How Abstract Expressionism changed modern art

What did the artists associated with Abstract Expressionism do so differently? And how is their work still relevant today? As the first survey of Abstract Expressionism for nearly 60 years is staged in Britain, co-curator David Anfam answers key questions.

1. How was Abstract Expressionism different to what came before?

Crucially Abstract Expressionism, or ‘Ab Ex’ (as I always call it for short), happened at a juncture when nearly all the major movements of the first half of th.e 20th century had more or less run their course. I’m thinking particularly of Cubism, Surrealism, German Expressionism, Fauvism and Neo-Plasticism. Furthermore, New York in the 1930s and 1940s offered extraordinarily rich opportunities for the emergent artists to come into direct contact with the artworks of these earlier movements.

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