During the 1940s era, Paris had the cutting edge for arts and was considered the “World’s Center of art”. Artworks like Renaissance, Neo-Classicism, Impressionism and Romanticism were influential and dominant during the period of time, until, modern art started making a striking
transformation in the world of art. A new pioneering state-of-art emerged in the late 1940s, primarily in America, where a small group of affiliated artists created an eloquent diverse body of art and diverted the art world’s attention towards a whole new standpoint. The “abstract expressionists”, 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) introduced advanced authentic inventions for an expressive content.
Abstract expressionism was a post World War 2 movement, which was the result of the self denial of various German
artists towards the figurative aspect of European art culture. The Abstract Expressionists' goal was a raw and impulsive art. What mattered were the qualities of the paint and the act of painting itself. It accompanies the image of a rebellious, anarchic, highly idiosyncratic and occasionally nihilistic mood. The expressionists felt ill at ease with conventional subjects and styles, neither of which could adequately convey their new vision. In fact, style as such almost ceased to exist with the Abstract Expressionists, and they drew their inspiration from all directions like surrealism particularly created by the subconscious mind. These artists valued ad-libbing and spontaneity and resisted stylistic categorization. This unique style of contemporary art clustered around the emphasis on a dynamic and energetic gesture in contrast to a more reflective approach on more open fields of color. The best part I felt was that the imagery was purely abstract, even when depicting images based on visual realities.
The most important contributor of the American art revolution is Jackson Pollock (1912 – 1956). Regarded as a major reclusive artist with a volatile personality, Pollock’s unique style of painting characterized by free – associative gestures, known as, “Action Painting” brought a momentous change in history of modern art. What makes his style so unique is he placed a large canvass on the floor instead of using the traditional easel frame. He painted with forceful, hasty, instinctive brush strokes or by splashing the paint directly into the canvas. His method of painting came from his deep interest in primitive art and followed the Native American Navajo modus operandi. He describes his way of presenting art as an attempt to evoke the “rhythmic energy” of the nature.
Pollock’s paintings were an inspiration from great artists like Pablo Picasso, Miro, David Alfaro Siquieros, etc. He
first encountered the use of Enamel Paint in 1936 from an experimental workshop in New York by Siquieros. He was stimulated to try the unorthodox style by flinging the paint and pouring it to gain spontaneous effects. His technique was highly innovative because he approached his art from every angle. He was the first person to add a new dimension by being able to view and apply the paint from all directions. As he started to gain attention for his paintings, he gradually moved away from the figurative representations and challenged the Western tradition of using an upright frame and brushes. He not only used his hands to paint, but his whole body moved rhythmically like dancing to a tune. Due to his style, he was sometimes referred as “Jack the Dripper”.
Apart from enjoying the process of painting, he
rather preffered to be immersed in the painting himself. Often times, he would continuously move around the canvas while splashing down different colours from every direction for hours without stopping until he got what he wanted to see. Various critics have also commented that Pollock was so
immersed in his paintings that he wouldn’t even notice anything going around him. He cared more about expressing his moods and emotions rather than making a picture look more real. Some mathematicians have also claimed that Pollock’s technique exhibit the properties of a mathematical fractals (rough or fragmented geometric shape that can be split into parts, each of which is a reduced-size copy of the whole). They even speculate that Pollock may have had a premonition of the nature of chaotic motion, an attempt to form a mathematical chaos, while the CHAOS THEORY was proposed more than ten years later.
Jackson Pollock never believed in assigning names to his paintings, because, according to him, names always gave a preconceived idea of what a viewer is looking for. Instead he numbered his paintings to give the art a more passive look and make the viewer receive what the painting has to offer to him. He also claimed that by numbering his paintings, he preserved the eloquence of abstract art because it always depended on the person and his method of judging the art. Each one would interpret differently because their mood is reflected in the paintings itself.
Since we are quite familiar with the
adage, “Behind every successful man, there is a woman”, Pollock was attained success because of his wife, Lee Krasner. Krasner was an another influential abstract expressionist during the early 20th century. She married Jackson Pollock in 1945 and was known for her stringent self-critical personality. Her critical eye was instrumental in judging Pollock’s work. When Pollock was not an acclaimed artist, it was Krasner who boosted him reassurance and support. They together fought a battle for legitimacy, impulsiveness and individual expression which challenged the then old fashioned and despotic culture unreceptive to those values.
On August 11, 1956, after having a long time struggle with alcoholism, Jackson Pollock met with a fatal car accident while driving under influence of alcohol. He died at an early age of 44 and is buried in Green River Cemetary in Springs besides his wife. Pollock’s work was highly appreciated and recognized worldwide. His legacy of action paintings were extensively followed and he thus created a monumental alteration in World Art. In 1970, the CIA saw abstract expressionism as a “haven of free thoughts and free markets” as well as a defiance to both the social realist styles and the dominance of European art markets.
The expressionism revolution is one of the important transformations of the culture in America and the rest of the world because of their introduction of a new artistic vision and vocabulary. The newly adopted painting techniques were idiosyncratic, unpremeditated and temperamental. A new form of art which would display human emotions rather than believing what the painting suggests to believe was the element responsible for the noteworthy transfiguration. In fact, this revolution is responsible for the free thinking attitude of the Americans today.