After World War II a new artistic movement called Abstract Expressionism developed in New York during the 1940’s and 1950’s by a group of artists who were significantly aware of man’s fragility and vulnerability to do and experience evil. They sought to express this by creating arts works with their subconscious which they claimed to be the source of art. Unconventional practices were used to create their works. Vigorous gestures were used to splatter thick amounts of layered oil paint to canvases. Conventional subject matter was broke away from. Emphasis was put on spontaneity and channeling the emotional anxiety and trauma artists felt.
The artists were aware of man’s irrationality and wanted this to be the focus of their works. Disproportionate figures made with dynamic gestures were not uncommon. The key driving source of the work was the subconscious which emerged through these irrational emotionally driven forceful movements and techniques. The following works all show this emphasis on venting the aggressive subconscious emotions of the artists in significant ways.
Willem de Kooning, Rotterdam, 1949, Oil, enamel, and newspaper transfer on canvas, 61 7/8 x 81 in. (157.2 x 205.7 cm), 1982.16.3
The unique paint application in this composition based strongly on emotional and the inner self by Willem de Kooning, is a wonderful example to Abstract Expressionist painting. Mainly taupe and black are used with small bits of red, blue and green. However, the lack of color does not hinder this painting from being highly dynamic due to the variety of emphatic movements used to create a diverse array of black lines. One also sees an array of shapes and symbols within the tangled web created by the combination of the brush strokes. To some extent, the resulting composition is a tangled mess of confusion which beautifully expresses the inner angst the artist may have felt post World War II.
Jackson Pollock, Autumn Rhythm, 1950, Enamel on canvas, 105 x 207 in. (266.7 x
525.8 cm) 57.92
This work by Jackson Pollock was composed through a variety of unorthodox methods. Paint was splattered, dripped and flung onto the canvas with the addition of Pollock pouring it and dancing around during the process. The result is a widely spread out garbled composition which appears to have no subject. However, from Pollock’s perspective this work’s subject is his own subconscious. In line with this the composition looks as though it could symbolized the inner mess of the artists psychic.
Woman, Willem de Kooning, 1952, Oil, cut and pasted paper on cardboard, 14 3/4 x 11
5/8 in. (37.5 x 29.5 cm), 1984.613.6
This painting by Willem de Kooning consisted of fast paced intense brush strokes, bright colors and abstract shapes shapes grinding out from the artist’s frustration. When describing it himself he claimed that art rather than making him peaceful or serein made him feel coarse and vulgar. A sick sense of callous towards the body also seems to be present as few body parts in the figure are distinctive besides the face and raw outline of breasts.
Pasiphaë, Jackson Pollock,1943,Oil on canvas, 56 1/8 x 96 in. (142.6 x 243.8 cm), 1982.20
This 1940’s painting by Jackson Pollock was composed using automatism a Surrealist method of organization. One sees a variety of bright colors and thickly applied strokes of paint which collaborate to form this mythical composition. When creating this piece Pollock emphasised the expression of the inner workings of his mind through allowing his emotions to shape the unorthodox movements used in creating the composition. Pollocks focus on expressing himself through the specific techniques and thought process used characterizes Abstract Expressionism.
1943-A, Clyfford Still, 1943, Oil on cloth, 36 × 30 1/4 in. (91.4 × 76.8 cm)
This composition by Clyfford Still, a noted leader and member of the Abstract Expressionist movement in New York, was intended by the artist to convey an spiritual metaphysical dimension through the illumination of any content that may be perceived as representational. Solid black shapes along with bright red, yellow and brown lines rest on a solid violet background. A pallet knife was used to create rough brush strokes driven by the artists subconscious spiritual sensuality.