Abstract Expressionism: A Sublime Rothko And A Load Of Pollocks

Abstract Expressionism, Royal Academy of Arts ★★★★☆

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 22 months ago

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Abstract Expressionism: A Sublime Rothko And A Load Of Pollocks Abstract Expressionism, Royal Academy of Arts 4
Jackson Pollock's works are the stars of this show. (c) The Pollock-Krasner Foundation ARS, NY and DACS, London 2016

Abstract Expressionism is a tricky genre to explore. Yes, it revolutionised how painting was created and perceived, but does it still have the same impact on audiences today? Does the Royal Academy of Arts' major autumn blockbuster succeed in making this genre feel fresh again?

The show starts slowly with very early works from when these painters were finding their feet, followed by the works of Arshile Gorky — who we've never been convinced by.

We liked Lee Krasner's work as well. Courtesy Robert Miller Gallery, New York (c) ARS, NY and DACS, London 2016

But entering the room full of paintings by Jackson Pollock, we were blown away. His works are stunning, and the scale of the pieces overwhelms with their energy. The large work titled 'Blue poles' looks so fresh and vivid, it could have been painted last week.

This ebb and flow continues throughout the show with whole rooms that left us feeling cold — but then we come across the portraits of Willem De Kooning's or Clyfford Still's explosive landscapes, and we fall in love again.

We didn't like this Rothko but there was one that sucked us in and wouldn't let go. (c) 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko ARS, NY and DACS, London

There is a room full of Mark Rothko's work. We've always preferred his darker work, so the lighter ones here don't appeal to us, but one work of red and white on black that really sucked us in.

Half the works here aren't worth talking about, but others are breathtaking. The Pollocks and the one Rothko piece are worth the ticket price alone — they are so good that it's easy to forget about the other works and just stare longingly into them.

It's great to see sculpture in the show but it's all about the paintings. (c) Estate of David Smith/DACS, London/VAGA, New York 2016

Abstract Expressionism is on at the Royal Academy of Arts until 2 January 2017. Tickets are £17 for adults, concessions available.

Last Updated 03 October 2016