The Dancing Paintings Of Jackson Pollock
Author: Rachele Paradiso
The End Of An Idol
It is 11 August 1956 and a sudden car accident occurs a few blocks away from Springs, in Long Island. This is how, at the age of 44, after having fought alcohol for his entire life, Jackson Pollock, who in that moment was driving his Oldsmobile drunk, died. With him, also two women: his lover Edith Metzger, who died in the accident as well, and Ruth Kligman, close friend of both the artist and his lover, seriously wounded. In that American morning, one of the greatest artists of the 20th century lost his life; a man with a fragile and tormented existence. From that moment onwards, Pollock has become an iconic figure: the artist who shook the concept of painting, easel, and rhythm, revolutionizing the course of art history forever.
Pollock was born in January 1912 in Cody, Wyoming; firstborn of five children, at the age of 18, he moved with his brother to New York, where he followed Thomas Hart Benton at the Arts Student League. He met the artists who animated the American scene in that period: they were young artists who would soon revolutionize figurative art. They were The Irascibles, the excluded artists from the exhibition organized in May of 1950 at the Metropolitan Museum. They sent a letter of protest to the director and curator of the museum, and the New York Times published it right away. The reactions to the protest were diverse and contrasting, but the definition of the “Irascibles” coined by the Herald Tribune was used to call this group of artists ever since. They were: Willem de Kooning, Clifford Still, Robert Motherwell, Adolph Gottlieb, Franz Kline, Mark Rothko, Pollock himself, and many others; they were all born and raised in the USA, yet they had parents coming from different countries. An important retrospective on the artists of the School of New York can be visited until 24 February 2019 inside the Brasini Wing at the Vittoriano, in Rome. The show aims at celebrating the nonconformist aspect of the Irascibles group along a pathway of 50 masterpieces of Abstract Expressionism.
The Relationship With Peggy Guggenheim
A strong bond with Europe joined together the artists of the School of New York, a relation tightened by Peggy Guggenheim, who soon became the protector and patron of the group. In the 1940s, Peggy Guggenheim fled from a Europe torn apart by war, and founded her own gallery/museum in New York “Art of This Century”. The spaces of the gallery soon hosted the works realized by the artists of the School of New York. In spite of the excesses of the artist, Pollock became the favorite of the patron: in 1943, Guggenheim held in her gallery the first solo show of the artist, and then she offered him a contract that would allow him to dedicate only to art and experimentation until 1947.
In the meanwhile, the artist met the woman who then became essential in his life: Lee Krasner. Krasner, daughter of Russian emigrants with Jewish origins, became wife, life partner, and manager of Pollock, as well as a source of inspiration and lifeline for the artist, who has always lived an erratic life. One month after their wedding, thanks to the money bestowed by Guggenheim, they moved to Long Island, where Pollock mastered the unique technique of his most emblematic paintings: the dripping technique.
In the serenity of Springs, Long Island, where he used a stall as his studio, Pollock created the most important artworks of his oeuvre. The huge canvases, inspired by the Mexican murales, were lying on the floor and “painted” with the dripping technique: for the first time ever, a contemporary artist used a horizontal medium to paint; no longer the easel or the wall surface, but rather a support lying above a flat surface that can hold the representation. The fluid color was literally thrown on the canvas, and the brush, replaced by a wooden stick, never touched the surface. The final image, purely abstract, became a means to represent the artist’s gesture and signature. Painting turned into dancing, revived by the ritual tradition of native Americans, dear to Pollock since his childhood. Since the 1950s, Pollock’s canvas have been exhibited at the most important international expositions. Gradually, vivid colors made way for black and white, like in the series “Black and White”.