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Mr. Burgher's Art Facts

Gestural Abstraction

Mix Master
About Mr.B

Gestural abstraction has been around for a long time. Some may be shocked to learn that Gestural abstraction was used as a weapon in the Cold War with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). The Soviet Union incorporated a style known as "Socialist Realism." This style was intended to depict and glorify the common workers struggle toward socialist progress. The grunt worker was convinced through the arts that their life and work for the country were the most admirable. The style, also visually known as "tractor art," had to be real so the people clearly understood the intent of the art. The everyday person became the subject of the novel, the play, poetry, rousing music and art. Painters would depict happy, muscular peasants and workers in factories and collective farms. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) developed the Congress of Cultural Freedom (CCF) in 1950. The intent of the CCF was to counter the Socialist Realism style in literature, philosophy, music, and art. Why? To remove the idea that the work of the common labor was meaningful. Under the CCF, the CIA hosted 150 exhibits in Paris, France in 1952. In those exhibits, the art of Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell, Willem de Kooning, and others were used to promote this abstraction as the most internationally accepted visual art. It took some help and promoting by Nelson Rockefeller and John Whitney from the Museum of Modern Art in New York to pull this off. The end result was the successful counter to Soviet "Socialist Realism."

Due to the large amounts of content on each artist, you can find the information, photos, links, and other tid-bits under the link on this page to the "Artists notes."

Two Schools of Gestural Abstraction:
Color Field

Action Painters:

At the root of "Action Painting", as mentioned, was a political change in the world. American artists considered "Social" or "Socialist Realism" a dead style.  The term "Action Painting" was coined by art critic Harold Rosenberg in late in 1952 as an off-shoot of the "Abstract Expressionist" style. These artists work to create art that communicates largely through form and color in a seemingly quick, gestural stroke. This is why I classify them as "Gestural Abstraction" artists. However one labels these artists, the art is a unique form of abstraction because it is non-representational and non-objective, meaning that it is not based on actual objects, but based on nothing in the physical world.

Wassily Kandinsky: Dec.16,1866- Dec.13,1944...Russia/France

Jackson Pollock: Jan. 28,1912-Aug. 11,1956...United States

Lee Krasner: Oct. 27,1908-June 19,1984...United States

Color Field Painters:

The color field painters are often referred to as the “second generation” Abstract Expressionists. They evolved from the Action paintings of Jackson Pollock and ideas of Arshile Gorky. The true innovator of color field art was Helen Frankenthaler. This style impacted many artists (like those listed and a great many more).

Helen Frankenthaler: December 12,1928-****...United States

Robert Motherwell: January 24,1915-July 16,1991...United States

Mark Rothko: September 25,1903-February 25,1970...Russia/United States

Cy Twombly: April 25,1928-****...United States

Jackson Pollock. Mural.

Mr. Mike Burgher * PO Box 247 * Dallas Center, Iowa. 50063