Monday, December 28, 2015

Feeling Unsettled? Jackson Pollock is the Cure.

(Jackson Pollock Mural)
The mad dash to get ready for the holidays and the whirl of activity which follows always leaves me feeling a bit scrambled. That and the fact that I'm reading "The Muralist" by Shapiro gave me an urge to feature Jackson Pollock the "slash and drip" artist in my blog. I'm using two sources almost exclusively so you can link for more information.


In the twenty years between his arrival in New York City to study art and his premature death, Jackson Pollock had emerged as the most original painter in America--famous for his unprecedented physical involvement with the act of painting.

Pollock's first mentor was Thomas Hart Benton. In 1930, Pollock left California before finishing high school to study under the famous regionalist painter at the Art Students League in New York. He was Benton's student for the next three years.

(Pollock's "Thomas Hart Benton" period)
Pollock's 1934 painting of a frontier journey connects his teacher's energetic style to his own roots in the American West: the scene may have come from a family photo of a bridge in Cody, Wyoming, where Pollock was born. The abstract swirling patterns evident in this landscape help illustrate why Benton boasted that with him Pollock had found "the essential rhythms" of art.

Jackson Pollock, Untitled, 1933-1938, pencil and colored pencil on paper, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Anonymous Gift, 1990 (1990.4.8ab) © 1993 by The Metropolitan Museum of Art 

Pollock's sketchbook, containing more than 500 drawings, shows his continued efforts to organize compositions rooted in twisting counter shifts, as Benton had counseled. Pollock's early artistic training focused on traditional historical sources. Benton made his students study and reproduce the planar dynamics of European masterworks.

(During Pollock's "black pourings" period -- Murals)
Pollock preferred the fluidity of commercial enamel house paints to the more viscous texture of traditional oils. This choice allowed him to weave a more intricate pictorial web, flinging swirls of paint onto the canvas.

Total physical involvement of the artist defines this "action painting." Pollock spread canvas on the floor in his barn studio, or on the ground outside, and then splashed, dripped, and poured color straight from cans of commercial house paint. It was essential, he said, to "walk around it, work from all four sides, and be in the painting, similar to the Indian sand painters of the West." 

His friend and patron, the artist Alfonso Osorio, described Pollock's artistic journey this way: "Here I saw a man who had both broken all the traditions of the past and unified them, who had gone beyond cubism, beyond Picasso and surrealism, beyond everything that had happened in art....his work expressed both action and contemplation." 


Two more works-in-progress on my latest "Stir Fry" oil on canvas.