For those who are not familiar with Jackson Pollock…well, you haven’t missed much.
Jackson Pollock was an artist in the middle of the 20th century who belonged to the “abstract expressionist” school, which basically meant that the paintings weren’t really meant to look like anything specific, and indeed they didn’t. If you wish to see what a Jackson Pollock painting would look like in black and white, all you need to do is go to your television (analog receiver works best) and find a channel that isn’t being used in your area.
Pollock was famous for his unusual technique, dubbed “action painting,” which usually involved dribbling paint onto a canvas from a variety of unusual items. The idea was, apparently, for art to be free from the confines of having to represent something–which, for those of us who always thought the whole point of art was representing something (except for idle doodling), sort of raises questions about the relative value of Art and the Artistic set in general. In fact the Wikipedia entry on Pollock cites this quotation from a contemporary:
“Pollock has managed to free line not only from its function of representing objects in the world, but also from its task of describing or bounding shapes or figures, whether abstract or representational, on the surface of the canvas.”
So…if the line isn’t representing anything, or describing a shape, even an abstract one–why should we care about it? Is this some sort of geometrical pun, developing a line that’s completely pointless?
I’m happy to report that Pollock’s art was not universally received. His work was roundly panned and satirized at the time. But that didn’t stop one critic from calling Pollock’s stuff “the best painting of its day and the culmination of the Western tradition going back via Cubism and Cezanne to Manet (Wikipedia).”
And yet even after all this time this menace doesn’t seem to be going away. I understand a few years ago someone found a stash of paintings that were said to be Jackson Pollocks. Apparently they’re having a hard time trying to authenticate them. I see their problem–it would be embarrassing to find out their vaunted paintings were in fact the decorators’ used drop cloths.
But suppose you find one of these things in your attic–what do you do with it (after you finish wondering why of all the famous artists’ works it could have been, it had to be a Pollock)?
TEN THINGS YOU CAN DO WITH A JACKSON POLLOCK PAINTING
10. Rent it out to an optometrist who’s trying to boost his sales of new prescription lenses.
9. Use it as the world’s largest blotting paper.
8. Use it as a drop cloth the next time you paint your house.
7. Hang it up and look for the “Magic Eye” image.
6. Take a picture and create the world’s most frustrating jigsaw puzzle.
5. Cover your car with it when you park beneath tree branches and power lines.
4. Create an artistic exhibit that expresses angst about government-funded art. If you’re really daring, apply for a grant from the NEA.
3. Create a Rorschach test for artists.
2. Use it as a tablecloth the next time you serve spaghetti to a group of messy eaters.
1. Catch the art students who, having been told that Pollock is the culmination of Western artistic tradition, suddenly feel the urge to jump off tall buildings.
Still, all things considered, it could have been worse. Pollock might have taken up a career painting the stripes on highways.