New York City after World War 2

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Abstract expressionism cultured into the art world due to post war and cold war politics. It reached its peak popularity in the late 1940s. The expression was applied to a movement in American painting that flourished in New York City after World War 2. Artists began to use strong emotional and expressive content in their paintings to express the reality of depression, trauma, emotions and ideas (“Moma, Abstract Expressionism’). During the war and after the war proved to leave behind an influential effect on the Europeans. So large of an affect that they believed it was necessary to have a painting that signified their own country. Still, in the 1940s, men remained the more common and valued abstract artist. In the 1950s, cold war politics and social and cultural conservatism placed picked up the pace and made a larger impact on the economy as well as the artist. Those were the three key stimuluses for artist to vigorously “attack” the canvases with a paint brush. Jazz music was a smaller influence in the creation of abstract art. Many painters would listen to jazz while painting, in hopes of creating a more expression theme. Abstract Expressionism was often characterized as a forcefully masculine, white man’s field, cutting a bold and aggressive swath through the softer aspects of fine art. Female artist began to rise in New York and San Francisco. Later, female artist made a greater approach to constructing abstract artwork. They started producing work in tandem with their more highly publicized male counterparts. Yet, they remained largely absent from the literature, textbooks and documentation of the times. Many of those female artists presented expressions in response to recurring themes such as place, seasons, or references from literature, dance and music. Later in the 1950s, the abstract era had almost ended its course. Artist were discovering new ways of expressing emotions in artwork (‘Abstract Expressionism Movement Concepts & Styles’).

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Lenore “Lee” Krasner is a well-known, female artist in the Abstract Expressionist world. She was born on October 27, 1908 in Brooklyn, New York to a Russian-Jewish Family. Growing up in a small neighbor of immigrants, to a large family of seven, made living a normal life challenging for a young gi. At 13, she decided to fulfill her dream of being an artist. Luckily on the second attempt, her application to Washington Irving High School was accepted. At the time, it was the only public high school in New York City that offered women professional art training. Her forceful personality and passion for painting carried her to the center of the New York art world, a large male arena that was in the midst of a period of intense ideological ferment (‘Lee Krasner: American Painter’). She proved her ability and creativity to by providing small scale abstract art. Krasners’ profession bloomed as she became a cherished female artist. Later, she began to confidently produce her own style of geometric abstraction, which included floral motifs and rhythmic gestures. In 1940, Krasner began putting her artwork on display. This resulted in meeting and connecting with other abstract artists. In 1942 she met her husband, Jackson Pollock, who she later married in 1945. Pollock was also an abstract artist and influenced Krasner with his artwork so much that she decided to work very closely with him. Both artists inspired one another to the extent that they were arranged to create a large body of artwork together. After the death of her husband in 1956, Krasner started to experiment with large scale paintings. Much different from her original small-scale paintings. Aggressive strokes and umber color scheme were labeled an expression attempt of grief from her husbands’ death. That precise expression in her artwork carried over into a new love for large scale artwork and soon she began to paint abstraction with hard edge figurative elements (‘Lee Krasner: American Painter’).

Gaea, being one of Krasners’ many symbolic, abstract paintings, carved it way into history in 1966. This oil-based canvas is titled after the Earth goddess of the ancient Greeks. The large, bold canvas is painted at the length of sixty-nine inches and had a width span of five and a half inches. The size of the painting slightly describes why Krasner used her entire body to stroke the painting. Inside the frame presents swirls of white and pink blobs, being smoothly separated by dark purple streaks. The viewer may find it a bit challenging, trying to recognize the shapes at a first glance. However, once the viewer looks at the smaller details of zig-zags and jagged edges, the shapes start to form into landscape of objects that all link to feminism. Various forms, figures, and small hints of feminine body parts can be picked out, but the goddess of motherhood remains the important character.

An ear in the top left corner, an eyebrow above an eye, breasts, lips, an arm, buttocks, and ovoid shapes appear alongside swaths of purple. Coded for a female by their creamy white and pink hues, but the image of a woman is never shown (“A Flawed Introduction to Women Artists, Apollo Magazine”). The artwork was created by the expression of spirit of free invention, embodied in broad, sweeping strokes of paint. This is a different, more symbolic approach from the artists’ earlier work. Earlier work that consisted of smaller, thickly painted, and tightly controlled canvases (“Gaea. 1966 | Moma”). Krasner used Gaea to represent her continued interest in ancient civilizations as an art source. The painting is on display at the Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition, ‘Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction’. The exhibit is full of other artwork that links feminism and World War 2. The abstract exhibit also includes other artwork pieces such as sculptures, photography, and female household items (“Gaea. 1966 | Moma”). The painting, Gaea, is the mother of this exhibit and serves its significance to women’s movement in this era.

Over the years, abstract art has risen and fallen in the popularity. Mainly due to the change in conception. It has been reformed many times over the years by new generation artist altering the shapes and the color schemes. Still today, it is used to promotes messages and used for enjoyment. It continues to inspire a new generation of young abstract expressionist, as well as, more female artist.

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New York City After World War 2. (2022, Apr 25). Retrieved January 29, 2023 , from

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