November 24, 2011

The Art of Jackson Pollock

Jackson Pollock (1912 – 1956) was born in Cody, Wyoming. He was one of the first American painters to become an international star and he lived up to the “rock star” reputation with living recklessly and drinking excessively. He was famed for his notorious drip paintings, including his nickname from Time magazine as “Jack the Dripper”.

(Pollock, Jackson. Blue Poles, Number 11. c. 1952. oil on canvas. National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.)

In his youth, Pollock studied traditional art at the Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles. He then moved to New York and studied at the Art Students League under Thomas Hart Benton from 1929 to 1942. Soon after, he leaned toward the surrealistic style. His early work had very expressionistic strokes but, he became more interested in the act of painting itself. This action then became the subject matter as an expression of his isolation in the modern world.

(Pollock, Jackson. Eyes in the Heat. c. 1946. oil on canvas. Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice.)

Pollock began making his drip paintings in 1947. They established his reputation and completely revolutionized the process by which a painting was supposed to be made. Instead of using an easel, he laid the canvas on the floor. He then moved over the canvas and splattered or dripped paint onto it, sometimes directly from the tube or can. Instead of using brushes, he dripped the paint from a stick, poured it, flung it or smeared it. He also used strange objects to scratch into the surface or to create a thick crust of paint.

(Pollock, Jackson. Lavendar Mist, Number 1. c. 1950. oil on canvas. National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.)

Pollock soon became a leader in the Action Painting and Abstract Expressionism movements as he paved the way for other artists to express themselves in this style. He also revolutionized the idea of composition by creating pieces that had no focal point. No one shape or object was the main focus, he treated the edges and the center the same as if all parts of the painting were equal. They were pieces as Pollock said, with “no beginning or end”.

(Pollock, Jackson. Convergence. c. 1952. oil on canvas. Albright Knox Gallery, Buffalo, N.Y.)

Pollock’s career was cut short by his untimely death when he died in an automobile accident but, he main a colossal impact. He turned the art world on its ear both in the United States and in Europe, forcing western society to once again as the question of “What defines a Piece of Art?” and his work is much appreciated here!

Enjoy! :)

Reference: King, R. Art. New York: Dk Publishing. 2008.