Following the surrealist movement, the first major avant- garde art movement emerged in America. The art movement was known as Abstract Expressionism and developed in the 1940s but had its roots in surrealism, and its earliest predecessor was Kandinsky. Unlike surrealist painters who were greatly influenced by the philosophy of Sigmund Freud, Abstract Expressionist followed the psychology of Carl Jung; abstract expressionists focused their paintings around the “collective unconscious”, and produced works that expressed the artist’s state of mind. The abstract expressionism was comprised of two styles: gestural abstraction and chromatic abstraction. Gestural abstractionist relied on movement and the energy by which the paint is applied to canvas to express their unconscious. Chromatic abstraction focused on a color’s emotional resonance and was made for the purpose of personal reflection and meditation.
Jackson Pollock became, arguably, the most famous gestural abstract expressionists in America. Pollock, aka “Jack the Dripper”, developed a drip technique to his paintings. Rather than being confined to a small canvas and easel, Pollock would produce large-scale paintings by unrolling rolls of unsized canvas on the floor of his studio, used brushes, sticks, towels, etc. in order to create rhythmic drippings, splatters, and pools of paint on his canvas. His paintings trap the viewer in the web of paint to open their subconscious emotions. Pollock’s paintings were both spontaneous and choreographed. His murals emphasize the creative process and his emotional state during his painting, he once stated “I feel nearer, more a part of the painting, since this way I can walk around it, work from the four sides, and literally be in the painting.” (Gardner 34).
When I look at Pollock’s painting, Lavender Mist, I become overwhelmed at first. I feel small in front of the aggressive strike, slashes, and pools of paint; however, after several minutes of absorbing the painting, a since of calm washes over me. Looking at a Jackson Pollock painting is like waking up in the morning: at 7am the day seems overwhelming and impossible, but by noon you remember how awesome life is and how happy you are that you get to spend another day on this Earth.