In 1947 Jackson Pollock arrived at a new mode of working that brought him international fame. His method consisted of flinging and dripping thinned enamel paint onto an unstretched canvas laid on the floor of his studio. This direct, physical engagement with his materials welcomed gravity, velocity, and improvisation into the artistic process, and allowed line and color to stand alone, functioning entirely independently of form. His works, which came to be known as “drip paintings,” present less a picture than a record of the fluid properties of paint itself. Though self-reflexive in nature, they readily inspire larger interpretations; the explosive, allover expanses of Number 1A, 1948 (1948) and One: Number 31, 1950 (1950) can be seen as registering a moment in time marked by both the thrill of space exploration and the threat of global atomic destruction. During the Cold War, Pollock’s paintings and those of his Abstract Expressionist peers, including Mark Rothko, Franz Kline, and Willem de Kooning, were promoted, in exhibitions toured abroad by MoMA’s International Council, as emblems of the freedoms fostered under liberal democracy.

Pollock came to New York in 1930, as a young art student from Los Angeles. While taking classes at the Art Students League, he pursued a close mentorship with painter Thomas Hart Benton and immersed himself in Surrealism and the subconscious; the mural painting of Mexican socialists David Alfaro Siqueiros and José Clemente Orozco; and the work of Pablo Picasso, including his Girl before a Mirror and Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. For several years, he worked for the Federal Arts Project of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Pollock enjoyed recognition beginning in the early 1940s, with the support of critic Clement Greenberg and collector-gallerists Betty Parsons and Peggy Guggenheim. Under Alfred H. Barr, Jr.’s directorship, MoMA became the first museum to acquire a painting by Pollock, The She-Wolf (1943), out of the artist’s first solo show that year at Guggenheim’s Art of This Century gallery.1 In 1956, at the age of 44, the artist died behind the wheel of his car. His wife, painter Lee Krasner, would do much to further his legacy after his death, including donating major works to MoMA’s unparalleled Pollock collection.

The profound influence of Pollock’s approach—at once emphatically literal and radically open to the world—may be found in the words of his fellow artists. The experimental Gutai group, which formed in Japan in the mid-1950s, cited his work as a crucial encouragement to “impar[t] life to matter” and pursue “pure creativity.”2 In 1958, Happenings impresario Allan Kaprow wrote in Art News in honor of the late artist: “[Pollock] left us at the point where we must become preoccupied with and even dazzled by the space and objects of our everyday life…these, I am sure, will be the alchemies of the 1960s.”3 Nine years later, Minimalist sculptor Donald Judd would write in Arts Magazine, “It’s clear that Pollock created the large scale, wholeness and simplicity that have become common to almost all good work.”4

Introduction by Annie Ochmanek, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Painting and Sculpture, 2016

  1. Varnedoe, Kirk, and Pepe Karmel, eds. Jackson Pollock: New Approaches. New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1999: 10. 

  2. Yoshihara, Jirō. “Gutai bijutsu sengen” (“Gutai Art Manifesto”), Geijutsu Shinchō * 7, no. 12 (December 1956): 202–04. Translated in full, by Reiko Tomii, in Tiampo, Ming and Alexandra Munroe, *Gutai: Splendid Playground. New York: The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, 2013. 

  3. Kaprow, Allan. “The Legacy of Jackson Pollock,” Art News vol. 57 no. 6 (October 1958): 24–26; 55–57. 

  4. Judd, Donald. “Jackson Pollock,” Arts Magazine vol. 41 (April 1967): 32–35; reprinted in Donald Judd: Complete Writings 1959–1975. (Halifax: The Press of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, 1975): 194–195. 

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Introduction
Paul Jackson Pollock (January 28, 1912 – August 11, 1956), known professionally as Jackson Pollock, was an American painter and a major figure in the abstract expressionist movement. He was well known for his unique style of drip painting. During his lifetime, Pollock enjoyed considerable fame and notoriety; he was a major artist of his generation. Regarded as reclusive, he had a volatile personality, and struggled with alcoholism for most of his life. In 1945, he married the artist Lee Krasner, who became an important influence on his career and on his legacy. Pollock died at the age of 44 in an alcohol-related single-car accident when he was driving. In December 1956, four months after his death, Pollock was given a memorial retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City. A larger, more comprehensive exhibition of his work was held there in 1967. In 1998 and 1999, his work was honored with large-scale retrospective exhibitions at MoMA and at The Tate in London.
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Q37571
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Introduction
Pollock was one of the leading proponents of Abstract Expression in the 1940s and 1950s. His art, lifestyle, and untimely death have been elevated to the status of legend. In 1928, he studied at the Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles, and during this time was exposed to European modernism, analytical psychology, and Surrealist automatism. In 1930, he settled in New York, and studied with the Regionalist painter Thomas Hart Benton. During the 1930s he lived in poverty and worked as a mural assistant for the Works Progress Administration Federal Art Project. His work before 1938 shows the influence of Benton, Albert Pinkham Ryder, and the Mexican muralists. In 1938, he was hospitalized for alcoholism during which time he used automatic drawing as therapy. From this, Pollock developed his early style, one of totemic male and female figures and images of eyes or mythic beasts that constituted a personal iconography. A fine example of this period is "Guardians of the Secret," a work of late-Surrealist style and frenetic brushwork that would hint at his later mature style. He met the painter Lee Krasner in 1941, and they married in 1945. Pollock is best known for working methods of pouring or dripping paint onto a large canvas on the floor, moving about it as he worked, the entire art process being a kind of performance. Typically moving from left to right as if "writing" the work, Pollock laid the key vertical and horizontal elements down first, mostly black or white, and then intertwined subsequent colors within it. This method of organizing a space into panels echoes Benton's theories of mural composition. Pollock was one of the first celebrity painters of the Post-War era in the USA, his free-form style and dramatic personality capturing the spirit of the Beat Generation of the early 1950s. He was killed in a car accident in 1956.
Nationality
American
Gender
Male
Roles
Artist, Engraver, Painter
Names
Jackson Pollock, Paul Jackson Pollock
ULAN
500015134
Information from Getty’s Union List of Artist Names ® (ULAN), made available under the ODC Attribution License