Following the enormous destruction and suffering caused by World War II, even artists didn’t have certainties anymore
Painting becomes informal and moves away from the geometry and mathematic rigor that characterize Abstractionism. Artists use everything. Therefore in this new art there is a deep rooted idea of art as a vital experience and painting is considered for its gestures and actions, in fact it’s defined as “action painting” by Harold Rosenberg. The painting is no longer taken as a product of the act of painting but it becomes the witness of it. Interest moves from the artwork to the creative process of it, an immediate reflection of what lies in it. Let’s take a look at the five most esteemed artists from the ‘50s.
|Lucio Fontana ( 1899–1968 )
Lucio Fontana, Italian painter and sculptor, father of the spatialism movement. In 1946 he published the “Manifesto blanco” in Buenos Aires, in which he encouraged people to move on from a “stagnant” vision of art to one that included the dimensions of space and time. His intention is that of moving on from abstractionism and realism to get to new forms and energies, vibrant under the canvas’s surface. In 1950 Fontana started creating artworks where he used his famous cuts. They’re violent interventions, made by creating deep cuts almost always on monochromatic surfaces. Fontana obtained universal fame thanks to his canvases that were marked by rips and cuts, which represent his wish to move away from the classic distinctions between painting and sculpture and open artworks to three dimensions.
|Cy Twombly ( 1928–2011 )
Cy Twombly, born in Lexington (Virgina, USA) in 1928, is surely known for his large format artworks in which he used a graffiti calligraphy technique on backgrounds of solid color. Since the beginning of the ‘50s of the American neo-avant garde of the last century Cy Twombly has been known as the innovator of New York’s artistic community, introducing marks into painting and thus revolutionizing it: this is why he was defined by critics as a graffiti painter. Along with many other successful artists he attended the famous Black Mountain College (in North Carolina) with teachers such as Robert Motherwell and Ben Shan for painting, Hazel Larsen and Aaron Siskind for photography. At the beginning go the ‘50s, under Kline and especially Paul Klee’s influence, Cy Twombly mainly uses gestural and expressionist movements in his artworks, creating a delicate weave of traces, words, numbers and fragments of objects. From the late ‘50s on he started living and working in Rome for a good part of the year. In 1960 he set up his first exhibition at Leo Castelli’s gallery.
|Mark Rothko ( 1903–1970 )
Mark Rothko, born in 1903 in Dvinsk, Russia, was one of the most important artists of abstract expressionism.
He was an animator and founder of various painting movements, firstly expressionist based, then leaning towards Surrealism. His language is based on elaborating color for large and bright coats, not cut from European cultural tradition and assimilated through Matisse’s teachings. His style, abstract expressionist or spatialist or however you want to classify it, defines itself only at the beginning of the ‘50s, when Rothko decides to work by overlaying chromatic tones, eliminating color contrasts, proceeding with slightly modulated glazings. Rothko painted large format canvases with a precise goal, saying: “When one paints a large canvas he’s inside of it”. His study tends towards an absolute unity, which pursues, as he says so himself, “the direct relationship with no particular visual experience”, to reach the “elimination of every obstacle between the idea and the observer”, a non-specific communicative aspiration, based on the cosmic symbiosis in which he wants to eliminate all obstacles.
|Jackson Pollock ( 1912–1956 )
Jackson Pollock was born in 1912 in Cody, Wyoming. He’s the most emblematic representative of so-called “action painting”, the movement that represents the American contribution to the informal and that consists in treating the canvas with wide and violent movements with the brush. The last years of his life (he died in 1956 in a car accident), are the most interesting. He participated in the Biennale of Venice in 1950 and in 1952 he had his first solo show in Paris, at the Paul Facchetti studio, and the first retrospective at Bennington College in Vermont. Beginning in 1947, the surface of the canvas becomes bigger and bigger, as do the brushes, so that he can detach himself from the canvas even more. In 1949 he adopted the technique of “dripping”: he would drip color from the brush or directly from cans on horizontal surfaces that were worked on from all sides. The artist’s entire body is engaged and the marks are governed by the arm’s gestures. From 1950 to 1952 Pollock reached almost delirious intensity results that translated his internal tensions into almost entirely black and white paintings. During his last years he went back to his frenetic circular forms of color in more and more intense layers of material.
|Willem de Kooning ( 1904–1997 )
Willem de Kooning was born in Rotterdam, Holland, in 1904 and arrived in America in 1926. Willem de Kooning is one of the main figures of American art after World War II. His first solo show, held at Egan Gallery in New York in 1948, asserts him as an esteemed artist; included in this exhibition were various black and white abstract artworks, begun in 1946. Never satisfied with the results, at the beginning of the ‘50s he upset public opinion with paintings that carried a never before seen expressive violence. Paintings characterized by bitter and imposing brushstrokes, expression of a continuous work of re-elaboration of the artworks and on the wave of impulse. Willem de Kooning’s important artistic activity is between 1946 and 1963. During this period the artist worked almost at the same time on two types of subjects: female figures and abstract compositions. Following Women at the beginning of the ‘50s there were abstract urban landscapes, highways, rural landscapes and, in the ‘60s, a new series of Women. De Kooning’s abstract compositions from 1955 to 1963 are abstract paintings inspired by the city and nature and beginning in the mid ‘50s they’re characterized by free brushstrokes full of energy.