November 8, 2010  |  Artists, Collection & Exhibitions, Videos
Jackson Pollock Asks: “Is This a Painting?”

Jackson Pollock. One: Number 31, 1950. 1950. Oil and enamel paint on canvas, 8' 10" x 17' 5 5/8" (269.5 x 530.8 cm). The Museum of Modern Art. Sidney and Harriet Janis Collection Fund (by exchange). © 2010 The Pollock-Krasner Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Pollock at MoMA, uploaded to Flickr on Feburary 11, 2009:

In one of the videos we produced for the current Abstract Expressionist New York exhibition, Ann Temkin, Chief Curator of MoMA’s Department of Painting and Sculpture and the organizer of the exhibition, tells this story about Jackson Pollock:

When he was at his studio in the Springs in Long Island, he asked his wife, Lee Krasner, to come look at what he had done, and he asked her, “ Is this a painting?”—not, is this a good painting, or is this a great painting—he wasn’t even sure […if] it was a painting. And I think it’s something about operating at the edge of that cliff that is so moving, and still today so breathtaking, about what Pollock and his colleagues were doing. They literally were taking painting to a place that they didn’t even know where they were bringing it….

With that one story, I suddenly understood the enormity of the leap that Pollock, Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko, and others had taken into the unknown of what painting could be. I thought about Pollock bending over the canvas stretched out before him, and losing himself in the process of painting—and how it was the process that was meaningful to him. And the outcome, well, maybe it was a painting and maybe it wasn’t.

The Abstract Expressionist artists’ emphasis on materials and process is the reason we created a series of videos on the painting techniques of five painters—Pollock, Newman, Rothko, Franz Kline and Ad Reinhardt.

Even today, more than half a century later, these paintings are difficult. They demand a lot from us. They ask us to stop, to spend time, to get close, to get out of our ordinary habits of looking and to attend to materials, scale, space, and surface in an unprecedented way. We hope that these videos help visitors to recognize the complexity of these works, which often appear deceptively simple.


Sorry! This is not a panting!

That’s right.The paintings are difficult.They expect a lot from us.Are we up to the challenge & the call?Or are we so comfortably numb w/ our electronic toys that give us (relatively)simple satisfaction @ the touch of a button,keyboard,whatever…?.We have lost something special.These artists beckon to a time where they asked much of us.It meant Life or Death to them.

emozione pura

that could be a airplane view and it is great!

I’m delighted! Thank you

it’s a paint, and it’s full of Pollock’s style

HAHA LOLOL da abstrct xprssnistts were funny rite they thought they was bein all novel n whateva but lyk cum on who rly cares bout personal xpression newayz?!?! i think jkson polluck was lyk, a idiot savante or sumthin (n pggy guggenheim was sum ish)

neway i alwayz luv what y’all got goin at da MoMA. stay blessed


LaRae how old are you? You write like your 8 years old. Almost anyone truly interested in art will know that personal expression (not xpression fool, dats n0t doPe) knows that art takes a lot of someone. Art is not to make something ‘pretty’, it is to express ones personal thoughts to do so is to put your thoughts in a painting. Sure you may not understand this in your 8 year old state. Anything can be art as long as it holds yourself inside of it, it is made to express yourself. Don’t ruin that and think of it as a fasion craze or something that’s “Lyk omg dats super duper HOT”.

yes of course ıt’s painting also too Profond and was durchschlagened


LaRae’s unconventional grammar (though not unconventional by today’s standards-I am a middle school teacher, trust me) may not be your cup o’ java, but Pollock’s paintings weren’t to everyone’s liking either. It doesn’t matter if she is 8 or 18, at least she is reading about art on the MOMA site. It’s a start…

Art is NOT about Self expression at all, that iS for 8 year olds. We express ourselves in everything we do, what we buy, wear, eat, drive, how we make love. One cant help but be self expressive in anything we create, however, creative art is NOT about the self.

And this is why art has degraded so badly. The newly rebuilt art Academies that started churning out droves of eager yet ignorant self-glorifying and exhibitionist drivel in the 60s were formed by the mediocrities who taught them. In the arts, those who can do, those who cant teach.

Creativity cant be taught, it must be earned, through living and doing in he real world, not the sheltered and sterile confines of the Academies. Those are over aged childcare centers. but teach conceptual, sub minimal, and self expression are easy to do, and eaten up as anyone can to them at basically the same level, and so receive ones bought art degree feeling one has actually done something. nOt.

Creative art, as defined separately from Fine to please senses of the wealthy, and Contemporary(contempt) to amuse them with “clever’ absurdities, is expressIVE of life. It reflects the world we live in, and is always about Us, never I. It is built of relationships of line, color and structure that create a sense of life, a presence of mind body and soul. It defines who We are, explores nature, and searches for God. It becomes the mythology of where We came from, where We are going, and who We are. Our purpose in life, through responsibility, sacrifice, and commitment. in other words, love. Things banished from the money grubbers at the Academies.

For all your grandiose sentiments, LaRae is closer to the truth than you are Greg. Ditch the degree, and Feel with the eyes. Something trained away in our Academies, by Pavlovian drills that take away independent thought and emotional response, for perceive cleverness and superiority.
LMAO. Hows that teach?

Save the spiritual Watts Towers(Nuestro Pueblo) tear down the self absorbed Ivories

Yes, it may not be to her liking and yes its a start for her, but why must she ridicule another artist?Sure she may not understand the art but is that terms to ridicule someones art? Yes its a start for her..
P.S I’m 15 :/

She is older than you then, unfortunately thats how H and college kids write to be clever. Fads come and go. But she wasnt really be negative at all. Idiot savant means stupid genius. That pretty well sums Pollock up, and he was hit and miss. excellent when the painting worked, but many, even at MoMA dont. AbEx is rather hyped, much is excellent, but america having “won” the war thought it must be the ish. We overrated ourselves, still Euros who were better, like Soulages, Dubuffet, and De Stael. nobody markets better than the ole USofA

Watching this film,it is a completely academic view of art, and has absolutely nothing to do with the work itself. It is trying to capture the artist, to own him, with silly and effete words, to place him on the coffee table and so “understand” what the owner obviously doesn’t get.

There is nothing autobiographical about these works. I dont know the artist at all, and I shouldnt. The artist doesnt matter. He is making something that should trigger emotions in the viewer, emotions We share, the highest common denominator, not the lowest of entertainment, and the lowest of the small sliver of humanity that has the time and money to be into contempt art.

It is not self expression, that Greenbergs stupidity, or peformance, that means nothing. It is an exploration, a battle of layers and relationships to find fulfillment, to find balance, to find a living presence though line, color, and structure, as music does. And why free jazz players were the closest to this, and Coleman used a Pollock on his Free Jazz album.

True creative art is allied to poetry and music, never the prosaic, or academic. Words are but manmade symbols, that can, and are, easily manipulated to say what the manipulator wants, as do the art academies and critics. Art is the visual language, words have no place. If you can describe a work of art with words fully, the artist failed.

Sometimes Pollock did, sometimes he didnt. No one is good all the time. Feel with the eyes, use your enteire brain, not just the tiny segment contempt artistes use, of words, and the so called “intellectual”, that is truly not intelligence. Which is the processing and realtionship finding of the full brain with all the senses. Mind, body and soul. Lose one, and it is crippled. Lose two, and it is retarded. Contempt art uses nothing but absurdist ideas, when theories are what artists work From, not towards.

Save the spiritual Watts Towers(Pueblo Nuestro), tear down the sterile, daycare center Academies, the Bastilles of art.

i have often asked myself what is a painting, and what is an exercise. And is this one of those paintings? When you are not in a certain school, or group, and don’t have connections or a art-historian or acaddemie friend to stand on, and are not doing what is socially popular in art at a certain time, and you can’t tell whether you’ve just made a stain or some new symbolic language, and you have a style but still no gallery, what is it that makes your painting??


Of course this is a painting. Distinctions and boundaries in art are meaningless. Everything is a painting, everything is a sculpture, everything is a song. The medium is not the message.

For Jackson the suface was endless…it was not contained by the canvas. What was the image on the canvas was the intersection of lines, forms and space with the canvas. There is the “seen” and the presence of “the not seen.” that attracts our eye like no other artist.

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