Abstract Expressionism at the Royal Academy of Arts

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Jackson Pollack, Blue Poles, 1952

The Royal Academy of Arts in London has a major exhibition of Abstract Expressionism. I went on Friday after an interesting, but deeply depressing, day at the British Academy at a workshop on European Union and Disunion.

Here’s the Royal Academy’s description:

In the “age of anxiety” surrounding the Second World War and the years of free jazz and Beat poetry, artists like Pollock, Rothko and de Kooning broke from accepted conventions to unleash a new confidence in painting.

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Mark Rothko, No 15, 1957

Often monumental in scale, their works are at times intense, spontaneous and deeply expressive. At others they are more contemplative, presenting large fields of colour that border on the sublime. These radical creations redefined the nature of painting, and were intended not simply to be admired from a distance but as two-way encounters between artist and viewer.It was a watershed moment in the evolution of 20th-century art, yet, remarkably, there has been no major survey of the movement since 1959.

This autumn we bring together some of the most celebrated art of the past century, offering the chance to experience the powerful collective impact of Pollock, Rothko, Still, de Kooning, Newman, Kline, Smith, Guston and Gorky as their works dominate our galleries with their scale and vitality.

I don’t know much about this movement, so the audio guide was helpful. I had a sense of the size of some of the many Mark Rothko canvases, but the scale of two Jackson Pollack murals was quite something. The guide was helpful on some of the techniques used to produce these – more than is perhaps obvious. There was a lot to take in, and the Friday crowds were a bit overwhelming, so perhaps I’ll be able to make a return visit before it closes in January. Worth a visit.

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4 Responses to Abstract Expressionism at the Royal Academy of Arts

  1. Janet Abbey says:

    Surprised you are new to them.

    • stuartelden says:

      Not really ‘new to them’, as I’ve seen several works in galleries over the years. But I have read little about the movement, and so some of the background and discussion of techniques was new to me.

      • Janet Abbey says:

        Sometime read #LeoSteinberg’s #OtherCriteria when he interviews #JasperJohns after seeing his first show and being disturbed by it. That is the essay that brings an end to abstract expressionism as a movement in art history. It’s rather wonderful.

  2. Janet Abbey says:

    Steinberg is rather like Foucault in that he sees the CUT, the intersection as it is happening.

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