Abstract Expressionism developed in the context of diverse, overlapping sources and inspirations. Abstract Expressionism’s physicality comes from explorations of inner turmoil and anxiety. Some of this distress came from exposure to the disturbing reports of horrors and pain endured during World War II. Some of the distress came from the threat of a nuclear holocaust as the Cold War heated up. Their unbridled approach to making art mirrored James Dean (1931-1955) in Rebel Without a Cause, contemporary jazz and the free verse of the Beat Generation poets, such as Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997) and Gary Snyder (born 1930).
Abstract Expressionism has in recent years gained huge popularity in the art world. Modern art continues at a pace to develop in new directions, separating art fans into those who prefer the more traditional art styles and those who find the more modern approaches fresher and innovative.
Abstract Expressionism can be divided into two tendencies: Action Painting (Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Mark Tobey, Lee Krasner, Joan Mitchell and Grace Hartigan, among many, many others) and Color Field Painting (Mark Rothko, Helen Frankenthaler, Jules Olitski, Kenneth Noland and Adolph Gottlieb and so forth).
- Color Field Painting is part of the Abstract Expressionist family of artists. Color Field Painting is less about the process of making the work, which is at the heart of Action Painting. Color Field is about the tension created by overlapping and interacting areas of flat color. These areas of color can be amorphous or clearly geometric. This tension is the “action” or the content. It’s more subtle and cerebral than Action Painting.
- Action Painting emphasizes the process of making art, often through a variety of techniques that include dripping, dabbing, smearing, and even flinging paint on to the surface of the canvas. These energetic techniques depend on broad gestures directed by the artist’s sense of control interacting with chance or random occurrences
The expressiveness of this art method was believed to thoroughly release the imagination and ability of an abstract artist and therefore the thoughts and emotions behind each abstract expressionist painting were deemed as being just as important as the actual final painted work.