I am a huge fan of conceptual art, and I’ve always loved Marcel Duchamp. No-one can accuse me of being an art philistine. But when it comes to Jackson Pollock, I am not only left cold but in fact I often feel as if I’ve been cheated. I feel like the stereotype of the art rube who says “My kid could paint that!!” How is this possible?
I fully understand everything people have said about the paintings, and to all of the ‘explanations’ I simply shrug. Sure, the gestures aren’t random. That’s obvious. Apparently he started with figurative and narrative sketches and rapidly covered them up. Okay, big deal. The paintings capture his energy and the ‘action’ of painting. Each is a document of the exorcism of his inner demons. Again, big deal.
As far as conceptual art goes, all of that is pretty lightweight stuff. Even in the 1950’s pure abstraction wasn’t new or innovative. How many “styles” of the same conceptual statement need to be made? Kandinsky was doing the same thing more than a generation earlier — how is Pollock’s work any different from Kandinsky’s conceptually?
Ultimately, I suspect that Pollack is the first truly American “art star”, an artist whose story and historical moment transcends the work. His work embodied the postwar American spirit so well that he was easy for many Americans unfamiliar with abstraction to attempt to grasp. As “challenging” as his work was, America was ultimately ready to at least pretend to like his work — understanding at long last that it was terribly tacky to not appreciate abstract art.
I was inspired to think a little bit about my attitude towards Jackson Pollock because of a strange coincidence of events. First, my recent posts about qualitative and quantitative research reminded me of a recent scandal in the art world, where a computer scientist seemingly trumped the opinions of several traditional art experts regarding the authenticity of several would-be Pollock paintings. he used a computer program to analyze newly-found paintings as compared to Pollock’s other works to determine if these new works were genuine (the program said they are not).
Second, I just saw Orson Welles’s last film, F is for Fake, a truly strange documentary about a painter who may or may not be responsible for forging a huge percentage of the works of many leading artists seen in the world’s leading museums. He did not copy famous artworks, he made completely new works in the style of famous artists, and the “experts” regularly concluded that his creations were the real things.
Finally, I recently found jacksonpollock.org (concept by Miltos Manetas and work by the guys at Stamen), a fun Flash site that basically lets you paint like Pollock. This image is my own Pollock.
my favourite writer david antin talks about his early art criticism essays in which he defends the role of the artist as obstacle. if we think about a definite distinction between ‘art’ and ‘life’ (which i think that a consumer-driven society makes) then we see that the relationship between ‘art’ and ‘everyday’ can only be reclaimed by the artist becoming an obstacle to the spectacle of art as transcendental. i’m not entirely sure if i want to apply this specifically to pollock — i’d need to think about it a bit more — but the argument of ‘anyone could have done that’ should, in my opinion, be a compliment to an artist. everyone should be making art, should be making art as they make their everyday.
strudel: I’m okay with art that is technically easy to make. As far as everyone making art, well, that’s what YouTube is for.
[…] Today is Jackson Pollacks’ birthday…. why not celebrate it by making a Pollack-inspired piece of artwork? I found this nifty place where you can make your own Pollack-esque digital art. Just drag around your mouse and virtual “paint” drips and runs where ever you move your mouse. To change colors, simply right-click your mouse. Fun! Or, if you have some extra paint on hand, try it out yourself. Jackson liked to use house paint. (I have enough leftover house paint to make enough splatter art to fill the Louvre). […]
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