For a brief time before McCarthyite witch hunts of the 1950s, the city was full of promise.
You could hear Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie forging bebop’s frenetic sound, Billie Holiday’s aching voice or watch Marlon Brando on stage.
The term “Abstract Expressionism” really refers to this specific period, not a particular artistic style.
Instead of painting picture-like images, these artists experimented with different techniques to make marks on canvass. But their approaches differed a lot.
On show are Jackson Pollock’s two most significant paintings Mural (1943) and Blue Poles (1952). He created them on his studio floor using a dripping process.
Franz Kline’s images make you think of blurred photos taken at speed on New York’s streets. They were made using strong black and white swathes of house paint.
It’s also great to see Lee Krasner’s impressive works, but another key woman artist Helen Frankenthaler is under-represented.
Some critics deride the fact that the CIA used their work. Like the jazz records of Louis Armstrong and Dave Brubeck, their works were shipped to Eastern Europe as examples of Western “free expression”.
But that had nothing to do with why these lasting works were created. So enjoy this big show. Look without prejudice at the daring, delightful and vivid work on the walls.
Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BD.
Until 2 January. Tickets £17, under 16s go free royalacademy.org.uk
A Suffragette's song
The Crouch End Players’ new production tells the true story of Kitty Marion, a music hall performer and militant suffragette.
Marion left for the US after the First World War where she fought for women’s right to birth control.
This all woman play blends Kitty’s own words with popular Music Hall songs of the day.
A Suffragette’s Song is a powerful, musical illustration of how women in Britain changed their lives through struggle.
The Supper Room, Hornsey Town Hall Arts Centre, London N8
Go to hthartscentre.co.uk to book