Social Research Glossary

 

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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-17, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International, http://www.qualityresearchinternational.com/socialresearch/

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 2 January, 2017 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2017.

 

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Abstract expressionism


core definition

Abstract expressionism refers to post-WW2 American non-geometric abstract art mainly based in New York.


explanatory context

This ‘school’ or ‘movement’ is opposed to traditional styles and technical procedures, renounces the idea of a finished art product subject to traditional aesthetic canons, demands freedom of self-expression and self-determination.

 

Abstract expressionist painting tends to be imageless, anti-formal, dynamic, energetic and improvisatory.

 

The term originated as a description of Kandinsky’s paintings around 1910 but became established around 1950 to describe the work of Gorky and Pollock. The term was quickly extended to include the work of other New York painters seen as part of the American abstract art movement even when their work was neither Abstract (De Kooning, Gottleib) or expressionist (Kline, Rothko (Tate Gallery, 1988)). The term action painting has been suggested as more appropriate as it reflects the existential attitude of the act of creation rather than the finished product.


analytical review

Paul (2004) wrote:

Never a formal association, the artists known as "Abstract Expressionists" or "The New York School" did, however, share some common assumptions. Among others, artists such as Jackson Pollock (1912–1956), Willem de Kooning (1904–1997), Franz Kline (1910–1962), Lee Krasner (1908–1984), Robert Motherwell (1915–1991), William Baziotes (1912–1963), Mark Rothko (1903–1970), Barnett Newman (1905–1970), Adolph Gottlieb (1903–1974), Richard Pousette-Dart (1916–1992), and Clyfford Still (1904–1980) advanced audacious formal inventions in a search for significant content. Breaking away from accepted conventions in both technique and subject matter, the artists made monumentally scaled works that stood as reflections of their individual psyches—and in doing so, attempted to tap into universal inner sources. These artists valued spontaneity and improvisation, and they accorded the highest importance to process. Their work resists stylistic categorization, but it can be clustered around two basic inclinations: an emphasis on dynamic, energetic gesture, in contrast to a reflective, cerebral focus on more open fields of color. In either case, the imagery was primarily abstract. Even when depicting images based on visual realities, the Abstract Expressionists favored a highly abstracted mode.


associated issues

 


related areas

See also

aesthetics


Sources

Paul, S., 2004, Abstract Expressionism, available at http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/abex/hd_abex.htm, accessed 12 December 2016.

Tate Gallery Liverpool, 1988, Mark Rothko: The Seagram Mural Project. Liverpool, Tate Gallery.


copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2017


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