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Styles & Periods
Abstract Expressionism

Abstract Expressionism, an almost entirely new and American style of art, pioneered the art of the late-20th century. After World War II, artists in Greenwich Village in New York felt the affects of war in the form of alienation and a loss of faith. Born out of this atmosphere was a new range of thought and expression that was viewed as essentially American, but not at all tied to the geometric modernist trends before the war. Also called The New York School due to the number of artists working in the city, the group did have ties with Surrealism, and it automated gesture and subject. This presence of the unconscious in painting revealed itself as something quite different, however, in the work of the Abstract Expressionists. Dubbed “action painting,” the individual “handwriting,” or brushstrokes of the artist and the emotive value of the colors used were of utmost importance in Abstract Expressionism. Although the term suggests otherwise, very few painters were working purely abstractly, as some major exponents included figurative images in their work. One such painter is Willem de Kooning, whose Women series has visceral and powerful strokes. Perhaps the quintessential Abstract Expressionist painter was Jackson Pollock. Pollock dripped, splashed, and drizzled his canvases with house paint, creating dense psychological landscapes of line. His work has influenced artists even today. Other major Abstract Expressionists include Franz Kline, Robert Motherwell and Clyfford Still.


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