7.3- Mid Modern Visual Art

So many different styles, so little time!

  • Abstract Expressionism
  • Abstract sculpture
  • Assemblages — Found art
  • Pop Art
  • Op Art
  • Minimal Art
  • Conceptual Art

Abstract Expressionism

  • Inspired in part by Existentialism
  • Began with a group of WPA artists
  • Absence of subject matter
  • Focus on the experience of the artist painting

Is abstract art confusing?

Jackson Pollock (American) 1912-56 [audio:pollock.mp3]

  • Studied with Thomas Hart Benton
  • “Drip’ paintings
  • His style became known as action painting
  • The paintings convey the actual “action’ of the painter
  • His paintings look accidental, but they have planned elements
  • There is no obvious top or bottom to a work, it is only designated by Pollock’s signature.
  • Popular Work — Lavender Mist
  • Optional Video

Lee Krasner (American) 1908-84 [audio:krasner.mp3]

  • Married to Jackson Pollock
  • Her style is more controlled
  • Paint is applied with a brush
  • Both Krasner and Pollock influenced each other
  • Popular work – Icarus

Willem de Kooning (Dutch) 1904-97 [audio:dekooning.mp3]

  • Career in America
  • Like Pollock, his was interested in the action of the painter
  • His works contain fragments of subject matter
  • Popular work — Excavation (1950)

Mark Rothko (Latvia) 1903-70 [audio:rothko.mp3]

  • Career in America
  • Color field abstractions
  • Worked with thin layers of paint
  • Film, luminous, floating fields of color
  • The desire of the artist was to evoke an emotional response “tragic and timeless’
  • Popular Work – Red, Brown, and Black (1958)

Helen Frankenthaler (American) 1928 — ? [audio:frankenthaler.mp3]

  • Similar to Rothko’s color field painting
  • Like Pollock she had to work on the floor
  • Poured thinned paints on raw canvas
  • Her style was called stain painting.
  • Popular Work — The Bay (1963)


Alexander Calder (American) 1898-1976 [audio:calder.mp3]

  • Started as a toy maker
  • Caught the attention of Dada and Surrealist artists with this miniature circus
  • Created the mobile
  • The mobile is a fusion of color, shape, composition time, motion space and relationships
  • Popular Work – Untitled (1973)

Isamu Noguchi (Japanese-American) 1904-88 [audio:noguchi.mp3]

  • Studied with Early Modern sculpture, Brancusi
  • Incorporated Japanese approach — wabi — the ultimate naturalness of an object
  • Also designed furniture and created the first “Akari’ paper lantern
  • Popular Work – Kouros (1944-45)

Assemblages or Found Art


An assemblage is a three dimensional work of art that is created from items that were originally created with some other purpose.

Robert Rauschenberg (American) 1925-2008 [audio:rauschenberg.mp3]

  • A student at Black Mountain College
  • Influenced by composer John Cage
  • Created with materials that might otherwise be thrown away
  • Called his works “combines’
  • Did many different types of works, included collaborations with others at Black Mountain College
  • Popular Work — Monogram (1955-1959)

Louise Nevelson (American) 1899-1988 [audio:nevelson.mp3]

  • Russian born
  • Studied many different types of art — printmaking, theatre, dance, music, painting
  • Began assembling furniture scraps in her 50’s
  • Her assemblages resemble relief sculptures
  • They are always painted in a single solid color
  • Popular Work — Sky Cathedral (1958)

Pop Art

Art created from the materials of everyday life — a soup can, a comic, magazines, iconic images. Insert sound clip Pop Art

Andy Warhol (American) 1928-87 [audio:warhol.mp3]

  • Became an icon of popular culture
  • Defined the Pop Art style
  • Started as a graphic artist
  • His work contains images of mass marketing
  • Campbell’s Soup
  • Coca-Cola
  • Dollar bills
  • Images of Elvis, and Marilyn Monroe
  • Called his studio The Factory
  • Collaborated with other younger artists — Basquiat and Haring
  • Popular Work: Campbell Soup 1

Roy Lichtenstein 1923 — 1997 [audio:lichtenstein.mp3]

  • Imitated comic strips on a large scale
  • Faux ben-day dot is the basis of his style
  • His works feature 2 kinds of comics: War comics and Romance comics
  • Popular Work – Drowning Girl (1963)

Claes Oldenburgh and Coosje Van Bruggen (American) 1929 — ? [audio:oldenburg.mp3]

  • Born in Sweden
  • Later works with his spouse Van Bruggen
  • Sculptural works of everyday items
  • Whimsical works
  • Known for museum sized sculptures of everyday objects depicted in strange materials, like a cheeseburger made of plaster, and a typewriter sculpted from soft foam.
  • Colossal outdoor sculptures that are huge monuments of everyday objects — clothespin, scissors, trowels, spoons
  • Popular work 1 — Cheeseburgers with Everything (Dual Hambergers) (1962)
  • Popular work 2 — Spoonbridge and Cherry (1985)

Other Pop artists

Marisol Escobar (French-born American) 1930

Keith Haring (American) 1958-1990

Op Art

Optical art, or Op Art is a style of art that is concerned with how the eye perceives things. Op art frequently plays a trick upon your eye. Op art is meticulously crafted in precise lines or geometric shapes that are colored, or in black, white and gray. These works are intellectual, but they are even more fun in person than in a photograph.
Insert Op art sound clip

Op Artists


Victor Vasarely

Bridget Riley

M. C. Escher

Minimal Art


‘What you see, is what you see’ Frank Stella (American) 1936 – ?

Minimal art was born out of universities instead of artists gathering in coffee shops or hanging out at the studio. It is clean, exact and bare bones. It truly is very little.

A Virtual Gallery of Minimal Art

Conceptual Art


Out of the tradition of Marcel Duchamps Fountian, conceptual art is radical, in that it is frequently an idea, turned into art. It could be something simple like Rocks Upon the Beach Sand Upon the Rocks by Lawrence Weiner, or Diagonal of May 25, 1962
by Dan Flavin. It can also be more complicated and technical.

Werner Reiterer is known for his humorous conceptual art. Unfortunately most conceptual art really needs to be experienced in person, and does not translate well into photos.

Look up Werner Reiterer on You Tube – https://oer.uaf.edu/learn/AMTF200-v1/2009/175/ (embedding of this video was prohibited)

6 Responses to “7.3- Mid Modern Visual Art”

  1. AndrewBoldman writes:

    Great post! Just wanted to let you know you have a new subscriber- me!

  2. lisakljaich writes:

    Thank you for your comment. There will be very few new additions to this blog, which is actually part of a course. Please fee free to explore, but realize there won’t be much action. I can’t keep moving the target on my students 🙂

  3. sarah ledoux writes:

    The mini lecture on Conceptual Art is giving me an error message. Too bad! 🙁

  4. nakliye writes:

    I have been looking for such information ! great article

  5. Catherine writes:

    The audio for Conceptual Art isn’t working.. :/

  6. Aubrey Swallows writes:

    The link to the visual gallery of minimal art is not working! For further exploration, here is a website that can provide examples of minimal art works.