ONE HALLMARK OF great ART is its capacity to concurrently command attention and confound interpretation. Job-related like this draws united state in yet ultimately frustrates our attempt to mitigate the endure to anything prefer a definitive reading. We might call it Zeno’s paradox that meaning: The closer we get, the more numerous and splintered ours frames of reference become. Jackson Pollock’s arts is great, and, unsurprisingly, the interpretative terrain is significant with lot of (sometimes diametrically opposed) arguments. His occupational epitomizes critic Harold Rosenberg’s “action painting” thesis as lot as it satisfies Clement Greenberg’s official imperatives. That triggers Michael Fried to think through opticality while additionally embodying Rosalind Krauss’s concept of base materialism. Pollock’s work-related negates metaphor, per T. J. Clark, while at the exact same time broadcasting postwar American ideology, as Serge Guilbaut maintains. And also all this claims nothing that its influence on makers, the enormously significant modeling of novel scales and method for painting as well as new types of imaginative performativity.
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No wonder, then, the this formidable and demanding practice is frequently analyzed in limited, manageable parts. Traditionally, the paints Pollock do in a amazing three-year operation from 1947 come 1950 have actually garnered the many scholarly, critical, and also artistic attention. This periodthe middle, and some would say apogee, the his careercontains the most noticeable internal consistency, and the dripped abstractions he occurred at this time are benchmarks that twentieth-century art. No the Surrealist-inspired paintings he made before nor the stylistically varied works the subsequently produced have commanded together much collective scrutiny or debate. However thankfully, this has started to change. “Jackson Pollock: blind Spots,” a jewellike show focusing on Pollock’s 1951–53 work, ~ above view with March 20 at the Dallas Museum of Art, is both a sign of this shift and a catalyst for fresh considerations of Pollock. Supplying a penetrating examination of the first couple of years the Pollock’s woefully understudied so late phase, “Blind Spots” is important singular and provides a much-needed possibility to test obtained notions around late Pollock versus the job-related itself.
Bracketed by the months automatically following his one-man display at Betty Parsons collection at the end of 1950 and his accidental fatality in respectable 1956, Pollock’s last phase is fill with daunting work and also has proved recalcitrant to extended analysis. One reason for this is that the paintings and also drawings in that period look and also feel quite different from those the came immediately before. The Parsons present was a harbinger of the transforms to come. In this exhibition, Pollock debuted his many ambitious and most obdurately nonreferential paintings; installation shots present a trio that oversize canvasesAutumn Rhythm: Number 30, 1950; One: Number 31, 1950; and Number 32, 1950anchoring the exhibition. Pour it until it is full the room floor come ceiling, these three significant dripped abstractions conquered the architecture of the collection as lot as they have the artist’s subsequent an essential reception. Your distinctive photographic conflation of figure and ground, their gestural grace and raw, corporeal power, characterized the regards to what we median when us say “classic Pollock.” However, as lot as these paintings embodied the complete promise the the artist’s distinctive pictorial idiom, they additionally exhausted it. The sparest paint in the group, Number 32, 1950, mirrors his vernacular stripped down to its many skeletal, monochromatic fundamentals. In establish this big, black, spidery web, Pollock reached a formal and also technical level zero. Pollock’s wife and closest viewer, artist Lee Krasner, famously said that after this works, the “couldn’t have actually gone further doing the exact same thing.”1 “Blind Spots” choose up in ~ this pregnant moment, assembling the largest group of late Pollocks ever presented in a museum.
In at an early stage 1951, Pollock returned to work by going back to the basics, retrenching to make a team of medium-size octopus drawings. Some of these works are nonreferential, while rather contain figurative elements reminiscent of his previously work. Letters show up in some places, as a kind of cryptoscript. By restricting his palette come one or two colors and also working at a smaller, an ext intimate scale, Pollock explored new directions in one elemental, fairly low-stakes, and also even exclusive way. The Dallas show includes a variety of these drawings, and also one particular pairing supplies an evocative thing lesson in this team of necessary transitional works. Two untitled sheets indigenous 1951 are presented side by side, permitting attentive viewers to identify that this pages were originally stacked one on peak of the other. Due to the fact that of the impressive absorbency of the Japanese mulberry file Pollock offered at the time, the lines and blobs of ink he drew would bleed indigenous the top sheet down with to the one underneath. This created picture on the lower sheet that was a ghost the the first.2 Historically, it has actually been the imagery of these drawings, and the subsequent paints they engendered, that has actually seemed most important, however given the artist’s extreme engagement through devising new way of imagemaking throughout his career, the technical novelties of these works mustn’t it is in overlooked.
In particular, the distinctly Fordist one-after-anotherness of the transfer process should be factored into any assessment that the drawings, and also of the paintings that instantly followed. In this paintings, which Pollock started producing in mid-1951, the subtly yet unmistakably mechanistic elements of the functions on document are accurate writ large. Pour it until it is full a turkey baster through thinned commercial black enamel and also wielding it prefer a huge fountain pen, Pollock worked on long, uncut bolts of cotton duck, making pictures he dubbed “drawings on canvas.” Studio shots from Pollock’s barn the summer show rows of these so-called black pouringsseveral discrete images per size of clothwithin the regular matrix that standard-width canvas. Lock look favor photographic prints hanging in a developer’s darkroom. Copying, doubles, and also seriality course v the artist’s 1951 production, complicating traditional readings the prioritize the uniqueness and also supposedly personal, unconscious expression of the artist’s “return come figuration.” advertise the reproductive logic the underpins the works on paper, the paintings, with their compartmentalized photos regularly put in strips, look together if they had come turn off a conveyor belt: iterations indigenous the Pollock painting machine.
To be sure, some art historians have actually previously found resonances through mass production in Pollock’s work, however the discussion has usually been restricted to his previously dripped abstractions. Ns am thinking of Krauss’s note that summary painters’ occupational bears the “mark that the multiple” and also Clark’s comment on its “robotic” character. William Lieberman notably identified 1951 paintings as “cinematographic.”3 however the partnership of mechanism and mass production to so late Pollock hasn’t been totally analyzed, either historically or theoretically. The late work presents one ample possibility for brand-new investigations in this area. In particular, the means in which the drawings and also paintings that 1951 combine the reasonable of movie (if not precisely that of the “cinema”) are significant and manifold. June of that year saw Hans Namuth premiere Jackson Pollock, the famed film the the artist at work, shot at the finish of 1950. This film both enhanced Pollock’s function as a media star and exposed his signature an approach to extreme scrutiny, with a significant section shot from underneath a piece of glass on i beg your pardon Pollock painted. Even without taking recourse to the biographical drama neighboring the filming (in whose immediate results Pollock take it his very first alcoholic drink in years and also repeatedly, drunkenly dubbed Namuth a “phony”), we know that the experience of gift filmed made a dramatic, perhaps even traumatic, impression on Pollock.
This experience surely notifies much the Pollock’s occupational at this time. Is it as well reckless an practice to review Untitled (Black and White Polyptych), ca. 1950or related works such as his upright compositions indigenous the exact same time or Untitled (Red paint 1–7), additionally ca. 1950as filmic? identified by regular, ruler-drawn, penciled “cels” filled with abstract imagery, these paints recall the continuous spacing and details aspect ratio of movie strips.4 Without, strictly speaking, representing film, this “cels” have an not natural uniformity the bespeaks the repeat character of successive frames and of mechanically reproduction much more generally. Consciously or not, Pollock here echoes a visual layout that to be both personally vivid come him and also universally recognizable. Indeed, it is tempting to view these “filmic” paintings as figuring a details frame within which we can situate many of Pollock’s post-1950 work. By then the artist was all too mindful of himself as a painter “in reproduction”not only due to the fact that his functions were currently being provided as fashion backdrops (as in the images of the Parsons display that Cecil Beaton shot because that Vogue) but also because of how his own photo as example of postwar American personality circulated in fixed media (for example, the renowned Life magazine profile asking, “Is he the greatest living artist in the united States?”). The complicated relationships in between mass media, the spectacle, and artistic production became paramount come American artists in the mid- to late ’50s. Pollock’s job-related here begins some of this investigations.
In his piece “Notes ~ above Gesture,” Giorgio Agamben provides one way to theorize the income of what Pollock’s uniquely gestural methods signified in the larger social field, and also how Namuth’s film crystallized the attending stakes. Agamben suggests that “in the cinema, a society that has actually lost its gestures do the efforts at once to reclaim what it has lost and to record its loss.” despite he definitely wasn’t talking about Pollock specifics Agamben suggests for film’s distinctive capacity to record gesturewhich because that him involves the physical way of human movementand organize it together a repository for a culture mourning part loss. The an tilt argument however seems ache pertinent, together Pollock to be filmed in ~ the an extremely moment his very own gestureso closely identified with his artistic identity the it was called his signature stylewas exhausting itself. Further, Agamben links this concept of gesture through a kind of reflexivityfor him, that is a mise en abyme of self-reflexiveness (“the exhibition the . . . The procedure of make a method visible together such”)that resonates strongly through modernist preoccupations. In this sense, ns can’t help but telescope the facility relation that gesture come the making-visible of method into the movie that renders visible Pollock’s gestural means. Lastly, once Agamben further defines gesture as method without ends (“means that, together such, evade the orbit the mediality there is no becoming, for this reason, ends”), I check out a impressive rhyme v Greenberg’s basic prescription that painting need to pursue the own details means. Greenberg’s ideas were the course renowned to Pollock and indeed, periodically parroted by him.5 while the links in between Agamben’s formulations, Greenbergian aesthetics, and also Pollock’s job-related begs further attention, the Italian philosopher’s name-checking that Kant and his ide of “purposefulness without purpose” seems one pertinent location to start.
If Pollock’s output in 1951 found the artist wrestling v the implications of an individual, expressive subject alienated native his gesturesthrough your entry right into mass media, their mechanistic character, or your zero-degree logic (or a mix of the three)Pollock soon focused on this painterly method as such. This is evident, because that example, in Number 5, 1951 (Elegant Lady). In this big canvas, Pollock explores a panoply of philosophies to mark-making: A ar of somewhat constant dots in the upper-right-hand edge creates an even, diffuse tonality, if the amoeba-like curve in ~ the top left shows just how the dripped mark, if special enough, can assume a figural quality. The looping teardrop forms running vertically left of center delimit form in much more traditional ways, and also the rows of x’s at the bottom leaf veer toward writing. Such experiments with the various ways a mark deserve to signify and performthe method “drawing,” “painting,” and “writing” have the right to all converge and also divergeappear in lot of Pollock’s work-related of the at an early stage to mid-’50s.
Significantly, Pollock had worked in an virtually identical way at another pivotal moment. In the mid-’40s, before completely pursuing the dripped technique in earnest, he made several drawings that videotaped a comparable experimentation with varied pictorial languages. Comes at a equivalent moment in his careerone that transitionthese illustrations reveal an important precedent because that the kind of semiotic consciousness and also formal testing Number 5, 1951 demonstrates. Among these beforehand sheets bears certain mention for its striking commonalities with Number 5, 1951. One untitled 1947 drawing is fill with nearly identical thickening lines, agglomerations of little loops, pictographic forms, crosshatch marks, and also protozoa shapes. Not just is the sheet clearly an instance of the type of “early images coming thru” Pollock defined in the “black pourings” worksindeed, Number 5, 1951 seems favor a readaptation and also expansion into the much more public kingdom of paintingbut it features as an important prototype for the type of an essential formal examinations the Pollock undertook at moment of an excellent upheaval in his approach. This i do not care even much more compelling once we realize the Pollock revisited this specific sheet in ~ this time. Although that had currently signed and also dated the occupational in 1947, Pollock inscribed, dated, and also initialed the drawing again in 1951, demonstrating the he had recently had actually it in hand and also perhaps the he felt the was recently relevant to his existing work. It is feasible that Pollock had actually the earlier illustration explicitly in psychic while paint Number 5, 1951. Their resemblance on levels of type and procedure reveals the Pollock’s methods at connected moments the artistic readjust held constant through his career. These type of operationsas opposed to specific styles or imageryare what eventually constitute the governing reasonable of Pollock’s late production. And yet this is not the prevailing story of these functions in the existing literature.
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The highlight gesture of signing a work twice, and the internal break-up a reinscription implies, foreshadowed points to come. The truth is that even as Pollock explored new directions, all of his occupational from 1951 on to be pervaded by acutely self-aware retrospection. If the artist’s “black pourings” married beforehand imagery v novel techniques, the occupational that immediately followed witnessed him revisit the dripped abstractions that had actually made him notorious. These latter-day drips went on check out at Sidney Janis gallery in 1952; an ext than half of the works in the exhibition space gathered in Dallas. Convergence: Number 10, 1952 and Number 12, 1952 space the largest and also most ambitious canvases of this new group in “Blind Spots” (Blue Poles: Number 11, 1952 is the third significant piece native this time but, unfortunately, didn’t travel from Australia). Convergence most clearly shows how Pollock would certainly rethink the terms of his former production. Far from a nostalgic reprise, this revisitation fiercely detourned his past idioms. Comprising two formally unique registers, the painting started as a typical black pouring, and also an explicitly figurative (though overworked) picture characterizes the very first layer. Pollock then submerged this project beneath a marbled network of dripped pools of fancy paint, together if come overlay a painting from 1949 on optimal of one native 1951. Choose oil and water, this layers defeat each various other in formal disassociation.6 Convergence is photo of the current occupied by a previous that, back pervasive, can never be incorporated or assimilated. In this height layer of dripped paint, Pollock literally damaged the spectrum into its fundamental parts, laying under the three main colors v the 2 neutrals, black and also white. In a return to a kind of chromatic fundamentalism, Pollock started working with unmixed and undiluted color. In comparison to both the natural, “autumnal” palette of the 1950 dripped abstractions and his more recent penchant because that austere blacks, the five colors right here look artificial and also disjunctive. When human being refer come the proverbial “colors not discovered in nature,” they room referring come colors that are uncovered in a store.7 this are manufactured colorsready-made. In Convergence, chromatic dissonance rather than organic harmony prevails: shade is consciously presented as something provided rather than controlled, as material truth rather than metaphor. If elements of the past are come reappear in the present, Convergence seems to argue, they would do so disassembled and also separated, if not additionally ironically.