Art Informel
“Unformed” art; Europe, 1950s
In 1952 French writer Michel Tapié authored the book Un Art autre (Art of Another Kind) and organized an exhibition of the same name, which included paintings by Karel Appel, Camille Bryen, Alberto Burri, Jean Dubuffet, Jean Fautrier, Ruth Francken, Willem de Kooning, Jean-Paul Riopelle, and Wols, among other artists. Tapié was trying to define a tendency in postwar European painting that he saw as a radical break with all traditional notions of order and composition—including those of Modernism—in a movement toward something wholly “other.” He used the term Art Informel (from the French informe, meaning unformed or formless) to refer to the antigeometric, antinaturalistic, and nonfigurative formal preoccupations of these artists, stressing their pursuit of spontaneity, looseness of form, and the irrational.

Art Informel tends toward the gestural and expressive, with repetitive calligraphic marks and anticompositional formats related to Abstract Expressionism [more], which is often considered its American equivalent. It eventually took root in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Spain, and was known in its various manifestations as Gesture Painting, Lyrical Abstraction, Matter art, and Tachisme (from the French tache, meaning a spot or stain). Artists who became associated with Art Informel include Enrico Donati, Lucio Fontana, Asger Jorn, Emil Schumacher, Kazuo Shiraga, Antoni Tàpies, and Jiro Yoshihara.