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Monday, September 10, 2012

Ingenuity and Surprise in Art

University of Iowa Museum of Art, Gift of Peggy Guggenheim 1959.6
 © 2009 Pollock-Krasner Foundation / ARS, NY

As an artist, it is always a challenge to figure out a way to do something unique, to find that "something" that no one else has ever done before.  It is also a challenge to surprise the art world.  Jackson Pollock was able to do this more than once.  While I know traditionalists revile surprise and change, exploration or experimentation (yet they must recall that even their most favorite forms of art came about as a result of all of these!), I personally find that I tend to gravitate to those artists who are more inventive and interested in exploring.

While his early studies were with Thomas Hart Benton, Pollock's main body of work is a far stretch from the type of technique and style he learned under Benton.  His "drips" were the first surprise.  His method of painting was a second surprise--he worked with a canvas on a floor, using non-traditional tools which included a cooking baster and sticks.

The third surprise may very well have been discovered earlier--but if it was, there is no discussion of it prior to 2009.

The third surprise is...his name embedded within the painting.  Can you see it?  Look at the black lines.  If you start in the upper right, you might be able to decipher "son."  Working back from there, you can find the Jackson.  Then look below.  It is an extremely stylized font, but you can discern the Pollock, hidden in the paint.  Read the article about this discovery.

Marianne Berardi, wife of art writer Henry Adams, author of Tom and Jack: the Intertwined Lives of Thomas Hart Benton and Jackson Pollock, was the first person on record to identify the letters.  Some critics deny that the name is actually part of the painting.  The most likely (to me) theory is that Jackson Pollock painted his name on the canvas and then painted around that work.  I have used a similar method to hide text within a painting.  I have also painted words AFTER I painted the background but the effect is different and the words are much more plain to the eye.  Of course, in the painting below, for example, I wasn't intending to "hide" the words, as I believe Pollock meant to do. This is the reason I believe he put the name first and painted around it.

(c) 2005, SZing. All rights reserved!! "Characteristics of God," Egg tempera on Bristol.
I have admired Jackson Pollock's work for years, before I ever knew anything about him.  What always attracted me was the energy and the colors.  Now, knowing more about him and his methodology, I still consider him a genius.  What I love most is this quote by him:

My painting does not come from the easel. I prefer to tack the unstretched canvas to the hard wall or the floor. I need the resistance of a hard surface. On the floor I am more at ease. I feel nearer, more part of the painting, since this way I can walk around it, work from the four sides and literally be in the painting.
I continue to get further away from the usual painter's tools such as easel, palette, brushes, etc. I prefer sticks, trowels, knives and dripping fluid paint or a heavy impasto with sand, broken glass or other foreign matter added.
When I am in my painting, I'm not aware of what I'm doing. It is only after a sort of 'get acquainted' period that I see what I have been about. I have no fear of making changes, destroying the image, etc., because the painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through. It is only when I lose contact with the painting that the result is a mess. Otherwise there is pure harmony, an easy give and take, and the painting comes out well.--Jackson Pollock, My Painting, 1956

His approach was a definite departure from the accepted methods of his time.  It is a shame that his alcoholism and perhaps, as some suggest, bipolar disease, caused this unparalleled art talent to die at the young age of 44.  I cannot help but wonder what else he might have done and how else he might have impacted abstract expressionism and the modern art world. Learn the basics about Jackson Pollock to increase your appreciation for his works and ingenuity.

P.S.  Don't forget to submit your entry for the give-a-way which ends on the 15th!!

(c) SZing. All Rights Reserved.