Originally a term used to describe Kandinsky's painting between 1910 and 1914
(see expressionism), but coming into
popular use in the 1950s as a description of the work of Jackson Pollock, Mark
Rothko, Willem de Kooning and other avant-garde New York painters. The artists'
personal styles differed considerably, but they shared some elements of a common
philosophy (influenced by existentialism).
They rejected traditional styles and technical skills, and the priority of a finished
product, in order to emphasise the physical act of painting and creation. Harold
Rosenberg suggested the term 'action painting' as a more suitable label. Pollock's
paintings, produced by splashing, pouring and dripping paint on to the canvas,
thereby creating complex and vital patterns, are possibly the most farmIlar representatives
of abstract expressionist works. In contrast, Rothko's vast canvases were composed
of superimposed fields of typically subdued colours. [from: Edgar/Sedgwick, 2002]