this issue contains
>> Susan Davidson on Jackson Pollock
>> German Painting booming in the US.
>> Europe and the New York School
>> American Artists in Berlin

>> archive


That was true of the party scenes with Mercedes and Herbert Matter – Pollock’s psychosis is viewed as glamorous and Abstract Expressionism as psychologically motivated. But what you see in the work is how much he’s interested in the figure.

Jackson Pollock, Untitled, ca. 1944
©Pollock-Krasner Foundation / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2004

In organizing the exhibition, one of the surprising things was the amount of figuration in the work, even when the work is abstract. The catalogue shows that he never really leaves that behind.

By late 1947, Pollock abandons references to figuration, changing his surface to "all-over" abstractions. What was the largest drawing he did?

He never went past 23 x 30 inches. There are smaller ones, 6" x 7" and 10" x 14", because he was dividing the paper into fours and eights. Gorky did life-size and larger drawings.

Where did the title of the Deutsche Guggenheim exhibition, No Limits, Just Edges come from?

From the artist. It came from notes an interviewer made with Pollock.

What was the toughest thing to accomplish in the show?

Getting the loans. People are protective of their Pollocks. There are 50 works in Berlin and 78 works in the catalogue. The show travels next to Venice.

What was Pollock’s working methodology?

We have no sense of how Pollock worked, if he worked simultaneously or went from one finished work to another or did drawings and then the next three days works on canvas. In the research, there was absolutely nothing about the drawings other than the quote that he didn’t do preparatory drawings.

Jackson Pollock, Untitled, 1943 Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice
©Pollock-Krasner Foundation / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2004

Can you talk about the relationship to Pollock’s early "emotional misery" growing up in the Great Depression with a father who "considered himself a failure" and an overbearing mother? Did this fuel the myth?

We think of Pollock as a tortured individual who expressed himself with amazing pictures. It’s our way of accepting his radicalness. He talks about his traumas, but it’s not the only thing in the work.

Jackson Pollock, Easter and the Totem
©Pollock-Krasner Foundation / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2004

There’s a large painting that’s an enamel drawing called "Portrait and a Dream" from 1953, in which there are two split events in one canvas.

He’s casting around, asking what’s next. Those pictures go back to the surrealist activities. Easter and the Totem is very surrealistic, as is The Deep, which is abstract. It’s a funny time that’s unresolved, because he died. The drawings in the show from 1951 have that bifurcated activity where one side is abstract and the other side figurative.

Actually, it was a design for an arts manual. It’s quite a beautiful drawing, foreshadowing Portrait and a Dream. It’s more dream-like, offering a level of the unconscious.

By the late 1940s, Pollock’s oils on paper are "all line and all space", offering an optical buzz. How does this relate to the early days of TV?

TV was part of his awareness, but whether he actually owned a TV set, I don’t know. Pollock was very aware politically, but the work suffered from the demands of alcoholism.

Jackson Pollock, Untitled, Green Silver, 1949
Solomon Guggenheim Foundation, New York Gift of Barbara Slifka
©Pollock-Krasner Foundation / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2004

What’s your take on Pollock’s relationship to the landscape, especially in reference to Thomas Hart Benton and Albert Pinkham Ryder?

Landscape was in his work from the beginning. By the time you get to the poured series, for instance Sounds in the Grass, which he shows at Peggy Guggenheim’s in 1946, the landscape is embedded in him.

Where does Pollock’s link to Benton disintegrate?

About the time he meets John Graham, who’s an important figure in his life, introducing him to Picasso and primitive cultures in the late 30s.

That’s when Pollock switches to a more European sensibility. In what way did Clement Greenberg’s declaration that Pollock’s work was an “all-over composition” oversimplify Pollock?

It gave of us an easy way to identify Pollock’s achievements. Greenberg doesn’t champion Pollock past 1947.

Why is it important to identify Pollock’s work with "Western Gothic", perhaps by way of Carson McCullers or Eudora Welty and their use of the grotesque?

Jackson Pollock, The Mask, ca. 1943 private collection
©Pollock-Krasner Foundation / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2004

When you think of Pollock growing up in the Depression, it was a very Gothic time. Literature had a more far-reaching impact to the public than painting or movies.

With the Hans Namuth photographs and film there’s almost a commercialized attempt at packaging Pollock. Namuth’s work functions as a memento.

It was from the minute it was made. Pollock was uncomfortable about the whole thing. How do you see the role of his "Psychoanalytic Drawings"? He gave those drawings to his analyst Joseph L. Henderson, who was a follower of C. G. Jung.

Those drawings are based in Picasso; he’s working through figuration. They weren’t done during analysis, which everybody always blurs – they were done when he was looking at Guernica. There was a Picasso retrospective at MoMA. They’re a continuation of his determination to draw; they immediately lead into surrealism.

In what way was documenta 2 critical for Pollock’s success in Europe?

Pollock’s first moment in Europe was in 1948, when Peggy Guggenheim took her collection to Venice and showed it in the Greek Pavilion of the Biennale. Pollock was a bit of a darling. This reinforced Peggy’s determination to get Pollock a show in Europe and she spent the next two years very intently involved in that goal. In the letters she wrote to Herbert Read in 1945 and 1946, she discusses getting Pollock a show in Europe, writing: "Pollock may well sometime be as well-known as Miró… His painting is rather wild and frightening and difficult to sell… I would like Pollock to have a show in London." This was something she was really after and she finally succeeded in 1950. She recognized Pollock needed to be seen in Europe.

[1] [2] [3]