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Lesson Plans

Pollock Digest

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Tom March (tmarch)
Mon, 12 Aug 1996 19:33:42 -0700

Thanks to all those who provided opinions and insights on Jackson Pollock.
As you might remember, a quirk of the online world turned me up as a worthy
person to comment on the 40th anniversary of Pollock's death for Australian
radio. The controversial purchase of Pollock's Blue Poles by the
Australian national gallery back in the 70s (for over 1 million dollars)
began a debate on Pollock, art, the value of art for the Aussie culture
that apparently continues.

I queried this list for your opinions on Pollock and what follows is a
digest of those opinions. I appreciated the range of comments,
particularly from those individuals who are Australian, work in museum
education or expose students to Pollock. The radio interview was aired at
about 5:15 AM Sydney time and I only stuttered three or four times ;-)

I feel I've made some pleasant, useful, and interesting connections via
this little project. Once again I've learned that the Internet is a
powerful and friendly community.

Opinions on Jackson Pollock from ArtsEdNet subscribers:

* * *
In response I would like to avoid many of the cliches about why?
My reaction is that there is a sense of spontaneity and directness which
I find exciting His work is about painting, not paint used to create the
illusion of something else. His work is appreciated by people who have
some commitment to what they see. It has taken me the past fourty years
of my life to get past thinking "what is it supposed to mean? and taking
it for what it is. As an artist I have had fun and frustration trying to
work in a similar manner
Jerry Deasy

* * *
Being an art teacher in Australia gives a particular perspective on Blue
Poles. At the moment I teach in south Western Sydney and each year we
visit the National Gallery at Canberra. We normally book two coaches and
take the senior students. This involves a three hour plus bus trip each
way so it is a bit of a pilgrimage for them. When we discuss the trip
with the students they all know the Gallery as the home of Blue Poles. It
is the work that is most easily identified with the Gallery, I have a
feeling that wherever you are the students identify one artwork in
particular with a gallery. Blue poles also generates debate, standing in
front of the work students always ask questions about it as an artwork,
why it is worth so much and what they think about it. Its very nature
the way it was obtained and its value evokes a response.
Miles Cantwell

* * *
>1) "Who was he?" (how his work fits into the parade of artistic styles)
Sometimes known as Jack the Dripper - the artist my students would most
like to imitate or at least try - we have and it is great fun

2) "why was he an important artist?" (in the context of modern art and life
>in general) gave crediability to new freedoms in creating- allowed some
artist who had used techniques to come out of the closet so to speak

3) "why will he be remembered in the years to come?" (Why his paintings
>fetch such prices) his work was sincere and that reads true - something is
only worth what someone is willing to pay for it regardless of what it is-
JP communicates his sincerety to many people on many levels.
Lindagrace Stephens

* * *
Tom: On Pollock (and please note that his name has two Os; it's a
common misspelling): His name and reputation have enjoyed such
vitality because he was a serious, intelligent (if not particularly
articulate) painter whose work caught the attention, curiosity, and
bewilderment of the general public. His work was rooted in such
diverse influences as his teacher Thomas Hart Benton, and Native
American imagery (e.g. masks). He emerged and matured in the late
40s when the New York (U.S.) art world was bent on establishing
primacy on the international scene, as the U.S. had established
itself as a political world power. His work (as of others in the
"school" of Abstract Expressionism) served the purpose of being
sufficiently new, different, intellectually challenging and
emotionally engaging [at a highly esoteric level] to assert U.S./New
York leadership in the art world.

Beyond its easy dismissal by casual viewers (and, worse, by those
who have seen it only in reproduction), his work is solid, worthy of
serious and extended examination, provocative and enriching. As
with all good art, it poses questions and raises awareness levels
for the viewer.

The long-assumed hegemony [now there's a word not often heard on
talk radio in the U.S.! Try it on the Aussies] of the
male-dominated AbEx-based art movements of the post-war decades is
now being challenged by recent scholarship and a new generation of
stone-turners. Not that the historic realities of the dominance
will dissolve; rather, there is growing awareness of the validity of
alternative currents, hidden voices, related but not limited to the
recognition of the art of women and people of color. I think that
the work of Pollock will be seen by future generations as less
shockingly revolutionary than it was considered in its own time, but
nonetheless influential in its impact on stirring popular notice and
inquiry about the nature and value of art.
Patience Young, Museum of Art, Stanford

* * *
>1) "Who was he?" (how his work fits into the parade of artistic styles)

Pollock is remembered as an Abstract Expressionist (from the so-called "New
York School") but his works has roots in Surrealism (of the Max Ernst,
Matta & Arshille Gorky variety, rather than Salvador Dali) and Mexican
Mural Painting (Orozco, Rivera and Siqueros).

2) "why was he an important artist?" (in the context of modern art and life
in general)

In the context of modern art, he broke 3 major traditions of painting
(dating back to the Renaissance):
1. Easel painting: on a vertical, pre-stretched canvas or rectangular
board (Pollock painted on unstretched canvas on the floor and created his
edges afterwards.)
2. Artistic control by physical contact with the painting's surface, with
brush, hand or other implement (Pollock let paint drip and splash onto the
3. The imaginary window: Since the Renaissance, western painting had been
based on the illusion of space "inside" the picture. Even abstract painting
(e.g. Kandinsky & Mondrian) has remnants of this, because the human brain
seeks references to 3D space even when there aren't any. (Pollock's later
paintings created a "web" of paint that appears to sit IN FRONT of the
picture plane.

In the context of life in general, its harder to say, although see my
answer to 3, below:

3) "why will he be remembered in the years to come?" (Why his paintings
>fetch such prices)

Pollock was the FIRST (as far as I am aware) to do these things (at least 1
& 2 anyway). He also had a "free" and open approach to abstract art,
compared to European abstractionists of the same period, such as de Stael
or Bazaine. Some art historians have made a connection between the wide
open spaces of the USA (where Pollock came from) and his art on the one
hand, and the more enclosed, structured spaces of Europe and European
abtraction on the other. Hmmm, there may be a connection with Australia
there... In Australia specifically, he will be remembered because the Whitlam
Government caused a stir in 1973 (?) when they paid $1.3 million for "Blue
Poles" for the Australian National Gallery, a previously unheard-of price
for an art work here (certainly for a non-Old-Master).
Jonathan Cooper

Tom March San Diego State University
Education First - Pacific Bell "Fellow"
(619) 594-4402 tmarch

There is nothing more important than
the right-rearing and education of children.
-- Michel de Montaigne