How Abstract Expressionism Took Off in New York

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Pollock's 'Number 1A, 1948.' Raw canvas peaks out from choreographed swirls of paint. Many of his works from this era also contain three-dimensional objects such as sand, keys and even thumb tacks.

In the 1940s and 1950s, a group of New York City artists changed the course of art history with drips, color and aggressive, abstract paintings. Bad boy figures like Jackson Pollock, known for his splattered canvases, Willem de Kooning, who did wild abstractions of women, and female artists Grace Hartigan and Lee Krasner. This weekend, the Museum of Modern Art unveils an eight-month-long tribute to the so-called New York School. "Abstract Expressionist New York" represents the first time in more than four decades that the museum has gathered works by these artists in a single place.

In this week's Arts File on WQXR, WNYC's Kerry Nolan speaks with WNYC Arts Writer Carolina Miranda about the exhibit and about a two-part documentary Miranda created which focuses on the physical spaces in New York that helped fuel the Abstract Expressionist movement: The Cedar Tavern and Peggy Guggenheim's Art of This Century gallery.

Early paintings by Robert Motherwell hang at the Museum of Modern Art's exhibit, 'Abstract Expressionist New York."
Early paintings by Robert Motherwell hang at the Museum of Modern Art's exhibit, 'Abstract Expressionist New York." ( Carolina Miranda/WNYC )
'Shinnecock Canal,' 1957, by Grace Hartigan -- one of the few women to break through into the Ab-Ex boys club.
'Shinnecock Canal,' 1957, by Grace Hartigan -- one of the few women to break through into the Ab-Ex boys club. ( Museum of Modern Art. © 2010 The Estate of Grace Hartigan )
Hans Hofmann's painting 'Spring,' from 1944-45 (possibly earlier) — reflecting a use of the drip technique at least two years before Pollock would make it famous.
Hans Hofmann's painting 'Spring,' from 1944-45 (possibly earlier) — reflecting a use of the drip technique at least two years before Pollock would make it famous. ( Carolina Miranda/WNYC )
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