What Is Abstract Expressionism?

The New York School, also known as Abstract Expressionism, was a modern art movement that emerged in the late 1940s in response to the aftermath of World War II. The Abstract Expressionists believed that the unconscious mind could be used to create art. Aesthetics, or the philosophy of beauty, was used these artists to express human emotion and tap into the unconscious mind. Abstract Expressionism’s painting styles can be roughly divided into two categories: gestural and color field.

Many artists felt as if the earth had shifted beneath them after World War II caused social upheaval. Some artists believed that in order to reflect the postwar situation and its effects on humanity, a new, revolutionary form of art was required. Following WWII, many of these artists emigrated to the United States. Their artistic influence merged with that of American artists, and the art world’s financial and cultural power shifted from Paris to New York in the late 1940s.

Abstract Expressionist painters took a self-absorbed approach to their work. They believed that the only way to develop a new form of art that would influence the world was to turn inward to their subconscious emotions and forego realistic expression. They were partially correct in the end. Abstract Expressionism had a global impact. Many people laughed at Jackson Pollock when he dripped and threw paint onto the canvas, but the art world eventually took notice of “Jack the Dripper.”

Abstract Expressionism did not focus on depicting reality; instead, these artists focused on the elements of art, such as line, shape, and color. The majority of Abstract Expressionist art was non-objective, meaning it didn’t depict anything in the real world. Willem de Kooning, an abstract painter who frequently painted women, was an exception in this regard. The majority of the women in these paintings had frightening grimaces, and the majority of the paintings were not very flattering.

Within the Abstract Expressionist movement, both Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning were Gestural painters. The artist’s brushstrokes in Gestural painting appeared to be very animated. These paintings necessitated a certain amount of physical effort. This was particularly true of Pollock, who would lay a canvas on the floor and drip or throw paint. His massive paintings, some of which took up an entire museum wall, had a powerful impact on viewers.

Color was the dominant element in Color Field painting, as the name suggests, and color was the dominant element in this style of painting. Color Field painter Barnett Newman was one of the most well-known Abstract Expressionist artists. His paintings were typically large canvases with a single background color and thin horizontal stripes of different colors. Newman’s paintings had such vibrant colors that they appeared to vibrate at times.