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Entries in Postmodernism (4)


Where Arts Collide – Movies About Artists – “Pollock”

Ed Harris as Jackson PollockThe IMDB (Internet Movie Database) describes the film “Pollock” (2000) as, “a film about the life and career of the American painter, Jackson Pollock” (1912-1956). In truth, the movie only covers a brief period in the artist’s later life—however it does so brilliantly. Ed Harris directed “Pollock” and also plays the title character in the film. His performance was enhanced by the close physical resemblance he bears to the artist, and by the lengths he took to prepare for the role. Harris read everything he could get his hands on about Pollock, talked to many people who knew the artist, and also set up a studio so he could practice painting in Pollock’s. He truly immersed himself in the role.

Critics largely admired the film for its depiction of the creative process in action, however they felt it fell short of giving us insights into Pollock the person. However, WAA doesn’t agree with that consensus. Pollock himself gave us very few insights into himself, and that’s one of the key points of the film. In an interview, Harris described Pollock as “almost pathologically shy” (except when he was drinking) and that concurs with everything with know about the artist. But there are many issues not touched on in the movie.

During the first sixteen years of his life, Pollock’s family moved eleven times. Alcoholism had long been a struggle for the artist—and he underwent psychiatric treatment for it, beginning in 1937. In 1938, he suffered a nervous breakdown and was institutionalized for four months. He was very heavily influenced by both Jungian symbolism and Surrealism—and by such artists as Picasso, Miró, and José Clemente Orozco.

Jackson Pollock paintingFrom 1939 through 1941, Pollock was in treatment with two successive Jungian psychoanalysts who used the artist’s own drawings in their therapy sessions. Pollack was a WPA Federal Art project artist during the latter years of the Great Depression, and his work was most definitely influenced by Thomas Hart Benton, under whom he studied at the Art Students League. (The film denies any such influence.)

“Pollock” also portrays the artist as executing his “drip paintings” in an almost frenzied way. In truth, he often alternated weeks of painting with weeks of contemplation before finishing a canvas. Despite these omissions, however, the film does give us a believable portrait of the artist’s life from about 1947 until his death. 

Marcia Gay Harden delivers a remarkable performance as Pollock’s wife, Lee Krasner. But the film suggests that Krasner had less time for her own career, because she was so involved in promoting her husband. Such was not the case. Pollock and Krasner both actively pursued their art during their married years, and the influence they had on one another was immense and reciprocal. It’s also important to note that Lee Krasner was one of the few artists to have a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.


Jackson Pollock—Redefining Composition

Jackson Pollock - Eyes in the Heat - 1946 - Oil on canvas, 54 x 43 in; Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice (click photo for larger image)

“On the floor I am more at ease, I feel nearer, more a part of the painting, since this way I can walk around in it, work from the four sides and be literally 'in' the painting.”

These words were spoken by American painter Jackson Pollock in 1947. Pollock (1912-1956) is associated with the introduction of the “All-over” style of painting that avoids any points of emphasis or identifiable parts within the whole canvas. Pollock abandoned the traditional idea of composition as a relationship among parts. The design of his paintings had no relation to the shape or size of the canvas, finished works were sometimes docked or trimmed to suit the image. All these characteristics were important for the new American painting that matured in the late 1940s and early 1950s.


Gerhard Richter

Gerhard Richter - Red-Blue-Yellow - 1972 - Oil on canvas - 59 1/16" x 59 1/16" (150 x 150 cm) - Di Bennardo Collection (click photo for larger image)Gerhard Richter - Paul Valery - (From "48 Portraits") - 1971-72 - Oil on canvas - 27 9/16" x 21 11/16" (70 x 55 cm) - Museum Ludwig, Cologne (click photo for larger image)Gerhard Richter is a pre-eminent post WWII (born 1932) German visual artist, whose youth was marked by the Nazi and Communist regimes in Germany. Richter has simultaneously produced abstract and photorealistic painted works.


A Bold Sculpture By Artist Keith Haring Debuts At Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

Keith Haring, Two Headed Figure. (click photo for larger image)

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art located in Bentonville, Arkansas has recently installed a rare sculpture by 1980s graffiti artist Keith Haring (1958-1990) on the Museum’s outdoor patio area known as Walker Landing.”


Haring was best known for his social activism--and for his artistic focus on the street culture of 1980s New York.