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movement in painting that emerged in New York City in the mid-1940s and attained prominence in American art in the following decade; also called action painting and the New York School. Given impetus by the work of Arshile GORKY, abstract expressionism is marked by an attention to surface qualities, i.e., brushstroke and texture; the use of huge canvases; the harnessing of accidents that occur while painting; and the glorification of the act of painting itself. The first important school in American painting to declare independence from European styles and to influence art abroad, abstract expressionism enormously affected the kinds of art that followed it, especially in the use of color and material. Major artists in the movement include Jackson POLLOCK, Willem DE KOONING, Hans HOFMANN, Robert MOTHERWELL, Franz KLINE, and Mark ROTHKO.
Abstract Expressionism, movement in mid-20th-century painting that was primarily concerned with the spontaneous assertion of the individual through the act of painting. The movement contains a variety of styles and is characterized more by the concepts behind the art than by a specific look. Generally, abstract expressionist art is without recognizable images and does not adhere to the limits of conventional form.
The roots of abstract expressionism are in the totally nonfigurative work of the Russian-born painter Wassily Kandinsky and that of the surrealists (see Surrealism), who deliberately used the subconscious and spontaneity in creative activity. The arrival in New York City during World War II (1939-1945) of such avant-garde European painters as Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp, Marc Chagall, and Yves Tanguy inspired the use of abstract expressionism among American painters in the 1940s and 1950s. American painters were also influenced by the subjective abstractions of the Armenian-born painter Arshile Gorky, who had immigrated to the United States in 1...
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