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Abstract Expressionist Drawings

Abstract Expressionist Drawings

November 1, 2007–February 24, 2008

This small installation of drawings from the Museum’s permanent collection, including several new acquisitions, features works from the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s by such notable Abstract Expressionists as Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Robert Motherwell, and David Smith, among others.

Abstract Expressionism originated in New York City in the late 1930s and flourished after World War II until the early 1960s. It was characterized by large-scale, abstract paintings and sculptures that were generally improvisational in execution, that and attempted to find equivalents for pure emotion in line, color, and shape. Within this general framework, two very different strains emerged: one, aggressively gestural, led by the "action painters" Jackson Pollock and Willem Kooning; the other, more contemplative and spiritual, exemplified by the color-field paintings of Mark Rothko. The impact of these works catapulted American artists to the forefront of the international art world in the 1950s.

The Metropolitan Museum's Abstract Expressionist holdings are impressive and extensive, with more than three hundred paintings, sculptures, and drawings. All of the major artists are represented, many with iconic works from their careers. The current installation showcases a small selection of the Museum's best works on paper, which are rarely exhibited due to their fragile materials. While Abstract Expressionism will forever be associated with monumental works of art, these smaller works on paper offer unique insights into the artists' creative processes and reveal some of their experiments with new media and techniques.