Abstract Expressionism at the Royal Academy

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Despite all remarks and anxieties about Brexit, London continues in its frenzy to dazzle. The Post reveals all the new catalogues for the latest fashion looks. Sloane Street is replete with visitors, albeit with head coverings and jewels mid-morning, and the museums beckon.

None gestures so powerfully as the Royal Academy. In the middle of a building expansion, it is the home right now to the fabulous Abstract Expressionist exhibition. We set out early to be met by our guide to the magnificent exhibition rooms, and were greeted by the 20th century’s greatest works. Post War, post-European, triumphalist, but with a whiff of the horrors of years of war, this exhibition is the moment of American ascendancy artistically and politically. How can one describe the riches of this exhibition? Critics applaud with multiple superlatives, especially in light of the past English dismissal of the artists as too muscular, too brash, too crude and mostly too American.

We walk into the first gallery, greeted by barely born indications of the excitements to come, the first glimmerings of New World inspiration and exploration. Then come the thrusts of light, color, shape, size (giant without being gigantic), emotion and optimism. Rooms open up to Jackson Pollock, Clifford Still (unusually released from the Museum in Denver), Franz Kline, Robert Motherwell, Philip Guston, Mark Rothko (in his most shimmering scintillating colors) de Kooning, Sam Francis, Lee Krasner, Ad Reinhardt, Barnett Newman and less familiar names. The paintings are punctuated by the oddly sensitive David Smith steel sculptures seemingly floating in space. Each room celebrates the spirit of renewal, coming as these artists did out of a world of economic depression and the chaos and carnage of WWII. There is every emotion from elegy to ecstasy.

These treasures glimmer and glow and burst with energy. This is the world of the imagination, pure and inspired. It is a lifetime experience and must be seen. If you cannot fly right over and book at one of the better boutique hotels, get the catalogue edited by David Anfam. It is a revelation. It is not a coffee table book. It is a must read.

Kaaren Hale

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