Sunday, April 20, 2014


Stereotypes of the way people talk to artists. 

"I don't know much about art, but I know what I like."

"I have this painting in my attic  It's a picture of a girl . . . . and it has all these colors. . . . .  and she has on a red dress . . . . So!!  What do you think it's worth?"   
Jackson Pollock

 I think I'll take a little of the first stereotype and make it mine, because for most of us it's true, said in a somewhat more thoughtful way   I know so little about art and its history or about artists, but there are artists and pieces of art that appeal to me and some that do not.  If I ever conversed with someone who has knowledge on the subject, I'd be  feeling stupid,  so I probably would not give my opinions.   I certainly wouldn't  comment on a work of art to the artist herself.

But . . . when it comes to Jackson Pollock. I have opinions.  He's no longer around to defend himself from the likes of me, nor would he care to, but I'm not the first to question his authenticity.  I find him to have been a sham, a troubled sham perhaps, maybe even an unintentional sham, but nevertheless a sham.  And I suspect he was troubled because he knew he was taking short cuts in making his way through something new, abstract expressionism. 

My first negative words about him were challenged, so I've read a lot and yet my tentacles remain in a fixed position.  What I remember about him that framed my view has come from many sources.  They are that he let paint drip onto, splash onto, or somehow maneuver its way onto his canvases or other surfaces, that he was photographed from underneath as he painted on glass; and that observers claimed that the experience of viewing his painting procedure was more emotionally evocative than seeing the finished product.  His attempts led to the term action painting.

I  call my only attempts at art doodling --  with a pencil  -- in cubes and skewed triangles,  but when I look at Mr. Pollock's work, I don't get it.  I want to see something familiar when I look at a painting, not red and blue and yellow all mixed with black.  I've seen real frosting on a one-year-old's chocolate, decorated birthday cake after she's blown out the candles and begins her assault, and that's what some of his brighter colored paintings resenble.  From an artist I need the creation of a mood,  I need a horizon, a sunset, a cracker-box house, a path in the forest, a mother and child, a self, a  kid at the beach, a pink tutu on a head-down dancer maybe, and especially a rock hanging in midair -- I dig Magritte.  

After I found an early work, Self Portrait, 1934, and a wooden-figured mural called Going West, 1934-35, I realized that Pollock early painted  the world as he saw or envisioned it. You can find his early works HERE  among other paintings.  Did he decide that the path of reality was too full of hard work?  And criticism? I'm sorry that he made a conscious technique choice, I liked his early work.  

Since the choice meant more criticism, it doesn't seem likely that the choice was to avoid it.   Perhaps it was made to elicit criticism, any criticism.   Like a child who misbehaves may act badly to get attention, any attention.  Was this throwing paint just a short-cut gimmick to attention. He was a wannabe artist, but perhaps he was in a hurry to be a wannahavebeen artist.   During the depression he worked on the WPA Federal Art Project, and later, recognizing his alcoholism he underwent Jungian psychotherapy where he was encouraged to work out his depression with his art.  Later psychologists have labeled him bipolar.   

In 1949, after twelve years studying and painting  in New York, Life Magazine  published a four-page spread about him on August 8, 1949, asking "Is he the greatest living painter in the United States?" This article changed his life.  Other artists resented his fame and some critics called him a fraud.  He often questioned his own work, its authenticity, once asking "Is this a painting?' 

HERE and  HERE you can see videos of Pollock at work.

HERE you can see what someone considers his top twenty paintings on youTube. 

HERE you can see a documentary about Pollock's life as an artist

HERE  you can make your own work of art selecting color and movement with the click of your mouse   (site by Miltos Manetas, Readymade Website, 2003)  I did two of these.  Fun, fast and not to be saved. 

To be facetious for a moment,  there was a kind of oxymoronic  practical advantage to his technique choice: 1-his blue period - blue paint;  2-medium - any available (he also used sand and cut glass) ;  3-spilling - painting known as drip painting,  4-utensil for spreading color - any available  --- pail, eyedropper, straw, sprinkling can, pitcher, bottle, garden hose, water pistol --- anything except a brush?  

Actually Pollock often used hardened brushes, sticks, trowels, knives, and even a basting syringe.  There is a question of who developed drip painting, Pollock or Janet Sobol whose works using that method were seen by Pollock. And he used alkyd enamels, the type of paint used for painting houses. Many of his paintings are titled with numbers.   Another technique briefly mentioned in connection with Pollock is pointillism, but pointillism as just another way to drip paint onto the canvas.  Small drips?

Also to be considered, returning to the facetious mode,  were the variations possible using angles enhanced by gravity: floor blobs, wall runs, and ceiling drips (two-for-one with a canvas on the floor.)  This is sounding more and more like kiddie fun and less and less like art.  My point of view is not lonely.  The NYC Museum of Modern Art had an interactive exhibition for kids called
"Let your little Pollock create his/her own masterpiece without worrying about paint splattering all over your sofa.  The kids also look at other wacky ways artists use paint to create abstract art." 

 Wacky?  I guess I'm in good company.

That's why I'm sure there will be comments. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

I encourage you to leave comments. I'll reply to all within a week.