Abstract Expressionism is a tough period to get into as it changes the way we look at art. For a long time art was for patrons. A wealthy person or organization commissioned the artist to do something specific and paid them for that.
abstract – existing in thought or as an idea but not having a physical or concrete existence.
expressionism – a style of painting, music, or drama in which the artist or writer seeks to express emotional experience rather than impressions of the external world.
The definitions of the two words give us a better insight of what to expect.
With Abstract Expressionism, the work is about the artist creating for himself. The basic idea is that the artist would use the medium to simply use the medium. To let the work define itself as it was happening. For the every day viewer, seeing abstract art doesn’t give you anything to hold onto, nothing to relate to in terms of subject matter. That being said it IS something that once I understood the point of view of the artists, I appreciated. I am not sure if the work itself is meant to do much for the public as it seems as though it’s all about the artist, at least as I see it.
In the case of someone like Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline or Willem De Kooning, he would simply be painting to paint. To be using the brush and paint to express what he was feeling in that moment in an abstract way; “expressing” themselves. I have tried this and as an artist it is actually very satisfying personally, but I’m not sure how others would respond to the work.
So you may not be able to relate to the art itself, but maybe you can look at the artwork and try and see what the artist was feeling at the time.