By: Sharmé Jackson
Abstract Expressionism started in America as a post-World War II art movement. It was the first avant-garde art movement that arose from America. Never before in the history of art, the personality of an artist took such central stage and became both an inspiration and the subject of his/her own art. It is challenging to narrow down such multifaceted phenomenon as Abstract Expressionism, to distil the core of this intricate style.
Any new phenomenon arises within a certain historical and cultural context. So in order to better understand the nature of Abstract Expressionism and reasons why it was formed in the United States and not it Europe, it is necessary to look at the environment in which it was originally fostered. One of the fundamental historical forces that shaped identity of the artists was World War II and The Holocaust in Europe. The fall of France in 1940 to Nazi occupation, forced many prominent artists to flee Europe and seek asylum in the United States. Because of this Europe had lost its creative “blood and soul” and consequently the ability to be the artistic Mecca of the world, thus causing the center of creative gravity being shifted to America. In 1945, the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, introducing nuclear war which became the biggest and most powerful threat in the world. The level and immediacy of the destruction it caused affected the world on global and personal levels. On the personal level, it produced an overwhelming sense of insecurity, displacement, and loss of identity. On the global level, it divided the world both geopolitically, socially, and culturally.
The term “Abstract Expressionism” was used for the first time in Berlin, 1919 to describe the work of Wassily Kandinsky (an influential Russian painter), but the Abstract Expressionism art movement erupted in the 1950’s and was the first American art...