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Going into the MoMA’s latest exhibition, “Abstract Expressionist New York”, I couldn’t find myself thinking of a straight forward definition for that style. The only paintings I thought were abstract were the Dali paintings I saw on Sesame Street as a kid. My tour guide, who also led my group through the “Pictures by Women” exhibition, gave a brief definition I still could not understand, but explained that it culminated in the 1940s/1950s postwar America, where styles such as Dadaism and Expressionism could flower. I figured that as we walked through the galleries I would possibly encounter some familiar paintings and answer my own question.

The paintings started out with primitive techniques and use of different mediums (“Pancho Villa, Dead and Alive”-Robert Motherwell) and became more complicated, using deliberate splashes of color to invoke sparks of emotion and grab the viewers attention (“Summation”-Arshile Gorky) as well as more elaborate and large scale as large Cubist sculpture (“Cubix”-David Smith). As the tour continued as such, I found myself slightly disappointed with the pieces that were being discussed.

After the tour I had time to look around on my own and try to make some sense of the third floor. I liked the paintings with recognizable/discernible figures because I got so lost in the paint splatters of Pollock. My favorites were the pieces with bright splashes of unusual colors like amethyst and lime green, giving life to an otherwise drab canvas. Ready to leave the museum, I was satisfied with my own definition of abstract expressionism-whatever it is the artist thinks it is. Every artist I saw had their own take on the style, ranging from colorful splashes to unfinished works in charcoal and oil paint. However, they all had a warped view of the original subject or inspiration. The way in which the artist decides to interpret these, usually by inverting features or limbs, using unusual colors or materials, and looking for patterns in color or texture, is what makes them expressionists.

I will admit that I tried to rush through some of the smaller paintings in the galleries to get to the pop art exhibition next door (dedicating an entire wall to Andy Warhol, of course) and upstairs to see the Mexican paintings of Rivera and Kahlo and an interesting piece by David Alfaro Siqueros entitled “Collective Suicide”. With the superimposition of separate pieces, mixture of warm and cold colors, and unusual subject matter, this is what I thought was Abstract Expressionism all along.

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