abstract expressionism david anfam pdf
From the moment of its inception in the 1940s, “Abstract Expressionism” has been the subject of reframings, redefinitions, and revisions. This is because it is more than the sum total of artworks and artists traditionally recognized as part of the movement. It is a constitutive part of postwar American cultural life, and it has shaped how we understand art and the role of the artist. It has also shaped the practice of art criticism and defined the role of the art critic. Because it is part of the United States’ creation myth of a distinctive postwar “American identity,” it also possesses significant symbolic value. And this symbolic value is why it has been such a popular subject for art museum exhibitions for nearly half a century. The fact that in the last ten to fifteen years, major art museums have mounted major exhibitions of the work of key figures in the movement, like Jackson Pollock (including a feature film starring Ed Harris), Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, and Barnett Newman, and that auction prices for these artists reach tens of millions of dollars, suggest that, no matter how contested and complicated the concept of “Abstract Expressionism” is, the artists associated with the movement remain relevant. 1
What makes any definition of a movement in art dubious is that it never fits the deepest artists in the movement—certainly not as well as, if successful, it does the others.
 Barnett Newman, 1968, p. 553.
His painting “Vir Heroicus Sublimis” from 1950 visualises this desire. The Latin title can be translated into “male, heroic and sublime”. The almost completely red canvas impresses especially through its size: seven feet high and nearly 18 feet long. The redness, in which no brushstroke is visible, is interrupted by five vertical lines the so-called “zips”, which are characteristical in the painting of Newman. The colours have semantic quality: red is a very powerful colour, which used to represent the highest sacred persons. In Newman’s theory, as today there are no comparable gods (as for example in antiquity), art has to depict this divinity with pure colour and form: red, thereby, becomes a colour of the sublime. The vertical lines intensify the redness to an extent that it expands beyond the boundaries of the canvas. The viewer, who should position himself directly in front of the painting, experiences the power of colour and senses the overwhelming presence of the sublime.
Author : David Anfam
Pages : 320 pages
The paintings she made during this time attest that Mitchell, who was decades younger than such influential Abstract Expressionists as Hans Hofmann, Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, and Clyfford Still, achieved a singular sensibility very early in her career. As Anfam writes, “Like Athena sprung fully formed from the head of Zeus, this self-styled ‘lady painter’ had come abreast with her erstwhile peers” to such an extent that “it might be no great exaggeration to regard Mitchell in these years as the foremost female American abstractionist (Lee Krasner’s finest hours lay ahead).”
Anfam also touches on Mitchell’s love of bridges, especially the Brooklyn Bridge, and quotes Harold Bloom on The Bridge: To the Brooklyn Bridge (1930) by Hart Crane, whose “intensely metaphorical and allusive [poetry] characteristically gives us the sensation of an impacted density, sometimes resistant to unraveling.”
Having seen Jackson Pollock’s 1951 paintings of thinned black oil paint stained into raw canvas, Helen Frankenthaler began to produce stain paintings in varied oil colors on raw canvas in 1952. Her most famous painting from that period is Mountains and Sea. She is one of the originators of the Color Field movement that emerged in the late 1950s.  Frankenthaler also studied with Hans Hofmann.
Hofmann’s paintings are a symphony of color as seen in The Gate, 1959–1960. Hofmann was renowned not only as an artist but also as a teacher of art, both in his native Germany and later in the U.S. Hans Hofmann, who came to the United States from Germany in the early 1930s, brought with him the legacy of Modernism. Hofmann was a young artist working in Paris who painted there before World War I. Hofmann worked in Paris with Robert Delaunay, and he knew firsthand the innovative work of both Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. Matisse’s work had an enormous influence on him, and on his understanding of the expressive language of color and the potentiality of abstraction. Hofmann was one of the first theorists of color field painting, and his theories were influential to artists and to critics, particularly to Clement Greenberg, as well as to others during the 1930s and 1940s. In 1953 Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland were both profoundly influenced by Helen Frankenthaler’s stain paintings after visiting her studio in New York City. Returning to Washington, DC., they began to produce the major works that created the color field movement in the late 1950s. 
November 09, 2017 — January 13, 2018
Installation view. Photo by Diego Flores / Paul Kasmin Gallery