Jackson Pollock, Number 14, 1951
Oil on canvas, Overall: 57 3/4 x 106 in.
Tate, Purchased with assistance from the American Fellows of the Tate Gallery Foundation 1988
© 2015 The Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
ModernDallas.net repost of my article.
By now, the Jackson Pollock show at the Dallas Museum of Art has been covered by the local and international press. But because the show is up for another month, I thought I would give my perspective on the show and tell you why it was worth a go. Many of the local art scene people kept urging me to see this body of work. Personally I thought I had seen enough Pollock works to make an informed opinion. However, on their recommendations I went and I am happy I made the effort. These featured pieces at the DMA completely took me by surprise. The focus on Pollock’s black and white works showed a side of him that I was unaware existed.
Personally, I appreciated Pollock without particularly being much of a fan of his work. If I was picking my favorite artist out that era, Rothko and his color field paintings would be my choice. I think Pollock’s paintings pretty much ended the Abstract Expressionist. No one before him had ever reached the automatic painting level that Pollock had achieved and anyone after him attempting the same style and action would have the added weight of history to make those marks which would be a little less heroic and less authentically unconscious. The logical response to Pollock by his predecessors was to create minimalist rather than maximalist images. The Minimalist painters attempted to see how little information could be shown to create and aesthetic experience, while the Pop artists attempted to move away from the hand gesture to machine polished look.
I also see Pollock having a hard time getting out of the shadow of Picasso. Especially in this black and white show, I see his figures influenced by Picasso’s cubism/surreal styles. The depiction of the figure seems to flow through all his work, but the bodies represented in these paintings pop out at you. However, these are simplified and more abstract than Picasso. Much like Willem de Kooning, Pollock worked in the female human form in several pieces. Other times, it is clear in this show that he let his unconscious play with his mark making to make something pretty much nonrepresentational. These works captured my attention the most. Not having the more obvious representational elements in these pieces allowed my imagination run more wild. I thought about all kinds of things that related to memories and objects I have seen, but probably was mile away from his intent.
The curation of the show was an impactful element that build context and a bit of suspense in me. The first few rooms were what I would have expected to see from just about any Pollock show. Complex drip paintings that he was famous for producing. Then you are eased into the black and white works. You can feel his transition going on as you walk through these galleries. Finally, you come across a huge complex drip work in the second to the last room of the show. The beginning and end act as frames that place a context around this period of Pollock’s time working in Black and white. You get the sense maybe this at stripping away for other colors was pollock’s attempt to peel away at the essence of his style. Once he had resolved his getting back to basics moment, he returned to the more layered dripped works, only now with a fresh perspective. I hope you get a chance to visit this show of Jackson Pollock’s work at the Dallas Museum of Art. You have until March 20th, so join the museum as a member or just go buy a ticket. It will be well worth your time.