American Art Revolution: Fresh and optimistic, revolutionary and limitless

By Žikica Milošević

For many years, European artists dictated styles in art and literature, and for a long time, Europe was the centre of the art world. Then, after the Second World War, Europe came out of everything tired, ruined and without the will to create – except for creating socialist realism, repetitive direction or experimental socialist sculpture. On the other hand, America came out optimistic, victorious, strong and willing to climb the throne in everything, including art.

And that’s exactly what happened. The tired and devastated world was ready for everything American – from Coca-Cola and jukebox to rock and roll, jazz, cars and pop music. But Americans were not satisfied with turning classic counter stores into supermarkets. They also wanted high art. Which is what they did – they took it, they hijacked it.

One: Number 31, Jackson Pollock, 1950


Abstract expressionism was one of the first things that demonstrated a revolutionary different spirit, and leaning on the tendencies of the Russian avant-garde and German expressionism which were rudely interrupted by Nazism and Stalinism and their zealot attitudes towards art. One of the first abstract expressionists was Marcus Rothkowich, or in America, known as Mark Rothko. A Jew from Lithuania, influenced by Malevich and the Russian avant-garde, Rothko began to paint large canvases in only few colours, with horizontal lines of great thickness. He literally divided the canvas into several fields and painted them in a non-uniform way. His influence on the design of logos and photography in the 20th and 21st century was huge. Just think how many times we’ve heard:” Well, this is a real Rothko” when someone takes a photo of a wheat field and the sky, or the ocean and the sky. Instagram is full of Rothko-like and Rothko-inspired photos and homages. It is also worth mentioning that Rothko considered his paintings to be a reflection of the deepest human feelings, completely stripped to the bone.

Another revolutionary was called Jackson Pollock. He’s often, too often, also called “Jason Pollock,” but, hey, people, it’s not his fault he has “two last names” and no “first names.” You have probably listened to Taylor Swift’s songs or you are in love with Blake Lively or you watch movies with Harrison Ford but you never get their names wrong, even though theirs are not first names, but rather 6 last names. Back to Pollock! It is highly likely that your mother saw one of his canvasses and said:” Well, I could squeeze colour from a tube onto a canvas like this and also call it art”, but Pollock was the first to do it in a masterful way. Sometimes he squeezed the paint onto the canvas, sometimes he threw it, sometimes he used “action painting” to paint with his whole body.

No-one was left indifferent. Some people praised him and some called him “Jack The Dripper.” They say that he was inspired by the drops of paint that accidentally dripped on the floor while he was working on a mural. He was of the opinion that the “picture” on the floor, created by those drops, turned out better than the mural. “Those pictures live their lives,” he said. He started painting them on the floor, letting them dry. They called him a charlatan and the greatest painter in America, at the same time.


Robert Rauschenberg was the poster boy for Neo-Dadaism. He was quoted as saying that Rothko’s art came as “a revelation” to him”, but that he quickly grew tired of Rothko’s and Pollock’s lack of figuration. Web-art-encyclopedias like have the following to say about Neo-Dadaism: “A style appearing in the United States in the late 1950s that in its methods and concerns recalls Dada, whose ideas were introduced to American artists by the composer John Cage. Rejecting the overblown rhetoric and adamant non-figuration of Abstract Expressionism, which then dominated the American avant-garde, Neo-Dadaists embraced depictions of the real world and strove to integrate art and life through the use of real objects in paintings and sculpture.“

And indeed, Rauschenberg decided to combine expression with an almost collage structure. He called his works “combines”, not “collage”. “Rauschenberg is well known for his “combines” of the 1950s, in which non-traditional materials and objects were employed in various combinations. Rauschenberg was both a painter and a sculptor, and the combines are a combination of the two, but he also worked with photography, printmaking, papermaking and performance.” He even incorporated JFK into his combines. Many bar owners tend to buy cheap imitation of his artwork as wall decoration, while many interior decoration shops sell them. Rauschenberg was the one who anticipated pop-art and instigated a transition that heavily affected the future world of design.


It goes without saying that we have to mention Andy Warhol, a man whom everybody has heard of. Warhol was the most famous Ruthenian in the world, an artist who used copies of photographs of Marilyn Monroe for his art. He claimed that everybody would get their 15 minutes of fame eventually, i.e. be the main star of a TV channel and famous for a short while. Warhol also said that poetry was hidden in ordinary things and he was also a pioneer of multimedia. The film Men in Black 3 made him out to be a joke, but the world thinks differently. The pop-art of Roy Lichtenstein perhaps had more prints than Warhol’s work because Lichtenstein’s paintings were like comic book frames. Most framed posters you see around are the reproductions of Lichtenstein’s work. Pop-art shows that everyday life and high art are fused today. And that has been true for 50 years.

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