Visione Artistica: Jackson Pollock in his internal battle

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Figure exponent of Abstract Expressionism, Pollock was one of the first American painters to be compared in life to masters of European art after much negative criticism (this life is not so easy). He was born in 1912 in Cody, Wyoming, but his artistic career began in 1928 at Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles where the painter and illustrator Frederick John de St. Vrain Schwankovsky presented to the Theosophical Society, a group of studies psychic phenomena and religions Eastern, the theosophical ideologies influence his work for many years.

After moving to New York, Pollock enrolled at the Art Students League and studied there live model drawing, painting and composition with the regionalist painter Thomas Hart Benton. During the Depression, he worked for the Federal Art Project as an easel painter. The production of this period consists mainly in figurative scenes of typical American theme: pictures of Cody and landscapes of the American West.
An important moment in the trajectory it was in the workshop of the Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros, who introduced the new materials (the ink enamel paint and lacquer) and techniques (sand or sprayed paint on canvas).
“My paintings do not have a center, but depend on the same amount of interest throughout.” Jackson Pollock 

Pollock fought a long battle with alcoholism and depression, in 1937, was admitted for 4 months in a psychiatric hospital where he underwent a Jungian analysis, but it could not cure him. Then in a shift towards abstraction, he incorporated in its painting elements of Spanish modernists like Picasso and Joan Miró, as well as techniques learned from Siqueiros. His first work of large dimensions, Wall (1943-1944) already is a prelude of the style that was to come: the figuration is abandoned in favor of a linear gestural abstraction and automatic representation of subconscious imagery.

In 1942, Pollock met Lee Krasner, a Jewish contemporary artist and an established painter in her own right, at a party. She later visited Pollock at his studio and was impressed with his art. They soon became romantically involved.

Pollock married the artist Lee Krasner in 1945, who has always supported her husband and who has battled for his promotion in the art world while he drank incessantly or painted in his studio. The couple bought a farm in East Hampton, Long Island where the barn was transformed into a large studio where Pollock would do great works.


Disposing of space to work in large formats, Pollock opened a canvas on the floor so that he could access it from all four sides, then poured or dripped paint with a stick or spatula. Walking on the canvas with a paint can in his left hand (he actually became part of the work) used the right to spray in the manner of natives who he had seen painting with sand. The process could take weeks due to the contemplative pauses and applying successive layers of enamel paint, sand or glass. Pollock believed that painting had its own life, but the final product always depended on the willingness of the artist. I love this process and use it to make lots of backgrounds for my canvases, it just do not takes me weeks because I’m kind of hyperactive.

In the summer of 1950, the German photographer Hans Namuth Pollock asked if he could photograph him painting. Lee managed to convince him to accept, after the end of the shoot, Namuth suggested filming a documentary, he accepted. A camera was positioned under a glass plate and Pollock was instructed to paint this plate as if the studio.
For someone who valued both manifestations of the unconscious and the intimacy of the act of painting, working under the direction of others as if staging for an audience was very painful for him so much that one night, after a few sips of whiskey, he dropped the dining table where all the guests were seated and turned to Namuth and said: “I am not an impostor!”
I found a good part of this documentary on Youtube that is below:

“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”
-Jackson Pollock, My Painting 
Overwhelmed with Pollock’s needs, Krasner was also unable to work. Their marriage became troubled, and Pollock’s health was failing. He started dating other women, and by 1956, he had quit painting, and his marriage was in shambles. Krasner reluctantly left for Paris to give Pollock space.
Just after 10 p.m. on August 11, 1956, Pollock, who had been drinking, crashed his car into a tree less than a mile from his home. Ruth Kligman, his girlfriend at the time, was thrown from the car and survived. Another passenger, Edith Metzger, was killed, and Pollock was thrown 50 feet into the air and into a birch tree. He died immediately. 
Krasner returned from France to bury Pollock, and subsequently went into a mourning that would last the rest of her life. Retaining her creativity and productivity, Krasner lived and painted for another 20 years. She also managed the sale of Pollock’s paintings, carefully distributing them to museums. Before her death, Krasner set up the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, which gives grants to young, promising artists. When Krasner died on June 19, 1984, the estate was worth $20 million.
“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
In December 1956, the year after his death, Pollock was given a memorial retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and then another in 1967. His work has continued to be honored on a large scale, with frequent exhibitions at both the MoMA in New York and the Tate in London. He remains one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.

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