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Video:What is Abstract Expressionism?

with Milo De Prieto

Abstract Expressionism was the first solely American art movement to become internationally influential. Learn about this movement, with famous figures such as Jackson Pollock, in this video from About.com.See Transcript

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Transcript:What is Abstract Expressionism?

Hello, I'm Milo for About.com, and today we are talking about Abstract Expressionism. 

What is Abstract Expressionism?

Abstract Expressionism is an American post WWII art movement and the first specifically American art movement to gain international acclaim and to be internationally influential. This movement established New York City as the center of the western art world, an honor formerly held by Paris. 

The term was first used in relation to the works of Wassily Kandinsky but it is more commonly used to refer to the work created in the mid 20th century comprising diverse styles and techniques and emphasizing the artist's freedom to convey emotions and attitudes through non-traditional means. This movement is characterized by emotional intensity and anti figurative aesthetics as well as with anarchy, freedom, and rebellion. 

Characteristics of Absract Expressionism Work

These works are recognizable by the trace of the brushstroke left upon the canvas representing the artists' gesture when painting. Artists in this movement attempted to go beyond the decorative and the superficial striving to reveal personal feelings through color, movement, and gesture. Some of the techniques used by these artists to achieve this emotional impact were dripping, smearing, and pouring lots of paint onto the canvas. 

Other Styles of Abstract Expressionism

Other terms used to describe styles within this movement are Action Painting, Color Field Painting, and Gestural Abstraction. 

Action Painting is best represented by artists like Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline and Willem DeKooning and the works they produced in the 1940s through the late 1950s. This style of painting was irrational, impulsive, and instinctive. Some used the word performative as well because the artists treated their canvases like an arena and the work itself was the trace and movement that the body left upon it. 

In the early 1960s two other significant currents of Abstract Expressionism developed and became known as Color Field Painting and Hard Edge Painting. Some of its most representative artists were Helen Frankenthaler, Mark Rothko and Agnes Martin. These works consisted of large colored areas and Hard Edge Painting describes artworks that were clearly geometric with clearly defined outlines and clean compositions. 

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