Lyrical Abstraction

Lyrical Abstraction

Lyrical Abstraction refers to two related but distinctly separate movements in Post-war Modernist painting. European Lyrical Abstraction is an art movement born in Paris after World War II. At that time, France was trying to reconstruct its identity devastated by the Occupation and Collaboration. Some art critics looked at the new abstraction as an attempt to try to restore the image of artistic Paris, which had held the rank of capital of the arts until the war. It is possible that lyrical abstraction also represented a competition between Paris and the new American school of painting, Abstract Expressionism, based in New York and represented by Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and many others. It could thus be seen as the School of Paris versus the New York School.

Lyrical abstraction was opposed not only to Cubist and Surrealist movements that preceded it, but also to geometric abstraction (or "cold abstraction"). Lyrical abstraction was in some ways the first to apply the lessons of Kandinsky, considered one of the fathers of abstraction. For the artists in France, lyrical abstraction represented an opening to personal expression.

Many exhibitions were held in Paris for example at the Drouin gallery where one could see Jean Le Moal, Gustave Singier, Alfred Manessier, Roger Bissière, Wols and others. A wind blew over the capital when Georges Mathieu decided to hold two exhibitions: "Abstraction Lyrique" at the Palais du Luxembourg in 1947 and then "HWPSMTB" (Hans Hartung, Wols, Francis Picabia, the sculptor Francis Stahly, Georges Mathieu, Michel Tapié and Camille Bryen) in 1948. It was, however, a fairly short reign (late 1957), which was quickly supplanted by the New Realism of Pierre Restany and Yves Klein.

European artists who painted in the manner of lyrical abstraction (1945–1956) and beyond

* Jean René Bazaine (1904–2001)
* Roger Bissière (1888–1964)
* Camille Bryen (1902 – 1977)
* Olivier Debre (1920–1999)
* Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985)
* Jean Fautrier (1898–1964)
* Pierre Fichet (1927 - )
* Oscar Gauthier (1921 - )
*Annick Gendron (1939 - )
* Hans Hartung (1904–1989)
* Alfred Manessier (1911–1993)
* Georges Mathieu (1921 - )
* Francis Picabia (1879–1953)
* Serge Poliakoff (1900–1969)
* Gustave Singier (1909–1984)
* Pierre Soulages (1919 - )
* Nicolas de Staël (1914–1955)
* Michel Tapié (1909–1987)
* Wols pseudonym of Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze (1913–1951)
* Zao Wou Ki (1921 - ) col-end

An exhibition entitled "The soaring lyrical, Paris 1945-1956", bringing together the works of 60 painters, was presented in Paris at the Musée du Luxembourg from April to August 2006. [Flight lyric, Paris 1945–1956, texts Patrick-Gilles Persin, Michel and Pierre Descargues Ragon, Musée du Luxembourg, Paris and Skira, Milan, 2006, 280 p. ISBN 8876246797.]

=Lyrical Abstraction in America=

Lyrical Abstraction is an American abstract art movement that emerged in New York City, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, and then Toronto and London during the 1960s - 1970s. Characterized by intuitive and loose paint handling, spontaneous expression, illusionist space, acrylic staining, process, occasional imagery, and other painterly and newer technological techniques. [Ashton, Dore. Young Abstract Painters: Right On! Arts v. 44, n. 4, February, 1970, pp. 31-35.] Lyrical Abstraction led the way away from minimalism in painting and toward a new freer expressionism. [Ratcliff, Carter. The New Informalists, Art News, v. 68, n. 8, December 1969, p.72.] Painters who directly reacted against the predominating Formalist, Minimalist, and Pop Art and Geometric abstraction styles of the 1960s, turned to new, experimental, loose, painterly, expressive, pictorial and abstract painting styles. Many of them had been Minimalists, working with various monochromatic, geometric styles, and whose paintings publicly evolved into new abstract painterly motifs. American Lyrical Abstraction is related in spirit to Abstract Expressionism, Color Field painting and European Tachisme of the 1940s and 1950s as well. Tachisme refers to the French style of abstract painting current in the 1945–1960 period. Very close to Art Informel, it presents the European equivalent to Abstract Expressionism.


Lyrical Abstraction is a term that was originally coined by Larry Aldrich (the founder of the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield Connecticut) in 1969 to describe what Aldrich said he saw in the studios of many artists at that time. [Aldrich, Larry. Young Lyrical Painters, Art in America, v.57, n6, November-December 1969, pp.104-113.] It is also the name of an exhibition that originated in the Aldrich Museum and traveled to the Whitney Museum of American Art and other museums throughout the United States between 1969 and 1971. [Lyrical Abstraction, Exhibition Catalogue, the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, Conn. 1970.] For many years the term Lyrical Abstraction was a pejorative, which unfortunately adversely affected those artists whose works were associated with that name. In 1989 Union College art history professor, the late Daniel Robbins correctly observed that Lyrical Abstraction was the term used in the late sixties to describe the return to painterly expressivity by painters all over the country and "consequently", Robbins said, "the term should be used today because it has historical credibility" [Robbins, Daniel. Larry Poons: Creation of the Complex Surface, Exhibition Catalogue, Salander/O'Reilly Galleries, p. 10, 1990.] Between 1960 and 1970 Abstract Expressionism had waned, emerging directions such as Formalism, Color Field painting, Fluxus, Happenings, Minimalism, Pop Art, and Op art had decidedly swerved the focus of the avant-garde away from subjective expressionism toward a more objective geometric precision and socio-political theatricality, commentary and observation.During the mid-1960s American painting was declared dead by various critics including Minimalist sculptor/critic Donald Judd citing three-dimensional, volumetric objects as the embodiment of visual truth. Pictorial illusionism as it appears in painting - which is flat and merely depicts space, was described as deceptive and outdated, in a European old-fashioned way. Formalist arguments generally put forth in the name of Clement Greenberg seemed dated and outmoded and missed the point of new painting being made after the mid-1960s altogether.

Lyrical Abstraction in the late 1960s and early 1970s in America

Lyrical Abstraction in America, according to John I. H. Baur, curator of the Whitney Museum of American Art, NY [Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, May 25 - July 6, 1971, "Foreword"] was a trend during the sixties and early seventies. It was represented by a circulating exhibition which commenced at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, Connecticut from April 5 through June 7, 1970, and continued to the Civic Center Museum Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and the Phoenix Art Museum in Phoenix, Arizona. The circulating exhibition ended at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, May 25 through July 6, 1971. The exhibition was proposed by Larry Aldrich, collector and founder of The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum. Mr. Aldrich defined the trend of Lyrical Abstraction and explained how he came to acquire the works. [The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, "Lyrical Abstraction", exhibition: April 5 through June 7, 1970, "Statement of the exhibition"] In his "Statement of the Exhibition" he wrote,

"Early last season, it became apparent that in painting there was a movement away from the geometric, hard-edge, and minimal, toward more lyrical, sensuous, romantic abstractions in colors which were softer and more vibrant...As I researched this lyrical trend, I found many young artists whose paintings appealed to me...The majority of the paintings in the "Lyrical Abstraction" exhibition were created in 1969 and all are a part of my collection now."
Larry Aldrich donated the paintings from the exhibition to the Whitney Museum of American Art. According to Aldrich: [The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, ’’Lyrical Abstraction’’, exhibition: April 5 through June 7, 1970, ‘’Statement of the exhibition]

"The artist’s touch is always visible in this type of painting, even when the paintings are done with spray guns, sponges or other objects." [The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, "Lyrical Abstraction," exhibition: April 5 through June 7, 1970] , ["Lyrical Abstraction" Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, May 25 - July 6, 1971]

Participants in the Lyrical Abstraction exhibition, 1970-1971

*Helene Aylon, (1931 - )
*Victoria Barr, (1937 - )
*James Beres, (1942 - )
*Jake Berthot, (1939 - )
*Dan Christensen, (1942 – 2007)
*David William Cummings, (1937 - )
*Carl Gliko, ( 1941-)
*John Adams Griefen, (1942 - )
*Carol Haerer, (1933 – 2002)
*Gary Hudson, (1936 - )
*Don Kaufman, (1935 - )
*Jane A. Kaufman, (1938 - )
*Victor Kord, (1935 - )
*Ronnie Landfield, (1947 - )
*Pat Lipsky, (1941 - )
*Ralph Sessions Moseley, (1941 - )
*David Paul, (1945 - ) only in 1970
*Herbert Perr, (1941 - )
*William Pettet, (1942 - )
*Murray Reich, (1932 - )
*Garry Lorence Rich, (1943 - )
*Ken L. Showell, (1939 – 1997)
*Alan Siegel, (1938 - )
*Lawrence Stafford, (1038 - )
*William Staples, (1934 - )
*James Sullivan (artist), (1939 - )
*Herbert Schiffrin, (1944 - )
*Shirlann Smith, (1931 - )
*John Francis Torreano, (1941 - )
*Jeff Way, (1942 - )
*Thornton Willis, (1938 - )
*Philip Wofford, (1935 - )
*Robert Zakanych, (1935 - ) col-end


Lyrical Abstraction along with the Fluxus movement and Postminimalism (a term first coined by Robert Pincus-Witten in the pages of Artforum in 1969) ["Movers and Shakers, New York", "Leaving C&M", by Sarah Douglas, Art and Auction, March 2007, V.XXXNo7.] sought to expand the boundaries of abstract painting and Minimalism by focusing on process, new materials and new ways of expression. Postminimalism often incorporating industrial materials, raw materials, fabrications, found objects, installation, serial repetition, and often with references to Dada and Surrealism is best exemplified in the sculptures of Eva Hesse. ["Movers and Shakers, New York", "Leaving C&M", by Sarah Douglas, Art and Auction, March 2007, V.XXXNo7.] Lyrical Abstraction, Conceptual Art, Postminimalism, Earth Art, Video, Performance art, Installation art, along with the continuation of Fluxus, Abstract Expressionism, Color Field Painting, Hard-edge painting, Minimal Art, Op art, Pop Art, Photorealism and New Realism extended the boundaries of Contemporary Art in the mid-1960s through the 1970s. [Martin, Ann Ray, and Howard Junker. The New Art: It's Way, Way Out, Newsweek 29 July 1968: pp.3,55-63.] Lyrical Abstraction is a type of freewheeling abstract painting that emerged in the mid-1960s when abstract painters returned to various forms of painterly, pictorial, expressionism with a predominate focus on process, gestalt and repetitive compositional strategies in general. Characterized by an overall gestalt, consistent surface tension, sometimes even the hiding of brushstrokes, and an overt avoidance of relational composition. It developed as did Postminimalism as an alternative to strict Formalist and Minimalist doctrine.

Lyrical Abstraction shares similarities with Color Field Painting and Abstract Expressionism especially in the freewheeling usage of paint - texture and surface. Direct drawing, calligraphic use of line, the effects of brushed, splattered, stained, squeegeed, poured, and splashed paint superficially resemble the effects seen in Abstract Expressionism and Color Field Painting. However the styles are markedly different. Setting it apart from Abstract Expressionism and Action Painting of the 1940s and 1950s is the approach to composition and drama. As seen in Action Painting there is an emphasis on brushstrokes, high compositional drama, dynamic compositional tension. While in Lyrical Abstraction there is a sense of compositional randomness, all over composition, low key and relaxed compositional drama and an emphasis on process, repetition, and an all over sensibility. The differences with Color Field Painting are more subtle today because many of the Color Field painters with the exceptions of Morris Louis, Ellsworth Kelly, Paul Feeley, Thomas Downing, and Gene Davis evolved into Lyrical Abstractionists. Lyrical Abstraction shares with both Abstract Expressionism and Color Field Painting a sense of spontaneous and immediate sensual expression, consequently distinctions between specific artists and their styles become blurred, and seemingly interchangeable as they evolve.

Abstract Expressionism preceded Color Field painting, Lyrical Abstraction, Fluxus, Pop Art, Minimalism, Postminimalism, and the other movements of the 1960s and 1970s and it influenced the later movements that evolved. The interrelationship of/and between distinct but related styles resulted in influence that worked both ways between artists young and old, and vice-versa. During the mid-1960s in New York, Los Angeles and elsewhere artists often crossed the lines between definitions and art styles. During that period - the mid 1960s through the 1970s advanced American art and contemporary art in general was at a crossroad, shattering in several directions. During the 1970s political movements and revolutionary changes in communication made these American styles international; as the art world itself became more and more international. American Lyrical Abstraction's European counterpart Neo-expressionism came to dominate the 1980s, and also developed as a response to American Pop Art and Minimalism and borrows heavily from American Abstract Expressionism.


ome Lyrical Abstractionist painters

*James Brooks (primarily abstract expressionism)
*Arshile Gorky (primarily abstract expressionism and surrealism)
*Adolph Gottlieb (primarily abstract expressionism)
*Robert Motherwell (primarily abstract expressionism)
*Kenzo Okada (primarily abstract expressionism)
*Mark Rothko (primarily abstract expressionism)
*Joan Mitchell (and abstract expressionism)
*Norman Bluhm (and abstract expressionism)
*John Levee (and abstract expressionism)
*Ray Parker (and abstract expressionism)
*Paul Jenkins (and abstract expressionism)
*Cleve Gray (and abstract expressionism)
*Sam Francis (and abstract expressionism and color field painting)
*Helen Frankenthaler (and abstract expressionism and color field painting)
*Richard Diebenkorn (and abstract expressionism and color field painting)
*Jules Olitski (and abstract expressionism and color field painting)
*Kenneth Noland (and color field painting)
*Jack Bush (and Color field painting)
*Friedel Dzubas (and color field painting)
*Frank Stella ( and minimalism, Hard-edge painting, color field painting and sculpture)
*Brice Marden (and minimalism)
*Ronald Davis (and Hard-edge painting and Abstract Illusionism)
*Larry Zox (and Color field painting and Hard-edge painting)
*Larry Poons (and Hard-edge painting and color field painting)
*Dan Christensen (and color field painting)
*Ronnie Landfield (and color field painting and Hard-edge painting)
*David Simpson (and Hard-edge painting)
*Sean Scully (and Hard-edge painting)
*Sam Gilliam
*Howard Hodgkin
*Walter Darby Bannard (and minimalism and color field painting)
*John Walker (painter)
*John Adams Griefen
*Joan Snyder
*Tom Holland
*Charles Arnoldi
*Ed Moses
*Irene Rice-Pereira
*Robert Natkin
*Neil Williams (and Hard-edge painting)
*David Budd (see nga links below)
*John Seery (see nga link below)
*Peter Young (artist) (see nga links below)
*Frank Bowling
*Al Loving
*Natvar Bhavsar
*Alan Shields
*John Hoyland
*Peter Reginato (and sculpture)
*David Diao (and Hard-edge painting)
* [ Murray Reich]
*Kenneth Showell
*Thornton Willis
*Joanna Pousette-Dart
*David Novros muralist (and minimalism)
*Peter Bradley
*Melissa Meyer
*Carol Sutton
*Frances Barth
*Carlos Villa
*Carol Haerer
*Phillip Wofford
*Stanley Boxer
*Joyce Weinstein
*Ralph Humphrey
*William Pettet
*Edward Avedisian
*Jack Whitten
*Lee Lozano
*Pat Lipsky
*Gary Stephan
*Shirley Smith
*Ed Ruda
*David R. Prentice
*Harvey Quaytman
*Lawrence Stafford
*Alan Cote
*Doug Ohlson
*Jake Berthot
*Robert Duran
*Nancy Graves (and sculpture)
*Joseph Drapell
*Carl Gliko
*Joe Haske
*Francine Tint
*Jan Meyer
*Marilyn Kirsch
*Richard Saba

elected early references

*Landfield, Ronnie, "In The Late Sixties", 1993-95, and other writings - various published and unpublished essays, reviews, lectures, statements and brief descriptives at [] .
*Robbins, Daniel. "Larry Poons: Creation of the Complex Surface", Exhibition Catalogue, Salander/O'Reilly Galleries, pp. 9-19, 1990.
*Zinsser, John. "Larry Poons", an interview reprinted from Journal of Contemporary Art, Fall/Winter 1989, vol.2.2 pp. 28-38. Exhibition Catalogue, Salander/O'Reilly Galleries, pp. 20-24, 1990.
*Peter Schjeldahl. "New Abstract Painting: A Variety of Feelings", Exhibition review, "Continuing Abstraction" ", The Whitney Downtown Branch, 55 Water St. NYC. The New York Times, October 13, 1974.
*Carmean, E.A. "Toward Color and Field", Exhibition Catalogue, Houston Museum of Fine Arts, 1971.
*Henning, Edward B. "Color & Field", Art International May 1971: 46-50.
*Tucker, Marcia. "The Structure of Color", New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, NYC, 1971.
*Ratcliff, Carter. "Painterly vs. Painted", Art News Annual XXXVII, Thomas B. Hess, and John Ashberry, eds.1971, pp..129-147.
*Prokopoff, Stephen. "Two Generations of Color Painting", Exhibition Catalogue, Philadelphia Institute of Contemporary Art, 1971.
*Lyrical Abstraction, Exhibition Catalogue, Whitney Museum of American Art, NYC, 1971.
*Sharp, Willoughby. "Points of View", A taped conversation with four painters," Ronnie Landfield, Brice Marden, Larry Poons and John Walker (painter), Arts, v. 45, n.3. December 1970, pp.41-.
*Lyrical Abstraction, Exhibition Catalogue, the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, Conn. 1970.
*Domingo, Willis. "Color Abstractionism: A Survey of Recent American Painting", Arts, v. 45.n.3, December 1970, pp.34-40.
*Channin, Richard. "New Directions in Painterly Abstraction", Art International, Sept. 1970; pp.62-64.
*Davis, Douglas. "The New Color Painters", Newsweek 4 May 1970: pp.84-85.
*Ashton, Dore. "Young Abstract Painters: Right On!" Arts v. 44, n. 4, February, 1970, pp. 31-35.
*Aldrich, Larry. "Young Lyrical Painters", Art in America, v.57, n6, November-December 1969, pp.104-113.
*Ratcliff, Carter. "The New Informalists", Art News, v. 68, n. 8, December 1969, p.72.
*Davis, Douglas M. "This Is the Loose-Paint Generation", The National Observer 4 Aug. 1969: p.20
*Martin, Ann Ray, and Howard Junker. "The New Art: It's Way, Way Out", Newsweek 29 July 1968: pp.3,55-63.

ee also

*abstract expressionism
*color field painting
*hard-edge painting
*Post-painterly abstraction
*COBRA (avant-garde movement)
*Formalism (art)
*Western painting
*History of painting


Flight lyric, Paris 1945–1956, texts Patrick-Gilles Persin, Michel and Pierre Descargues Ragon, Musée du Luxembourg, Paris and Skira, Milan, 2006, 280 p. ( ISBN 8876246797 ).


External links

* [ Lyrical abstractions by contemporary Russian master, Valery Sakhatov (b. 1947) ]
* (Seery)
* (Young)
* (Budd)

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