No. 1 1948

Jackson Pollock

Oil and enamel on unprimed canvas

“NOOOOOOOO LINDNER NOOOOOOOOO!!! UGH I HATE JACKSON POLLOCK !!!!! WHY??????” Is honestly the first thing I thought when asked to write about Jackson Pollock. I’ve heard about Pollock many times before, and his whole “drip method,” hearing him referenced constantly. Before, I had never really understood Pollock, and always dismissed him as just a pretentious splatter painter. But I know that in order to improve as an artist, and as a person in general, you need to keep your mind open to new ways of looking at things and different approaches to visual expression. So I clicked on “Number 1A (1948)” and saw some interesting colors, cool lines, and by standing really far away, some distorted forms; however, I didn’t have any kind of transcendence moment goin’ on or some amazing revelation. Therefore I decided to look into the intention of Pollock’s splatters, and pulled up his biography on the mighty Internet. After reading his life’s story, I feel like I understood his art 30000% more.

Pollock had a crap dad, and a rough start to life. He followed his artistic brother Charles to New York to study art when he was 18. Long story short, his drip paintings lead him to fame and fortune, driving him a little insane, and causing him to return to drinking. He died in a car accident while drunk driving at age 44. I think he couldn’t handle being put on a pedestal, and kind of being made into a cash cow. A lot of people consider him a genius, but to me, he was just a really passionate dude, who loved art, hated fame, and had an issue with alcohol.

Art is really weird. It’s really personal, and can be kind of a small window into a person’s being. That’s also why art is so dearly loved and really expensive. We get the sense of how important it can be when it’s completely honest, and when we can relate to it. But I think there are moments when we forget the person behind the art, and just see it as some paint slopped onto a canvas.

Here’s an interesting poem about Pollock’s Number 1A (1948) by Nancy Sullivan .

No name but a number.
Trickles and valleys of paint
Devise this maze
Into a game of Monopoly
Without any bank. Into
A linoleum on the floor
In a dream. Into
Murals inside of the mind.
No similes here. Nothing
But paint. Such purity
Taxes the poem that speaks
Still of something in a place
Or at a time.
How to realize his question
Let alone his answer?

I think this poet is asserting that Pollock’s painting resembles the chaos and wonder that goes on in our brains/minds. Our brain is sort of an unsolvable puzzle that we can’t quite seem to figure out. With the line “no similes here” she is saying that at first, there’s not really any distinct images or figures that are familiar or representational, but that the artist still creates something we can relate to.


9 thoughts on “JACKSON POLLOCK

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed your commentary and analysis on Pollock’s work! And as a future, possible, maybe, likely, hopefully, history major, I’m much more interested in why things happen than what happens and this post explored that part of my passion. I’m not much of an art person. I enjoy it as much as the next uneducated person but I can’t art so I really had no idea what to make of this painting. While an uneducated point of view can sometimes be refreshing to lend a new perspective, I certainly think it was more prudent to look back into the artist’s life to understand his work.


  2. Hey Ester! Let me preface my comment by saying that I don’t like this painting. That said, I think you’re reading into that poem a little bit too much. Maybe it’s just me, but Nancy Sullivan seems to be a little bit crazy. She feels as if she is being poetic when she says a painting is “nothing but paint.” And she is so insistent that the poem has a deeper meaning that even when can’t find the question she feels it must be asking let alone the answer, it never crosses her mind that this painting could just be a wallpaper prototype.


  3. “Art is really weird. It’s really personal, and can be kind of a small window into a person’s being. That’s also why art is so dearly loved and really expensive.”

    I’d say that what you’re saying here explains pretty simply why there’s disagreement about the value of art, especially abstract stuff like this. If the viewer isn’t willing or able to see through the “window” to the artist’s intentions and emotions, there’s no way they’ll see value in a piece that (technically) anyone could create. However, the patrons of Pollock’s art as well as Sullivan seem to dig that, so if it works for them, hey, so be it.


  4. I literally had the exact same initial thought when I saw this blog prompt. While I’m not against abstract art like this, I don’t understand why it needs to be sold for millions while there’s thousands of artists out with art even more impressive that can barely find enough money to eat. I guess it’s just that I don’t get abstract art or can’t appreciate it, although I’ve tried plenty of times. Art is a lot of being in the right place at the right time, and Pollock found just the right place at the right time for his work to take off, but his life seemed to always be in the wrong place at the wrong time. While understanding his life does make paintings like this easier to digest, I’m a firm believer that in literature and visual art, we as readers cannot make assumptions about the author or their intentions without concrete evidence that it is true. Just because it makes sense that the painting is messy and crazy because Jackson Pollock’s life was messy and crazy doesn’t necessarily mean that was his intention, although it is possible. I feel like I’m not making a whole lot of sense but I think writing this comment has made me understand my dislike for abstract art: many people put too much false meaning into things that are too abstract to make concrete assertions about. This applies to how people interpret the Bible, the Constitution, and or course, Jackson Pollock’s work. People get too cocky about their not-so-factual interpretations of things. Well, this turned into a rant in a way, but it’s thanks to this post of yours that I understood something new about myself. Thanks and great job!


  5. I read this post a few weeks back, and I remember thinking about the consequences of populizing art. In some ways, I think the raw connection between the artist and the art is subject to more scrutiny when it is up for display. Your opinion of Jackson Pollock’s work is not isolated; I think many people don’t “get” the art. But I find it difficult to imagine receiving criticism on your entire life’s work. Since art is so subjective, any glimpse at a painting, drawing, or sculpture creates an opportunity for scrutiny. The poem, I agree, seems to be an acknowledgement that life is chaotic even uncontrollable. Pollock’s work reinforces this idea in so many ways. Just as the drip method involves rendering partial control of the art to the universe, viewers who are critical of the art can’t control his success or ability to connect to individual viewers.


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