finer points of art history!)

    I think its a mighty good idea you have to come up with a simplified version of each movement.... makes it so much more do-able that way eh!

    my comments on ab-ex would be..... there's kind of a split between the first wave ab-ex artists (big names that come to my mind are those of the new york school - 1940s-50s eg pollock, de kooning, rothko, kline, motherwell) and second wave ab-ex artists (1950s onwards - frankenthaler, guston, newman) boureois is hard to stick in any category and I've not seen her name associated with much ab-ex.... but I suppose its possible to interpret her stuff as ab-ex (she's one strange bird if you ask me!)

    and I like to remember that the main thing about ab-ex was how it was used as a tool for cultural imperialism (damn yanks! you'd think that taking over the globe with coca-cola and maccas would be enough but nooooooooo)- and that critic clement greenberg(sp?) was instrumental in spreading the propaganda.... oooo what a lovely tool this mad free art was to show up the repression of freedom that went with communism..... so yes NY was from thence forth regarded as the centre of the artyworld (art wasn't what you'd call a high priority in a bombed out, buggered up, post WWII Europe)

    oh and one can't forget to mention the hally-balloo that went with the purchase of pollock's 'blue poles' by the oz gov in the early 1970s ($1.1mil back then... valued at over $50mil nowdays) holy smokes!

    ***sorry you KNOW that I won't be able to resist the lure of arty conversation.... hope you don't mind me popping in to add my two cents worth..... sent with loooove xxx

  2. hey thanks heaps ronnie. this is just what i want.

  3. next one is AESTHETICISM!!!see you tomorrow (or maybe the next day)

  4. Well I just learned a whole lot about ab-ex from both of you because I never did art history at school or college - so I think I'm really going to enjoy this project Jane.