Mid Modern Visual Art

So many different styles, so little time!

Introduction Mid Modern Transcript (PDF)

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

Abstract Expressionism

Abstract Expressionism

Required Link above

"Shellflower" Lee Krasner 1947

“Shellflower” Lee Krasner 1947

  • 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? (optional link)

Jackson Pollock (American) 1912-56 (optional link)

Pollock Transcript (PDF)

    • 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

Required Video
How Jackson Pollack painted

Lee Krasner (American) 1908-84 (optional link)

Krasner Transcript (PDF)

  • 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 (optional link)

De Kooning Transcript (PDF)

  • 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 (optional link)

Rothko Transcript (PDF)

  • 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)

My take on Rothko – (optional)

Helen Frankenthaler (American) 1928 — 2011 (optional link)

Frankenthaler Transcript (PDF)

  • 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)




“Vertical Foliage” Alexander Calder










Alexander Calder (American) 1898-1976 (optional link)

Calder Transcript (PDF)

  • 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 (optional link)

Noguchi Transcript (PDF)

  • 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


“Monogram” Robert Rauschenberg 1955-59

Assemblages Transcript (PDF)

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 (optional link)

Rauschenberg Transcript (PDF)

  • 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

Nevelson Transcript (PDF)

  • 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

Above video link is required.


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 (optional link)

Warhol Transcript (PDF)

  • 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 (optional link)

Lichtenstein Transcript (PDF)

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

Claes Oldenburg and Coosje Van Bruggen (American) 1929 — ? (optional link)

Oldenburg Transcript (PDF)

  • 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 – Optional links

Marisol Escobar (French-born American) 1930

Keith Haring (American) 1958-1990

Robert Indiana (American) 1928-  Note – be sure to look at his sculptures.

Op Art

Op Art


“Vega 200” Vasarely

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








Op Artists

Op Art Transcript (PDF)

Optional Links below

Victor Vasarely  Hungarian-French (1906-1997)

Bridget Riley  British (1931-)

M. C. Escher  (1898-1972)

Minimal Art

Minimal Art


Minimal Transcript (PDF)

‘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.

Guggenheim Collection of Minimalism

Photo Realism


Required video below.

Optional links below

Conceptual Art

Conceptual Art  –  

Required link – browse the article and collection of conceptual art.

Conceptual Art Transcript (PDF)

"Untitled" Dan Flavin 1976

“Untitled” Dan Flavin 1976

Out of the tradition of Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain, 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.


Conceptual Artists – optional links

Lawrence Weiner American (1942 – )

Rebecca Horn  German (1942)

Marcel Broodthaers  Belgian (1924-76)



Fluxus was an interdisciplinary, multi-national collection of artists that were highly experimental and creative. The group included visual artist, musicians, designers, and architects, but also included theologians and mathematicians. Like their Dada predecessors, they were anti-establishment art and embraces the absurd. Out of their work, video art was invented and credited to Nam June Paik.

Required Video – Fluxus, a Short Documentary



Optional links to artists below

George Maciunas

Nam June Paik

Yoko Ono


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