Abstract Expressionist movement (1940's - 1950's) comprised of three general approaches, Action painting, color-field painting and imagery filled paining. Action painting, is characterized by a loose, rapid, dynamic, or forceful handling of paint in sweeping or slashing brushstrokes and in techniques dictated by chance, such as dripping or spilling the paint directly onto the canvas. The hand is in as much control as the mind. Jackson Pollock first practiced Action painting by dripping commercial paints on raw canvas to build up complex and tangled threads of paint into exciting and suggestive linear patterns. De Kooning used extremely vigorous and expressive brushstrokes to build up richly colored and textured images. Kline used powerful, sweeping black strokes on a white canvas to create starkly monumental forms.
The phrase gestural abstraction refers to a way of making art. It is a process, not a movement. With an abstract gestural painting, the point is not what gets painted. The point is how it gets painted. Rather than applying paint to a surface in a controlled, premeditated way, gestural painters apply paint intuitively, physically, by dripping, pouring, splattering, wiping, dumping, spraying, or whatever. The type of paint does not matter, nor does it matter what else besides paint ends up on the surface. What matters are physicality, honesty, intuition and deep personal expression. Abstract gestural painters explore their deepest emotions.
The middle ground within Abstract Expressionism is represented by several varied styles, ranging from the more lyrical, delicate imagery and fluid shapes in paintings by Guston and Frankenthaler to the more clearly structured, forceful, almost calligraphic pictures of Motherwell and Gottlieb.
The third and least emotionally expressive approach was that of Rothko, Newman, and Reinhardt. These painters used large areas, or fields, of flat colour and thin, diaphanous paint to achieve quiet, subtle, almost meditative effects. The outstanding colour-field painter was Rothko, most of whose works consist of large-scale combinations of soft-edged, solidly coloured rectangular areas that tend to shimmer and resonate.
Art grounded in personal experience and emotion - individual freedom.
It took scale to new levels - monumental.
It made the viewer part of the art because of the large scale.
It resisted traditional confines.