Abstract Expressionism review – crammed in a room with the big men of US art

There are beautiful, marvellous and terrifying things in the Royal Academy’s much-trumpeted survey of Abstract Expressionism. What more could one ask in a show including the explosive and tender Jackson Pollock; De Kooning swerving and jumbling and dismembering his frightening figures of women; Rothko’s tangy brightness and trembling, tremulous darkness;Barnett Newman’s zips and planes and intervals; Guston’s dirty abstract impressionism in which figures wait to be unleashed. Franz Kline’s angled black and white incidents; Arshile Gorky’s quietly writhing accretions: they are all here. I wanted to be blown away, and to reconnect with a kind of painting that once had me in its thrall, and whose traces and impulses continue to be felt into the 21st century. I wanted to see it in some new and instructive way, but I didn’t.


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