JACKSON POLLOCK S I M P LY I S : U P C L O S E A N D P E R S O N A L S E P T E M B E R 1 8 , 2 0 1 8 –– M A R C H 3 0 , 2 0 1 9 E S S AY S B Y J A S O N M c C O Y A N D P H I L I P R Y L A N D S Established in 1986 Maximilianstrasse 29 D-80539 München +49 (0) 89 291 612 00 email@example.com www.americancontemporaryartgallery.com
Foreword My wife and I are very pleased to be able to present this publication on the occasion of the third exhibition of Jackson Pollock’s work at the American Contemporary Art Gallery in Munich. We met Jason McCoy in 1992, and subsequently in September 1993 held our first exhibition of Jackson Pollock’s work. We were able to revive the installation again in 1994 in Hong Kong. These were remarkably the first exhibitions of Pollock’s work ever held in a gallery in Germany, as well as in Hong Kong. American Contemporary Art Gallery presented his work for the second time in 1997, and through all these years we have developed a wonderful friendship and worked together on many occasions. Visiting the McCoy family in their house in Cooperstown, New York, in 1998 we encountered two stools that had “Jackson Pollock Simply Is: Up Close and Personal.” “Simply Is” came ultimately from the essence of what you can see in the pages of this book, and on the walls of this exhibition. Pollock simply followed his instinct to experiment; in creating the plates for the engravings and drypoint; in transforming six fully-realized paintings to similar size and scale to be collated as a suite of silkscreens with his brother Sanford McCoy, and for having the intention to leave their composing to the collector. Several variations on arrangement have been explored for the installation of these prints, and it is amazing how differently each presents itself. The six pages of the notebook were executed by Pollock in between states of consciousness and unconsciousness, without any pressure to make another work on paper - been in the studio of Jackson Pollock during the years just for himself. he was creating the works of art that would thrive far As well, the stools we see here are ones which Pollock beyond his own time. Since then we have talked many times about the stools and their relationship to Pollock; they were like “companions” with him in his studio during his career. While I was traveling in New York in 2017 a discussion began, exploring the idea for a third exhibition of Jackson’s work in Munich. In April of 2018 there was an amazing turning point – while visiting Jason McCoy in the back room of his New York gallery, he brought forth a small box. Prefacing that he would like to show us something very special, he opened the box and carefully presented one sheet after another from a fragile notebook of Jackson Pollock’s hand. This would be unforgettable, to exhibit these beautiful six works on paper, which had never been shown before. From this moment on, we had nearly daily talks seeking the right spirit for the exhibition. It was finally in July 2018 that Jason developed a title for our show: lived with in his studio. They were witness to his creations and they were painted simply by incident as he moved his materials and his paintings. His work became a part of them, and in turn they represent his spirit. Finally, the stone Head was created by the artist at a size which could be held in his hand - like an opposite. We cannot thank the McCoy family enough for sharing these treasures with us and giving us this opportunity to compose this exhibition, and produce this book about Jackson Pollock’s very personal possessions which reveal elements of his experimental nature. My wife and I also deeply thank Philip Rylands for writing the historic essay for this book, and we are very grateful to our sons Maximilian and Tobias for their continuous support. We hope that you will enjoy these pages, and that you will take home an essence of the lesser-known part of Pollock’s life. Otto and Kirstin Hübner 2 — d r o w e r o F
JACKSON POLLOCK AND LEE KRASNER POLLOCK in Jackson Pollock‘s studio, Springs, East Hampton, NY, 1950 Photo by Lawrence Larkin for the New Yorker
JACKSON POLLOCK Bucks County, PA, 1939, Photo by Sanford McCoy Archival photograph
C O N T E N T S Foreword Number 21 2 22 Jackson Pollock Notebook Simply Is: Up Close 24 and Personal Jason McCoy 6 The Diversity of Jackson Pollock’s Media Philip Rylands 12 Head 20 Silkscreens 36 Engravings and Drypoint 46 Stools 58 Imprint 64 5 — s t n e t n o C
The American Contemporary Art Gallery, Munich, and Jason McCoy Inc., New York are very pleased to offer Jackson Pollock Simply Is: Up Close and Personal, an After isolating the six canvases from the black and white paintings of 1951, the images had to be made to the same scale. The original paintings did not conform exhibition not to make more known the paintings of to each other: the idea to bring them together seems Jackson Pollock but rather to make the viewer more in today’s world of digital facility to be obvious, but conscious of his work in less familiar mediums and it was in fact a radical conception in the early 1950s. formats, including size. The name Jackson Pollock immediately conjures some idea of the ‘poured’ paintings that are his signature look. That style is not however the only kind of imagery that When Jackson and Sande undertook translation of the six paintings into prints, they set out as amateurs in the sense that they were without a publisher. Intended to be offered through The Betty Parsons Gallery, the idea was that once printed the six sheets would be collated in a he created. In fact one of his earliest known works of portfolio to be signed with an edition number by the art is the powerful Head, a stone carving that is almost artist himself. The edition was to consist of 25 portfolios. primitive or shamanistic in its bluntness. It was carved However, sales were slow and the complete edition was from a basalt stone Jackson received from his brother never assembled. Sanford (Sande) McCoy shortly after the death of their father LeRoy. The stone fits in the palm of one’s hand, and thus viewed imparts an intense sensation about life The six drawings on Japanese air mail stationery are a rare opportunity to see how Jackson worked, revealing as they do the use of the artist’s unconscious – starting itself. What is it really between father and son, artist perhaps with a recognizable name, address or phone and sculpture? What is that energy? The stone Head is indeed the physical manifestation of the unfathomable questions every human being tries to understand in regarding himself: how am I, who am I, where have I come from, where am I going? I posit that this question is the real subject matter for all Jackson’s work – energy made visible. Head is in essence a stoic carving, a black hole and neither a portrait nor a mirror. It was later cast in bronze in an edition of seven, circa 1963, with the knowledge of Lee Krasner Pollock. Jackson was an experimenter, and although he was not a prolific printmaker this exhibition offers the opportunity to see seven prints from copper plates, pulled nearly twenty years following their creation, after the plates had been newly discovered in the attic of 830 Fireplace Road by the British critic and curator Bryan Robertson. Both Robertson and Lee Krasner recognized their importance, and Lee asked her friend Bill Lieberman, then head of MoMA’s drawings department, to oversee their printing. Six of these prints are here shown from the edition of 50, and one sheet is seen here from a plate from which only ten prints were pulled. We also show a set of the six silkscreen prints made by Jackson and Sande, a master of silkscreen technique. What is fascinating to think about today is that the suite of paintings Jackson chose to bring together were not originally conceived to be seen collectively. 7 — y o C c M n o s a J
8 — y o C c M n o s a J JACKSON POLLOCK North Truro, MA, 1944 Photo by Bernard Schardt
number, but becoming completely conscious and evolved works of art, as if the hand and the mind could not help but become aesthetic. We know that both Jackson and Lee Krasner valued the surfaces on which they chose to work, but here the reverence with which Jackson regarded even the most seemingly fragile of surfaces is particularly evident. There does not appear to be one pressure break in the paper, or an area of smudged ink. These sheets are most fascinating to me, revealing themselves only slowly over time. Coming from the same pad, they were drawn sequentially but there is no record of a necessary order. We can presume that they are private thoughts each to its own, between the artist and himself. Therefore we understand them only in the context of the fact that they exist, and that they were made by the hand of Jackson Pollock. Each sheet is then self-referential. Non-linear, the drawings quickly become their totality, works of art not exactly decipherable but full of cues and enigma. Some are overdrawn and layered, complex, and a few exist quite simply because they were allowed to remain as gestures. Their beauty and legitimacy are finally in their unpretentious immediacy. Drawn by Jackson Pollock at home, unlabored but obviously considered, and fascinating because here they are revealed to regard. The simplest of focused jottings and ephemeral musings that surpass their simple onionskin ground to become sheets of the moments they were created, giving us lasting evidence of how the artist’s hand and mind came together, offering no beginning, and no end. Also presented for the first time are the two stools that stood silent witness to all of the energy expended in that studio on Fireplace Road. Solid as ever, sturdy and timeless, each bearing its unique patination as if consciously decorated. How wonderful it is that they are here as stoics, unselfconscious reminders of where they have been, and how they came to be blessed by paint. Jason McCoy New York, 10 August 2018 9 — y o C c M n o s a J Picture page 7: SANFORD McCOY Bucks County, PA, 1939, Photo by Jackson Pollock Archival photograph
T H E D I V E R S I T Y O F JACKSON POLLOCK’S MEDIA
4 1 — s d n a l y R p i l i h P The contradiction of deploying words to deal with an matter of Pollock’s drawing and painting – just as image is the art writer’s dilemma. In Pollock’s case this is Bacon would have wished. as acute as any. The artist, now a household name and Keeping close to the early years of Pollock’s critical doyen of ‘abstract expressionism’, said, “I don‘t care for ‘abstract expressionism‘... and [my painting] is certainly not ‘nonobjective‘, and not ‘nonrepresentational‘ either. reception, here is a quote from Bryan Robertson, who curated the first exhibition of Pollock’s painting in England, at the Whitechapel Gallery, London, in 1958, and I‘m very representational some of the time, and a little who published a monograph on Pollock two years later: all of the time. But when you‘re painting out of your unconscious, figures are bound to emerge. […] Every good artist paints what he is.”7 Not long after Pollock’s death, Frank O’Hara wrote: “Although Pollock is known as the extreme advocate of non-figurative painting through the enormous publicity which grew up around his ‘drip’ paintings of the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, the crisis of figurative as opposed to non-figurative art pursued him throughout his life.”8 The issue of the tension between figuration and abstraction, discussed almost ad nauseam in the vast “Pollock showed us an entirely new space enlivened and quickened by the traceries of his subconscious imagination after it had run the gamut of formal speculation. For Pollock to draw continually from his subconscious was not a denial of the artist’s responsibility but an added and terrible burden, an increased and optimistic acceptance of the potentialities of painting as an expression of life.”10 That Robertson unthinkingly referred to Pollock’s “subconscious” reveals the long wave of Surrealist practice. Surrealism denied the ‘accident’, and so did Pollock. David Sylvester, reviewing Pollock bibliography and probably at this point more or the Whitechapel show, wrote: “The element of control is less settled in the minds of critics and scholars, is not far greater than many people thought. All the same we taken up in this exhibition. What is more interesting is must not forget the element of spontaneity, and the fact the matter, raised by Peppiatt in his conversations with that, although the exploitation of accident is common Bacon, of meaning. Pollock (who was perhaps not as inarticulate as caricatures of his bear-like inebriated self might indicate, given his numerous and lapidary public to almost all painters in oil, Pollock did exploit it more than most.”11 These quotations referring indiscriminately to the statements) claimed that he was ”painting out of his unconscious (Pollock), the spiritual life (O’Hara), the unconscious”. For O’Hara, “Each [of the ‘drip’ paintings subconscious (Robertson) and elements of chance, of 1948-50] is a direct statement of the spiritual life accident and spontaneity (Sylvester) are of interest of the artist. Each is its own subject and the occasion for its expression.”9 This statement alerts us to the indistinctness of what Pollock’s, or indeed any “spiritual when we turn to one of the components of this exhibition: Jackson Pollock as printmaker. In the winter of 1944-45 Pollock frequented the print workshop of life”, might be, and what parameters may exist for Stanley William Hayter on 18th Street, New York, the expressing it. It confronts us with the unknowability of celebrated Atelier 17. He and Kadish “etched copper the artist’s “what he is” or “conscious”, which by extension renders unknowable the content, meaning and subject plates, pulled proofs, and shared reassuring silences” together.12 7 Thaw, O’Connor, op. cit., vol. 4, p. 275. 8 F. O’Hara, Jackson Pollock, New York, George Braziller, 1959, p. 12. 9 Idem, p. 29. 10 B. Robertson, Jackson Pollock, London, Thames and Hudson, 1960. p. 150. 11 D. Sylvester, “Pollock,” in D. Sylvester, About Modern Art, London, Chatto & Windus, 1996, pp. 61-3, esp. p. 62. This is the transcript of a BBC3 radio review of 1958. 12 Naifeh and White Smith, op. cit., p. 590.
During the war, Atelier 17 had migrated from its In the summer of 1950 Pollock’s paintings were original home in Paris, to which it would return in 1950. on view in Venice both in the US Pavilion of the In 1967 Robertson, by then retired from his directorship Biennale, with three drip paintings (including his of the Whitechapel Gallery, rediscovered copper masterpiece, Number 1A, 1948, Museum of Modern plates at the Krasner-Pollock home in the Hamptons, Art, New York), and in Piazza San Marco in the and with the help of Krasner and Bill Lieberman Museo Correr, where Peggy Guggenheim showed her arranged for prints to be made by the Hungarian Gabor collection of twenty-three paintings (including paintings Peterdi (then teaching at the Yale School of Art) and comparable to those in the US Pavilion that she later the Italian Emiliano Sorini (pp. 46-57). gave away). This, the August 1949 Life Magazine Hayter has been included among the many sources for article titled “Jackson Pollock. Is he the greatest living the looping, abstract lines of Pollock’s drip paintings. In painter in the United States?,” the extensive exhibiting addition to the palpable presence of models around him, of Pollock’s paintings in the USA, and growing media it must be imagined that the attention and concentration, the physical effort and care required for the printing process worked to dispel automatist spontaneity and coverage, all signalled celebrity, and what ought to have been consensus regarding the quality and originality of his work. Instead it seems to have opened trance-like connections to the “unconscious.” Pollock knew the way for derision from the general public (Pollock what he was doing, even if he may have felt that he was could no longer experiment in the safe haven of the not always successful. These prints show above all the influence of Pablo Picasso, André Masson, Joan Miró and Paul Klee. The earlier prints (pp. 52, 53, 54-55) use a black ground which sets off the light ‘figures’, evoking Masson and Picasso. Figures are crammed rhythmically into a box-like, closed ‘mental’ space, as if in a bas- relief. The more linear, less volumetric prints of 1944-45 (pp. 47, 48, 50-51, 56-57), with a dominant white field, seem closer to Miró and Klee, and are matched by some drip paintings later in the decade, in which imitations of Miró also crop up. One of the prints in particular (pp. 50-51) is comparable to Hayter’s frenetic line and avant-garde), the envy of family and of fellow artists (the gatherings of New York artists at The Club and Studio 35 fuelled Pollock’s paranoia), and the widening of the abyss that divided his self-esteem, nourished by success, from his profound self-doubt.13 Even as his work was on public view in Italy in 1950, a series of events — a family reunion in July (“Jackson never recovered from the reunion”),14 the long-drawn-out and reportedly somewhat botched making of a motion picture by Hans Namuth in the autumn (excruciating for someone as diffident but also as proud as Pollock), and disappointment over the unsuccessful exhibition is prophetic of the poured paintings from 1947 on. Take for example Number 21 (1949; pp. 22-23), a ‘classic’ and lyrical example, with its key colors of teal green and orange, of Pollock’s work in the late 1940s. The differences consist solely in the absence of colour and the presence of descriptive, contouring line in the print, of some of his greatest achievements to date (Number 1, 1950 [Lavender Mist], and Autumn Rhythm [Number 30, 1950] for example) at the Betty Parsons Gallery in December15 – led to renewed depression and drunkenness, domestic strife, and a halt to his production. When, early in 1951, he whereas in the painting Pollock has absolved line, even began again, his works changed drastically, giving the underlying black marks, of any subordination to description or figuration. rise to the so-called ‘Black Paintings’. With almost no colour, only partially executed with the pouring 13 As recounted by Naifeh, White Smith, op. cit., chapters 38 and 39, passim. 14 Naifeh, White Smith, op. cit., p. 646. 15 See S. Davidson, “Feminism for the Most Masculine: How Two Women Launched an Art Market,” in Abstract Expressionism, exhibition catalogue (London, Royal Academy of the Arts, 24 September 2016–2 January 2017), London, Royal Academy of the Arts, 2016, p. 101. 5 1 — s d n a l y R p i l i h P
6 1 — s d n a l y R p i l i h P technique (he picked up the brush and began using a Orozco’s Prometheus mural at Pomona College in cook’s basting syringe), but still largely based on all-over Claremont, California – a dense, airless composition composition and no less reliant on line, these paintings with slicing, intersecting, diagonal forms dominated by witnessed the re-emergence of bounded shapes, even figures, in which the evident energy, or ‘action’ of the drawing transmitted itself to turbulent imagery. “Pollock was essentially a draftsman,” wrote Irving Sandler.16 By allowing forms to come through or, as it were, to a heroic nude. It is difficult to escape the notion that, out of the psychological morass of Pollock’s anger and inebriation, these works are truly expressionistic (“painting out of his unconscious”): dark (given his depression), confused ‘survive’ obliteration in the process of execution, it was (given his mental state), and forceful (expressions of his as if Pollock had returned to his paintings of the early fragile conviction of superior talent and using reserves 1940s, but restricting himself now to chiaroscuro and benefitting from his experience between 1947 and 1950, evident in the pooling of viscous enamel or oil paint, and the halo-effect of oily absorption into the unprimed canvas. One example of affinity, visible in this exhibition, is the dominant white form in the upper left quadrant of Number 8, 1951 (Black Flowing) (National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo; see pp. 38-39). This intrusive, tapering ‘gesture’ can also be seen in one of the 1944-45 engravings (pp. 50-51), in reverse naturally, given the mirroring of the image in the process of printing. Twenty–eight paintings from this period, titled of experience and skill that he had matured over more than a decade). They have control, but also spontaneity, ‘accident’ (a circular drop jumps to life as an eye for example), and a hyper-active variety of marks and lines. Whatever the observer brings to interpreting them, whatever figures may emerge, these are undeniably powerful, and hold the attention more enduringly than the drip paintings. This writer sees in them an advance on his previous production, even if it is the vast 1949-50 canvases that qualify Pollock in the history books as a magnificent innovator. Gavin Delahunty, curating an exhibition in 2015 that set out to assert with sequential numbers only, have shapes, volumes, the great achievement of the Black Paintings, wrote: perceptible forms such as eyes, heads, limbs, torsos, and ‘signs’ for nude anatomy – animal or human. One of them, Number 11, 1951 (Daros Collection, Switzerland, “all of the attributes that distinguish a Pollock are on view, albeit in a mature, concentrated way.”17 It has also been observed that the poured paintings, for all their CR 341), could be mistaken for a Drowning of the Host of Pharaoh, such is the swirling of inundation and flux around ‘swimmers’. majestic and singular beauty, are a cul-de-sac: unlike the ‘Black Paintings’ they leave no exit or forward routes for other artists, nor for Pollock himself, something he will have intuited in the drunken haze of that terrible It was from this group of the Black Paintings that Pollock, winter of 1950-51. in the same year, selected six works for silkscreening by his technically proficient brother Sanford McCoy (pp. 36-45). This decision – to make prints – declares, in an What however was the consequence for Pollock, and for his art, of abnegating the individuality of his paintings as records of a unique, more or less deliberated session almost stentorian voice, the shift in the balance of power of action painting, by making serial prints? away from process (the 1947-50 ‘poured paintings’) to Firstly we must imagine him, perhaps in conversation image. Images, energetic, supra-human, mythic, were of with Sanford, thoughtfully selecting six works to course what Pollock had admired among the Mexican reproduce. They were more or less similar in scale, muralists. When asked what for him was the greatest though their dimensions varied. Number 27, with painting in America he would reply José Clemente its divided composition (a dense square image to 16 I. Sandler, The Triumph of Abstract Expressionism, New York, Harper & Row, 1970, p. 118. 17 G. Delahunty, “Blind Spots: Jackson Pollock’s Black Paintings,” in G. Delahunty, ed., Jackson Pollock. Blind Spots, exhibition catalogue (Tate Liverpool, 30 June-18 October 2015, Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, 20 November 2015-20 March 2016), London, Tate Publishing, 2015, pp. 15-27, esp. p. 19.
7 1 — s d n a l y R p i l i h P the left of intertwined full length bodies, and two pumpkin heads to the right) is the broadest, at 188 cm other, change by contiguity, profess their differences, and share their similarities. Two of them, Number 7 (see pp. 40-41), while Number 9, with its compression of reptilian fauna and severed limbs, is the narrowest, at 97.8 cm (see p. 37). Three vertical format and three broad format images are shrunk by approximately 60- 70%. The sheets, unlike the canvases, have precisely the same dimensions. Size ceases to matter. Pollock has foregone the fully immersive visual field of the large poured paintings, something that was, for critics in the 1950s and still today, a defining feature of the new American painting. Jason McCoy learned from his father Sanford that their intention (Sanford’s and Jackson’s) was that the suite should remain together (although it did not turn out this way, and the prints (pp. 44-45) and Number 27 (pp. 40-41), seemed destined to be cut in two, being flanking and isolated compositions, but Pollock evidently chose to withhold the Stanley knife. The relations of figure to ground are varied, complex, even ambiguous. ‘Figures’ are sometimes reserved on the white paper, with black counting as filled-in dark ground, or as contour, emphasis and shadow. But this is not consistent. Sometimes a ‘figure’ asserts itself as black, against a white ground.18 The Picasso-like blots and lines of marsh flora on the left side of Number 7 (pp. 44-45) are the most obvious example of the latter. The vertical prints are unified as dense, black ground pictures, while in the horizontal formats white oxygenates on view in this exhibition are the last complete set). The the composition. These are image-based pictures, and prints were to be numbered and signed as they were not so obviously the outpourings (literally) of the sold, but numbering seems not to have been a priority. Owners of the prints could frame and then hang them in any order they wished. The images could talk to each subconscious (or the unconscious, or the spirit, or “the inner world”19). Picture above: JACKSON POLLOCK AND SANDE POLLOCK (LATER McCOY) at the Grand Canyon, 1927 18 À propos, see M. Fried, “Some new category: Remarks on Several Black Paintings,” in Delahunty, op. cit., pp. 57-71. 19 Pollock’s phrase, from a radio interview by William Wright, summer 1950.
In 1953 the motifs of Number 27 (pp. 40-41), in a rare case for Pollock of the reworking of an earlier idea, reappeared in Portrait and a Dream (Dallas, Museum of Fine Arts, CR 368). The title of the latter would seem to authorise the interpretation of the former as a standoff between outward appearance (the portrait) and inward mental activity (the dream). That the left side of the 1951 painting configures a crouched, heavily-built nude does not necessarily upper left appear four names in a list—perhaps the first notes on the sheet: Peters (Donald and Harriet Peters? they were local collectors; she later married the Spanish-American painter Esteban Vicente21), Motherwell (Robert), Namuth (Hans), and Sykes (Gerald? novelist and philosopher who wrote for the New York Times; husband of the artist Buffie Johnson who was in turn a friend of the Pollocks22). Another sheet (p. 31) bears the name of Harry Frank preclude “mental activity”. Automatism may still have Guggenheim, Peggy’s cousin, and of his third wife Alicia, a tempered role, but the translation of these paintings aunt-in-law of sometime Secretary of State Madeleine into prints – uniform in texture, chroma, and size – diffuses the existential drama in favour of image-making: cogitated, selected and released for sale as a ‘certifi- cate’ of completeness. Albright. In a third sheet (p. 27), oriental-looking brushstrokes (the paper was Japanese after all) dominate, filling the gaps and overwhelming the ballpoint notes and marks. This exercise so sustained Pollock’s attention Pollock’s decision to make these prints renders palpable that he apparently continued on another sheet the change in his approach to painting in 1951. It is enough for us to imagine him going through a similar exercise with the poured paintings a year earlier. One winces at the thought. Six sheets of delicate Japanese commercial airmail paper, detached from what Francis V. O’Connor described as “a telephone-table scratchpad,” with annotations in blue ballpoint pen, are exhibited here for the first time (pp. 24-35). The Pollock catalogue raisonné dates them to 1950-54.20 One of the sheets (pp. 28-29) makes apparent three phases of evolution — first as the bearer of commonplace annotations, then augmented with diminutive linear structures, and finally evolving, motivated by horror vacui, with the use of blue crayon in place of the ballpoint, into a jazzy all-over composition in the manner of Mark Tobey. Some numbers belong to the first phase (’1 2 3’ appears more than once: is this a telephone number or a sign of tedium?) as well as some names. Peter Blake was curator of architecture at MoMA. He and Pollock met in the summer of 1949 and planned a museum of Pollock’s paintings. In the (p. 25), which lacks scratchpad notes. He several times experimented by flicking the fountain pen at the paper. The variegated marks on a fifth sheet (p. 32) include numbers, letters, a schematic face with a round ear, and relief sculpture at the top. The black signs seem not to be made with a brush but with a blunt instrument. A last sheet (p. 35), different from the others, reveals with no less intensity the ‘form-making’ movement of the artist’s hand, pressuring and testing the nib in insistent strokes. Part utility and part work on paper, they convey Pollock’s creative mind at work. Similar marks in black wash and ink splashes can be seen in technically identical drawings as early as 1950. Two of these were exhibited in the 2015 exhibition Jackson Pollock. Blind Spots (Tate Liverpool and Dallas Museum of Fine Arts), which focused on the Black Paintings.23 Two humble, low, four-legged, round stools, that appear sometimes in Hans Namuth’s and Arnold Newman’s photographs of the barn-studio in The Springs, also exist limbo between different furniture and this case, classes of object: in in 8 1 — s d n a l y R p i l i h P 20 Thaw, O’Connor, op. cit., vol. 3, p. 333. 21 Naifeh and White Smith, op. cit., p. 630. 22 Idem, p. 560. 23 Delahunty, op. cit., pp. 117-18, CR 791, CR 795.
painted sculpture (p. 59).24 Their numinous power however transcends both. Silent witnesses, they received unblinking the spattering from Pollock’s dripping, pouring, lobbing and flicking of paint (what Naifeh and White Smith referred to as his lariats) across the un-stretched canvases laid on the floor – most intensely in 1949-50 judging by the character and colours of the spots: blueish on one and reddish on the other. One is reminded of royal stools of the peoples of the grasslands of the Cameroons, which were ‘empowered’ by animal sacrifice and the rubbing-on of sacred materials. They were exclusively for the comfort and status of the ruler. Pollock’s stools, with time and with the power of the photographic record, have become manifestations of the Pollock ‘myth’. But the opposite is also true: as Pollock and his extraordinarily vivid life slip into the past, these stools, like the notepad sheets, reconnect us to the living man – instruments of repose and contemplation during the lonely vigils in the studio, companions standing by when Pollock was at work. They contradict the memento mori: they remind us that Pollock lived. Philip Rylands 9 1 — s d n a l y R p i l i h P Picture above: JACKSON POLLOCK AND CHARLES POLLOCK, New York, NY, circa 1930, Charles Pollock Archives, Paris 24 The question is moot. John Carey, Emeritus Merton Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford, has written, in conclusion to a chapter entitled “What is a work of art?”: “The question ‘Is it a work of art?’ […] can now [in the 21st century] receive only the answer ‘Yes, if you think it is; no, if not.’ If this seems to plunge us into the abyss of relativism, then I can only say that the abyss of relativism is where we have always been in reality. If it is an abyss.” (What Good are the Arts? London, Faber and Faber, 2005, p. 30.)
Head Less familiar than the ‘drip’ paintings that he was to become so known for, Jackson Pollock also periodically created sculpture throughout his life, beginning with Plasticine exercises during his studies with Thomas Hart Benton in the early 1930s. The small but powerful Head, carved from basalt stone circa 1930-33 and of which a bronze cast is shown here, is Pollock’s earliest known and only carved stone sculpture. Thinking about Pollock’s sculpture makes room for that ‘other’ Pollock discernible in his later, thickly coated paintings: a Pollock who veers defiantly away from the large-scale to the small and hand-held; from opticality and ‘pure’ vision to the more ramshackle and sensual effects of touch; from iridescent sheen to obdurate and blunt materiality. Jo Applin, “Last Things: Jackson Pollock’s Sculpture” (essay), Jackson Pollock: Blind Spots, exhibition catalogue, Texas and London: Dallas Museum of Art and Tate Liverpool, 2015, p. 90. Frank O’Hara, Jackson Pollock, New York, George Braziller, 1959, p. 29.
1 2 — d a e H HEAD Bronze cast (made from the sculpture “Stone”, CR 1042, circa 1930-33), in an edition of seven, 1963 4 1/4 x 2 13/16 inches 10.8 x 7.1 cm
Number 21 The singularity of each poured painting by Jackson Pollock is exemplified here by the masterpiece Number 21, 1949. Pollock deployed the black pattern, that was likely derived from a wire mesh dipped in paint, as texture and ground in a manner comparable to the way old masters exploited the weave and flock of canvas. Each [painting] is a direct statement of the spiritual life of the artist. Each is its own subject and occasion for its expression. There is no need for titles. This was, in fact, the ‘spiritual climate’ of the New York School in those years, and most of the painters involved in it simply used numbers for identification of canvases, though many had previously used titles and would return to them again, as did Pollock. Frank O’Hara, Jackson Pollock, New York, George Braziller, 1959, p. 29.
3 2 — 1 2 r e b m u N NUMBER 21, 1949 Oil and enamel on paper mounted on masonite Private collection, USA 19 1/2 x 27 1/2 inches 49.5 x 69.8 cm Signed and dated lower right: ‘Jackson Pollock 49’ (CR 254)
Notebook Sheets from a notepad, located beside the telephone at the Pollock–Krasner house on 830 Fireplace Road, The Springs, Long Island, in the early 1950s, have, amazingly, come down to us. They justify most completely the title of the exhibition which this catalogue documents: they are simple (free in the artist’s mind of anxiety that the outcome would be made public and hence judged); they are close up (given the size of the paper and the vicinity required to mark them); and they are personal (private, spontaneous and unselfconscious).
5 2 — k o o b e t o N UNTITLED, circa 1950-1954 Ink wash on Japanese commercial airmail stationery 11 x 8 1/2 inches 27.9 x 21.6 cm CR 874
6 2 — k o o b e t o N UNTITLED, circa 1950-1954 Ink wash and blue ballpoint pen on Japanese commercial airmail stationery 11 x 8 1/2 inches 27.9 x 21.6 cm CR 873
Notebook — 27
8 2 — k o o b e t o N UNTITLED, circa 1950-1954 Ink wash and blue ballpoint pen on Japanese commercial airmail stationery recto
9 2 — k o o b e t o N verso 11 x 8 1/2 inches 27.9 x 21.6 cm CR 871
0 3 — k o o b e t o N UNTITLED, circa 1950-1954 Pencil, pen and ink, and blue ballpoint pen on Japanese commercial airmail stationery 11 x 8 1/2 inches 27.9 x 21.6 cm CR 872
Notebook — 31
Notebook — 32
UNTITLED, circa 1950-1954 Pencil and ink on Japanese commercial airmail stationery 11 x 8 1/2 inches 27.9 x 21.6 cm CR 875 3 3 — k o o b e t o N
4 3 — k o o b e t o N UNTITLED, circa 1950-1954 Ink and blue gouache on Japanese commercial airmail stationery 8 1/2 x 11 inches 21.6 x 27.9 cm CR 878
Notebook — 35
Silkscreens Jackson Pollock’s shift from the abstract ‘poured’ paintings of 1947-1950, which placed him at the peak of American artistic accomplishment in the twentieth century, to the image-forming ‘Black Paintings’ in 1951 was accompanied by a unique episode in his career: the decision to create a portfolio of silkscreens, selecting six from the group of fully realized paintings to translate into a new medium. Pollock was assisted by his brother Sanford McCoy who was skilled in printmaking processes.
7 3 — s n e e r c s k l i S SILKSCREEN (set of 6: 2 of 6), CR 1093 (P29), [After Number 9, 1951], 1951 Ink on paper Sheet: 29 x 23 inches 73.7 x 58.4 cm Image: 22 1/8 x 16 7/16 inches 56.2 x 41.8 cm
8 3 — s n e e r c s k l i S SILKSCREEN (set of 6: 1 of 6), CR 1092 (P28), [After Number 8 (Black Flowing), 1951], 1951 Ink on paper Sheet: 23 x 29 inches 58.4 x 73.7 cm Image: 16 7/16 x 19 1/8 inches 41.8 x 48.6 cm
Silkscreens — 39
Silkscreens — 40
1 4 — s n e e r c s k l i S SILKSCREEN (set of 6: 3 of 6), CR 1096 (P32), [After Number 27, 1951], 1951 Ink on paper Sheet: 23 x 29 inches 58.4 x 73.7 cm Image: 16 9/16 x 19 1/16 inches 42.1 x 48.4 cm
2 4 — s n e e r c s k l i S SILKSCREEN (set of 6: 4 of 6), CR 1095 (P31), [After Number 22, 1951], 1951 Ink on paper Sheet: 29 x 23 inches 73.7 x 58.4 cm Image: 21 11/16 x 16 3/4 inches 55.1 x 42.5 cm
3 4 — s n e e r c s k l i S SILKSCREEN (set of 6: 6 of 6), CR 1094 (P30), [After Number 19, 1951], 1951 Ink on paper Sheet: 29 x 23 inches 73.7 x 58.4 cm Image: 22 15/16 x 15 9/16 inches 58.3 x 39.5 cm
4 4 — s n e e r c s k l i S SILKSCREEN (set of 6: 5 of 6), CR 1091 (P27), [After Number 7, 1951], 1951 Ink on paper Sheet: 23 x 29 inches 58.4 x 73.7 cm Image: 16 3/4 x 21 15/16 inches 42.5 x 55.7 cm
Silkscreens — 45
Engravings and Drypoint Jackson Pollock experimented with different printmaking processes at various times in his career. In the winter of 1944-45 he worked in S.W. Hayter’s celebrated Atelier 17, which was frequented by large numbers of avant-garde artists both in its first home in Paris, and in New York during World War II. Pollock habitually used intense drawing to work out ideas and, especially in this period when notions of Surrealism and ‘automatism’ pervaded the New York art scene, to explore the transmission of half-formed ‘subconscious’ imagery on a two-dimensional plane. It is worth remembering that the printing process reverses the artist’s initial marks made on the copper plate.
7 4 — i t n o p y r D d n a s g n i v a r g n E UNTITLED, circa 1944 Engraving and drypoint Sheet: 20 x 13 5/8 inches 50.7 x 34.6 cm Image: 11 5/8 x 8 7/8 inches 29.6 x 22.6 cm Edition: 10/50 CR 1075 (P15)
Engravings and Drypoint — 48
UNTITLED, circa 1944-45 Engraving and drypoint Sheet: 20 x 13 5/8 inches 50.8 cm x 24.6 cm Image: 11 3/4 x 8 3/4 inches 29.8 x 22.2 cm Edition: 10/50 CR 1081 (P18) 9 4 — i t n o p y r D d n a s g n i v a r g n E
Engravings and Drypoint — 50
1 5 — i t n o p y r D d n a s g n i v a r g n E UNTITLED, circa 1944-45 Engraving and drypoint Sheet: 19 13/16 x 27 1/4 inches 50.3 x 69.2 cm Image: 15 3/4 x 23 3/4 inches 40 x 60.3 cm Edition: 10/50 CR 1082 (P19)
2 5 — i t n o p y r D d n a s g n i v a r g n E UNTITLED, circa 1944 Engraving and drypoint Sheet: 20 1/16 x 13 13/16 inches 50.9 x 35.1 cm Image: 11 7/8 x 10 inches 30.2 x 25.3 cm Edition: 10/50 CR 1074 (P14)
3 5 — i t n o p y r D d n a s g n i v a r g n E UNTITLED, circa 1944 Engraving and drypoint Sheet: 20 x 13 5/8 inches 50.8 x 34.7 cm Image: 11 7/8 x 10 inches 30.2 x 25.3 cm Edition: 10/50 CR 1071 (P13)
4 5 — i t n o p y r D d n a s g n i v a r g n E UNTITLED, circa 1944-45 Engraving and drypoint Sheet: 19 3/4 x 27 1/4 inches 50.1 x 69.1 cm Image: 14 11/16 x 17 7/8 inches 37.3 x 45.8 cm Edition: 10/50 CR 1078 (P16)
Engravings and Drypoint — 55
Engravings and Drypoint — 56
7 5 — i t n o p y r D d n a s g n i v a r g n E UNTITLED, circa 1944-45 Engraving and drypoint Sheet: 13 5/8 x 19 3/4 inches 34.7 x 50.2 cm Image: 8 15/16 x 11 3/4 inches 22.9 x 29.9 cm CR 1079 (P17) Artist proof stamped/ unnumbered from the numbered edition of 10
Stools Two stools, captured in photographs taken of Jackson Pollock working and resting in his barn -studio on Long Island by both Arnold Newman and Hans Namuth, are immortalized by their incidental reception of paint while playing witness to the drama and spectacle of the ‘myth’ of this artist-genius. They act as stoics, aesthetic reminders of the energy dispelled by the inhabitants of that studio from which so many works of art were produced.
Stools — 59
0 6 — s l o o t S STOOL from the studio of Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner. Springs, East Hampton. Wood
1 6 — s l o o t S 13 1/2 inches high x 13 inches round 34.3 cm high x 33 cm round
2 6 — s l o o t S STOOL from the studio of Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner. Springs, East Hampton. Wood
3 6 — s l o o t S 13 1/4 inches high x 12 3/4 inches round 33.7 cm high x 32.4 cm round