What is abstract expressionism?

A short introduction to the art movement abstract expressionism.

Before the war, Paris was the world’s art capital. Afterwards artists flocked to New York, which becomes the new centre. The exhibition The Shape of Freedom, on display at MUNCH 23.02. - 21.052023, traces the conversations and influences that travelled back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean. Abstract art represent feelings and states of mind that exist outside the world you can see. The canvas, and the act of creating the painting, becomes part of the art. The search for new styles and new freedoms led to an enormous range of styles and approaches, from big messy canvases to huge expanses of colours, shapes and empty space, perfect for peaceful moments of contemplation.   

Abstract expressionism developed in the USA, and is associated with artists such as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Lee Krasner, Helen Frankenthaler, Barnett Newman and Franz Kline. ‘Art informel’ was the European equivalent. It means ‘art without form’ and includes artists like Wols, Hedda Sterne, Pierre Soulages, Jean Dubuffet, Asger Jorn, Antoni Tapies and many more. 

See also: The Shape of Freedom – 5 Highlights

Keen to learn more about abstract expressionism and it's artists? Check out our recommended reading list, podcasts and films.