American painter Jackson Pollock is an enigma to most people, as we all try to understand what Jackson Pollock was trying to do. Jackson was born in Cody, Wyoming on January 28th, 1912, the last place that the art world would expect a world famous and ground breaking artist to come from. As a boy he was exposed to Native American art and this remained a strong influence on him. When Jackson was a young boy the Pollocks’ moved to California where he lived with his family until he went to study art.
In 1929 Pollock went to New York to study art at the Student’s League, learning and then painting in the Regionalist style of the U.S. realist modern art movement. Jackson’s major influences included Diego Rivera, and other Mexican muralists though the 1930’s. Other influences were the Renaissance and the Surrealists like Salvador Dali and Joan Miro.
A TEENAGE JACKSON POLLOCK
In 1939 Pollock saw Picassos’ “Guernica” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He was so impressed that Jackson rejected the American style he had been working in for years. Now he wanted to paint like the Modernists of Europe. During World War II the art world was changing. European artists were leaving their homes for London and New York. Pollock was seeing and meeting European artists, and this was having a strong influence on him. Pollock worked in a semi-abstract way, refining his work by obsessively reworking his pieces.
POLLOCK WORKING IN HIS STUDIO
By the mid 1940’s Pollock was working in his “Drip Painting” method. His idea of “Abstract Expressionism” was seeking out the human vulnerability and irrationality, and expressing concerns of life in the modern society. Pollocks’ “action paintings” were large and often painted on the floor or tacked up on a wall of his large barn studio. The floor worked well for him, as he could work around the painting, using his drip method methodically. He often used brushes but also, knives, trowels and even sticks. He would move continuously and at a rapid pace around the canvas. As like other expressionist artists, Pollock was trying to showcase his feelings, emotions, expression and moods in a piece of art, making art that was free of any distinct designs, marks, images, and having a free movement on the entire canvas. The relation to size was not in any way a point of the painting on which he was working. The size of the canvas was only there by opportunity. Pollock often trimmed or cropped his canvases in order for the image to fit or to work in the overall feature or quality of the artwork.
BIRTH - 1941
By 1949,Jackson was being recognized for his work. Life Magazine featured a story about Pollock, questioning if he was the greatest living American artist. Other magazines like Vogue used Pollock’s paintings as backdrops in fashion shoots. As his commercial success increased so did his acceptance in the art world and to the public.
Not all of Jacksons’ work were well received. His collections of “Black Pourings” exhibited at the Betty Parson Gallery in New York in 1951 failed to impress, not a single painting being sold.
On August 11th, 1956 Jackson Pollock died in a car crash, at the height of his artistic notoriety. Pollock had suffered from alcoholism and had personal struggles with his recognition in the art world, having been raised to “superstar” status.
Leading in to the 1960s, Pollock was regarded as an important figure in the modern art world. He was innovative and avant-garde. Jackson Pollocks’ artworks have sold for millions and are displayed at museums world wide. He has left a strong mark on American painting in the 20th century. Influencing other young artists to push the boundaries of art. Pollock helped draw attention to Abstract Expressionism along with artists like William de Kooning and Mark Rothko. Jackson Pollocks’ importance as an American Abstract Expressionist is tremendous. Pollock’s success helped American paintings and painters compete and be accepted as much as European artists. Pollock created new scale, style, definition, texture and a new relationship with space, size and materials.
NUMBER 1, 1949
We may all take away something completely different upon viewing a Jackson Pollock painting,
though there is no doubt his works are expressions of movement and action, sometimes violence.
I myself have not seen a Pollock painting in person, though I have a daughter that has. She saw Number 1, 1949, along with several other Jackson Pollock paintings, in Los Angeles at The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). Her reaction was strong, saying that the paintings, “had so much depth, many, so many layers upon layers of thick paint”. These paintings left her with the feeling of excitement. Amazed at the large scale of Number 1, 1949, saying the paintings were “cool, breathtaking, spastic and erratic”. She said “Of all the paintings I saw that day, Jackson Pollock’s were among the most impressive and most memorable.”