Jackson Pollock

Written by Blaire Chandler-Wilcox
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Jackson Pollock (American 1912-1956) had an inestimable impact on the world of art. Inspired by the surrealists, and particularly by Picasso, Pollack developed a unique style, a vigorous attack on the canvas, which required new terminology ("action painting") to describe. He was perhaps the greatest of the American abstract expressionists: artists that strove to express, rather than illustrate, emotion. He believed in the elimination of everything except the essential. His work is raw, full of rage, and excruciatingly beautiful.

Jackson Pollock was born angry. Trapped and strangled by the umbilical cord during birth, he forever had to deal with motor difficulties and a mild learning disability. He dealt with his fury in two ways: alcohol and art. He was arrogant and dismissive. His bluntness could cut like a knife. When asked by a woman how he knew when a painting was finished, he in turn asked her how she knew sex was over.

Jackson Pollock: Paintings as Metaphorical Autobiography

Like many who are severely injured as children, Jackson Pollock had a furious need to understand, to lay bare and explain life. This was manifested clearly in his work, where every stage of the art is clearly identifiable, right down to the bare weave of the canvas. No other artist of the time reveals more clearly the developmental stages of each piece.

His work is huge, metaphorically and literally. Rather than a subject nicely framed in the middle of the canvas, Pollock filled the canvas from top to bottom, edge to edge. And the canvases, like the emotions, were enormous, gargantuan, big enough to fill whole walls of huge rooms. In order to create he had to lay his canvasses flat on the floor and walk upon them, shaking and dripping paint, sometimes poetically, sometimes violently. Yet art critics have said that there is no cynicism in his work, nor irony; that life for Pollock was too hard, too puzzling to waste time with self-conscious cleverness. His work is visceral and powerful, and leaves a powerful legacy.


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