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What is: Abstract Expressionism?

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'By now, you and I know what we mean when we say it. But it certainly hasn't defined anything. If you take the Abstract Expressionists and try to break down the difference between [Barnett] Newman and [Jackson] Pollock, let's say, where are you other than that big loose loophole called Abstract Expressionism?' -- Lee Krasner

Curator Eleanor Nairne explores the commonalities and divergences between the artists we have come to know as Abstract Expressionists. What is the underlying connection between these works that seem so different in terms of colour, form, idea and material?

Nairne unpacks the term paying critical attention to the work of Lee Krasner, a painter who refused to settle on a 'signature image', a uniquely identifiable style and mode of working which was so important to her contemporaries like Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Franz Kline.


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Eleanor Nairne is Curator at the Barbican Art Gallery, London, where her exhibitions include 'Lee Krasner: Living Colour' (2019-20) and 'Basquiat: Boom for Real' (2017-18). She is a regular catalogue writer, a contributor to publications including The London Review of Books and frieze and is a former Jerwood Writer in Residence.

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