Through his performances of “the circus,” Calder met Mondrian and grew very close to the other artist. It was after visiting Mondrian’s studio that Calder realized he wanted to work in the abstract.1

Abstractism is the opposite of naturalism and realism, which focused on recreating life as accurately as possible through the artist’s medium. Abstract is art that has been paired down to its pure form. It is based on the idea that nature is perpetually in flux and the faster one paints to catch “the moment,” the further the artist gets from accurate realism.4

Surrealism developed out of abstractism as a way to paint the unconscious. Artists were trying to give their work something that photography couldn’t capture; realists just couldn’t measure their artwork up against the accuracy of photography. Thus, European artists developed the style of surrealism, which tried to represent dreams, fantasies, thoughts, and ideas. It was a movement about personal experience.4

The abstract art movement in America didn’t pick up speed until World War II, when many of the famous European artists had to flee their native countries and ended up relocating in New York. Prior to this, American abstract art was primarily political or reflected “American values.” This was known as regionalism.4

Although surrealism was popular, the first real American movement was abstract expressionism, which was rooted in expressing pure emotion through the art as if the medium was a language itself.4

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1Fineberg, Jonathan. Art Since 1940: Strategies of Being. p. 43-51 Second ed.
London: Laurence King, 2000.

4Castaneda, Ivan. Beginning American Modern Art. Contemporary Art. The Art
Institute of Washington, Arlington. 29 Jan. 2009.

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