Abstract Expressionism’s evasion of language , its refusal to be pinned down by the conventions of representation, is a kind of alchemy that has been used in art since the Renaissance. Artists are reticent to put words to their paintings, and often use them as a shorthand for meaning.
The word “abstract” was first applied to painting during the mid-nineteenth century, when it became fashionable among artists to paint without any reference to nature or reality. The term was coined by French artist Edgar Degas (1834–1917), who wrote: “I would like my pictures to have an abstract character; I do not want them to resemble anything.”
The term “expressionist” was introduced in 1911 by Wassily Kandinsky, but did not become widely used until after World War II. It refers to a style which uses vivid colours, strong contrasts between light and dark, and simplified forms. In Germany, expressionists were influenced by such movements as Dada, Surrealism, and Constructivism. In America, they were inspired by Jackson Pollock and other members of the New York school.
In the 1950s, many American painters began using the term “action painting” to describe their work. This term was popularized by Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, Barnett Newman, Robert Motherwell, Ad Reinhardt, Franz Kline, and others.
In the 1960s, the term “pop art” came into vogue, referring to works created by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns, Claes Oldenburg, James Rosenquist, Frank Stella, and others. Pop art is characterized by bright colours, simple shapes, and bold patterns.
In the 1970s, the term ‘minimalism’ was adopted by artists working with new materials, including Joseph Beuys, Richard Serra, Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Agnes Martin, Bruce Nauman, and Michael Heizer. Minimalism is characterized by simplicity, economy, and conceptual content.
In the 1980s, the term ”conceptual art” was used to refer to works produced by artists such as John Baldessari, Yvonne Rainer, Jenny Holzer, Nam June Paik, and Laurie Anderson. Conceptual art is characterized by non-representational images, objects, sounds, and actions.
In the 1990s, the terms “postmodernism” and “post-modernity” entered the art world. Postmodernism describes a culture in which traditional values no longer hold sway, and post-modernity refers to a society where modern ideas have permeated every aspect of life.