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My Take on "Good" vs. "Bad" Abstract Expressionist Art

on October 30, 2023

As a gallerist unafraid to ruffle feathers, I'm compelled to share with you my thoughts on what separates the exceptional from the mediocre in contemporary Abstract Expressionism.

There’s a lot of “art” out there to choose from, and to use an old Spaghetti Western reference, how do you even begin to separate the good, the bad and the ugly? 

Foremost, style consistency reigns supreme. A masterful artist demonstrates a discipline, an obedience and a commitment to their aesthetic. They have developed a distinctive visual language and use it to paint with conviction. When an artist flounders through a variety of disparate styles, it dilutes the potency of their work. 

When I meet an artist who paints expressive abstracts, but also paints pet portraits, and maybe a few landscapes, I am annoyingly uninspired. An artist who demonstrates a range within the Abstract Expressionist genre, however, can be refreshing and shows growth and even the purity of their expressions—a person's mood changes, after all. Lee Krasner is a great example of such inspired diversity (below).

Abstract Expressionist artist Lee Krasner
Abstract Expressionist artist Lee Krasner

Lee Krasner's paintings demonstrating creative range within the Abstract Expressionist style.

That brings us to authenticitythe lifeblood of a compelling Abstract Expressionist painter. Genuine Abstract Expressionists harness raw emotion and uninhibited self-expression. Their creations are infused with a palpable sense of truth and vulnerability. Conversely, those who pander to trends or mimic the styles of their contemporaries produce hollow imitations devoid of substance or soul.

Abstract Expressionist Joan Mitchell

Abstract Expressionist painter, Joan Mitchell, among her authentic and stylistically consistent paintings, 1956.

And then there's technical proficiency. This element plays a pivotal role in discerning excellence (or at least promising potential) from mediocrity. A skilled painter demonstrates mastery over composition, color, and brushwork. I know a good Abstract Expressionist artist when I see one because they consistently produce compositions that both stimulates and satisfy my eye and captivate my mind. Conversely, sloppy execution and amateurish handling betray a lack of talent and discipline, relegating the artist's work to the realm of amateurish dabbling.

The mark of a truly exceptional contemporary Abstract Expressionist artist lies in their style consistency, emotional congruence, authenticity, and technical proficiency. When these elements harmonize, artistic brilliance ensues; when they falter, the result is merely more artistic flotsam adrift in a sea of creative mediocrity.


Pete Stein
Founder, Galerie Stein

Galerie Stein will be presenting several contemporary Abstract Expressionist artists both virtually at and in our gallery in Montreal in 2024.
Contact: Pete Stein at