Abstract Expressionism and Frank O’Hara’s Writing
While researching everything about American cotemporary poet Frank O’Hara, it became very apparent that art was a driving force in both his personal life and his professional writing career. This can be proved by merely trying to find information about him in the literature section in a library. Only his collected poems can be found, but much more information about Frank O’Hara can be found in the art section. Many art books dedicate entire sections to celebrating O’Hara’s poetry as complementary to the art of the abstract expressionist movement that was occurring in New York at the same time that O’Hara was writing his poetry. Even general art books that merely explain the characteristics of different art movements include Frank O’Hara as a contributing factor in the abstract expressionist art movement. It seems he was more significant in the art circles than in his own literary circles.
Much of the new criticism strays away from looking at the author’s personal life and biography as a window to understanding his work, but with Frank O’Hara, his personal friends and life in New York were a predominant and reoccurring theme in his poetry. He was a member of the New York School of Poets, which was a small group that followed in the footsteps of the famous New York School of Painting. This is only one of the many parallels between the art movement and O’Hara’s poetry. By closely looking at the artistic visions of the artists of the abstract expressionism movement, the qualities and themes of O’Hara’s writings, and by uncovering these themes in his poetry, the effect abstract expressionism had on O’Hara’s writings becomes clear and evident.
The abstract expression painters’ work took a drastic step away from their predecessors. The central figures of the movement included Mark Rothko, Franz Kline, Adolph Gottlieb, and of course, Jackson Pollock. Defining their artistic vision is difficult because they were acting out at the very idea of defining artistic ideas. David Anfam, author of Abstract Expressionism, explains that the movement was groundbreaking and resulted in a drastic change in the attitude toward both the past and future of art. The movement ensued with astonishing speed and meticulousness, and Anfam further describes the movement as “at once striking yet inwardly complex” (7-8). The movement found its way into the New York art scene after World War II, and it continued for approximately fifteen years. The painters of the movement were survivors of the Great Depression, World War II, Holocaust, and age of nuclear weapons. This sparked a sense of anxiety and urgency in their painting, a feeling Americans identified with.
There was also a sense of renewal and rebirth at the end of the war era. The artists were searching for a way to step away from the conventional subjects and styles, neither of which they felt were able to convey their new vision. They drew...