White Light is one of Pollock’s last paintings and the only one he completed in 1954. He made it in part by squeezing paint directly from a tube onto the canvas evident in the sculptural white and black tendrils of paint that constitute the top layers. He also used a brush, creating subtle marbling effects by manipulating wet paint in certain areas. Though Pollock was tormented by an artistic block he would never overcome, White Light sparkles, and one reviewer described it as having “a blazing, acrid and dangerous glamor of a legendary kind.”
Gallery label from Jackson Pollock: A Collection Survey, 1934-1954, November 22, 2015–May 1, 2016.
Pollock made White Light in 1954, a year during which he suffered from a severe creative block and related depression and alcoholism. This allover abstract composition, with its light palette shot through with black lines, was the only work he completed that year and is among his last paintings. Revisiting some of his early experiments with paint applications, here he squeezed paint directly from the tubes (both from the nozzle and from punctures he made in the sides of the tubes) onto canvas, creating a textured, sculptural surface. He then edited various sections of the canvas with a paintbrush, smearing and pulling wet paint into marbled patterns. By 1955, Pollock had stopped painting entirely. A year later, he died in a drunken car crash, a tragic end for an artist who made a profound impact on modern and contemporary art, and whose approach to the canvas, as he once said, was “a natural growth out of a need: I want to express my feelings rather than illustrate them.”
Additional text from In The Studio: Postwar Abstract Painting online course, Coursera, 2017