American Abstract Expressionists and Imagists

By Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum | Go to book overview
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FOREWORD
ON ART AND TERMINOLOGY

The exhibition, AMERICAN ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONISTS AND IMAGISTS, 1961, appears exactly ten years after the Museum of Modern Art exhibition, ABSTRACT PAINTING AND SCULPTURE IN AMERICA. The latter was, of course, a broad survey of the entire history of abstract art in the United States. Nevertheless, it gave such prominence to the artists who are now generally called Abstract Expressionists that it might be considered as the official recognition of this movement. It is interesting to note that Andrew Ritchie in 1951 did not use the term "Abstract Expressionism" to describe the work. This name, as is well known, was applied to Kandinsky's abstractions in 1919, used in the same context by Alfred Barr in 1929, and applied to some of the painters of the New York school by Robert Coates in 1946. In 1951, despite the fact that these painters had begun experiments with various forms of free abstraction as early as 1942, they had not yet been grouped under a generally agreed upon label or category. Ritchie placed artists like Tomlin, Reinhardt, Motherwell, Ferren, McNeil, Hofmann, and Jimmy Ernst in a category of "Expressionist Geometric"; and Gorky, de Kooning, Rothko, Pollock, Pousette-Dart, Brooks, Stamos, and Baziotes in a category of "Expressionist Biomorphic." These terms Ritchie used merely as convenient categories for the purpose of the particular exhibition.

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