What is an abstract expression? Isn’t all art on some level an abstraction of the artists experience with the subject no matter how they decide to represent it?
What I find compelling about Abstract Expressionism is the energy and spirit. Perhaps that was the underlying strength tipping this movement. An article in New York Art World on “Art Ism’s” described the changes brought about by the Abstract Expressionist as revolutionary and the result of art that was about “self discovery”. What could be more compelling than that?
On some level I think that all art is about self discovery but I think what stands out for me with this particular genre is the freedom, honesty and range of expression. When I look at works by Jackson Pollock for example, I see a free and complete response to an inner energy. And while there appears to be chaos there is an equal and present sense of order. Willem de Kooning poses a similar experience through his art. A rawness and gut level expression emanates among a sense of chaos that also has a unique order to it. He takes it to different level by integrating the human form and more representational elements. And while it can look ambiguous at first glance, for me its more direct. Richard Dibenkorn is yet another master in this category who seems to have simplified the chaos on the exterior through the geometry of shapes almost emphasizing structure. But there is an angst in the relationships of space and color for me. It’s almost as if there is a veil on the surface of an ocean below. While there is an apparent order there is an equal and less obvious sense of energy and activity underneath.
Autumn Rhythm by Jackson Pollock Excavation by Willem de Kooning Ocean Park No. 67 by Richard Diebenkorn
In my view, as a group they seem to deal with the facets and complexity of the human experience. They tell their story and share their experience with the viewer. Whether its through layering of color or the unexpected juxtaposition of paint they have communicated about an inner energy. I don’t see how these works could be anything other than large scale. Self discovery is about looking inside and dealing with the mess of contrasts. It’s nothing short of monumental.
These artists teach us something when they have the courage to share their experience of “self discovery”. This is also a journey we all have in common as human beings.