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Neo-Expressionism


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Movement in painting (and to a lesser extent sculpture) emerging in the late 1970s, typified by intense subjectivity of feeling and aggressively raw handling of materials. Neo-Expressionist paintings are typically large and rapidly executed, sometimes with materials such as straw or broken crockery embedded in their surfaces. They are usually figurative, often with violent or doom-laden subjects, but the image is sometimes almost lost in the welter of surface activity. To some extent Neo-Expressionism marked a return to more traditional forms after the ‘anything goes’ experimentation of the 1970s. Perhaps partly for this reason it was welcomed by art dealers and collectors, but critical reaction to the movement has been very mixed. Several exponents, above all Julian Schnabel, have become rich and famous, but to many critics their work seems deliberately bad, ignoring all conventional ideas of skill; indeed the term ‘Bad Painting’ (from the title of an exhibition at the New Museum, New York, in 1978) has been applied to certain works in the vein (Punk Art and Stupid Painting are alternative terms). Distinguishing between good ‘Bad Painting’ (i.e. that which deliberately cultivates crudeness for its emotional value) and bad ‘Bad Painting’ (something that is just a mess) is an unenviable critical task. Neo-Expressionism has flourished mainly in Germany (where its exponents are sometimes called Neue Wilden—‘New Wild Ones’), Italy, and the USA. Leading exponents include: in Germany, Georg Baselitz and Anselm Kiefer; in Italy, Sandro Chia (b1946) and Francesco Clemente (b1952); in the USA, David Salle (b1952) and Julian Schnabel. See also New Image Painting.

Subjects: Art.


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