In its edition of August 8th, 1949, Life magazine ran a feature article about Jackson Pollock that bore this question in the headline: “Is he the greatest living painter in the United States?” Could a painter who flung paint at canvases with a stick, who poured and hurled it to create roiling vortexes of color and line, possibly be considered “great”? New York’s critics certainly thought so, and Pollock’s pre-eminence among the Abstract Expressionists has endured, cemented by the legend of his alcoholism and his early death. The famous ‘drip paintings’ that he began to produce in the late 1940s represent one of the most original bodies of work of the century. At times they could suggest the life-force in nature itself, at others they could evoke man’s entrapment – in the body, in the anxious mind, and in the newly frightening modern world.
- Pollock’s tough and unsettled early life growing up in the American West shaped him into the bullish character he would become. Later, a series of influences came together to guide Pollock to his mature style: years spent painting realist murals in the 1930s showed him the power of painting on a large scale; Surrealism suggested ways to describe the unconscious; and Cubism guided his understanding of picture space.
- In 1939, Pollock began visiting a Jungian analyst to treat his alcoholism, and his analyst encouraged him to create drawings. These would later feed his paintings, and they shaped Pollock’s understanding of his pictures not only as outpourings of his own mind, but expressions that might stand for the terror of all modern humanity living in the shadow of nuclear war.
- Pollock’s greatness lies in developing one of the most radical abstract styles in the history of modern art, detaching line from color, redefining the categories of drawing and painting, and finding new means to describe pictorial space.
Jackson Pollock is another artist that I have looked at who seems to condense art and ideas to a very minimal form, yet can still be seen to represent themes within humanity. His art can also be representative of his life, with some of his paintings being extremely overloaded with marks, and others being left very early on with minimal markings and a lot of blank space. I love how his works can show his thought processes at the time, which is something I have brushed upon in previous work as part of “drawing week”. I really do like the idea of art having a personality, which I feel Pollock’s does, but even more so the idea of stripping themes back to their utter most basic form.