March 2024: 5 Unique Defining Moments in Abstract Art

abstract expression and abstract art

Don’t you agree that abstract art is a term that often brings images of swirling colours, geometric shapes, and perhaps a sense of mystery? Do you ever think about how this revolutionary style come to be? You will go through it with me today, tracing its journey, revealing its moments of innovation and sheer artistic audacity (you might say I am bias). Here are unique 5 defining moments that shook the very foundation of art and paved the way for abstract expression:

  1. The Armoury Show Sparks a Revolution (1913): New York City in 1913 witnessed an art exhibition that would forever change the landscape. The Armoury Show, featuring over 1,200 works from Europe and America, presented audiences with a kaleidoscope of artistic styles, including European masterpieces from the likes of Marcel Duchamp and Vincent van Gogh. Amongst these, abstract paintings like Wassily Kandinsky’s “Improvisation No. 30” and Piet Mondrian’s “Composition No. II” stood out, challenging traditional notions of representation, and sparking outrage and fascination in equal measure. The Armoury Show became a catalyst, igniting a passion for experimentation paving the way for a more abstract approach to art.
  2. Cubism Defies Reality (Early 20th Century): While the Armoury Show introduced abstract works, Cubism, spearheaded by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, took the concept a step further. This revolutionary movement deconstructed objects into geometric shapes, presenting multiple perspectives simultaneously. Imagine a portrait where the subject’s face is depicted from various angles, all existing on the same canvas. This fragmentation of reality challenged the traditional way of depicting the world, fostering a new understanding of form and space that would significantly influence abstract art.
  3. The Birth of Expressionism (Early 20th Century): While Cubism focused on form, Expressionism delved into the realm of emotions. Artists like Edvard Munch and Vincent van Gogh used expressive brushwork, bold colours, and distorted forms to convey their inner worlds. Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night,” for instance, captures the swirling emotions of the artist through vibrant swirls and expressive brushstrokes. Expressionism offered a powerful alternative to the objective representation of reality, placing emphasis on the artist’s subjective experience and paving the way for abstract expressionism.
  4. Surrealism Embraces the Unconscious (1924): Founded by André Breton, Surrealism aimed to tap into the unconscious mind and explore the world of dreams and the irrational. Artists like Salvador Dalí and René Magritte created dreamlike scenes that challenged the boundaries of logic and reason. Dalí’s “The Persistence of Memory,” with its melting clocks, perfectly encapsulates the surrealist fascination with the distorted and dreamlike. Surrealism’s exploration of the subconscious offered a new dimension to abstract art, emphasizing the power of the imagination and the inner landscape. 
  5. Action Painting Takes Centre Stage (1940s-1950s): Abstract Expressionism, born in the post-war period, marked a culmination of the previous movements. Pioneered by artists like Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, this movement emphasized the act of creation itself. Imagine a large canvas laid on the floor, with the artist dripping, flinging, and gesturing with paint, allowing their emotions and energy to guide the strokes. This approach brought a new level of physicality and spontaneity to art, blurring the lines between creation and expression.

Each movement challenged the status quo, pushing the boundaries of artistic expression and paving the way for further innovation. From the shattering of reality to the exploration of the subconscious, abstract art continues to captivate and inspire, leaving an enduring mark on the world of art and beyond.

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Thank you for reading again.

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Aisling Drennan is an award-winning abstract artist with a London, UK-based art studio.

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