The combination of the words persistence and Pollock may appear redundant to some people, so obvious is the artist’s influence. Even so, the current exhibit at the Pollock Krasner House (aptly curated by Bobbi Coller and Helen Harrison ) reveals another dimension to that influence: creative endeavors by artists who were inspired by Jackson Pollock. The show’s surprising aspect is that no single artist copied Pollock’s work. Nor are there any “variations on a theme” examples. So, how do we characterize the diverse and intriguing images that we see?
What’s initially apparent are the many different kinds of material: chocolate, ink, latex and bronze, among others. Such material is not only interesting to look at, but exciting to touch in many cases. Consider Vik Muniz’ portrait of Pollock made with Bosco chocolate syrup. How we would love to rub our hands over the work; we can imagine that the school children who see this exhibit would love to do the same. Muniz is a particularly tactile artist, and we can understand why he was attracted to Pollock’s use of paint. (That one aesthetic element may have motivated Muniz to make the Brazilian documentary, Waste Land, where garbage is the “star,” similarly tangible and perceptible by touch.)
But what about the exhibit’s content and style? How should we characterize the themes and approaches, which are also diverse? It appears to this critic that many artists maintained their own world views and styles while accommodating Pollock’s spirit and message. For example, Joe Fig’s miniature reproduction of Pollock at work, employing Hans Namuth’s well-known image, not only evokes Fig’s signature recreations, but also gives us another perspective of the artist suspended in air.
Red Gromms’s homage, “Jackson in Action,” seems suspended as well, ready to take off in space as the figures, paintings and art materials are given a three-dimensionality. It recalls Gromms’s own playful, exaggerated Pop Art images. But what’s more fascinating is the fact that Pollock is shown with two heads and six arms. Does this suggest the multiple sides to Pollock? Or is it supposed to simply represent a surreal image (along with cubist touches)?
Ray Johnson’s “Jackson Pollock (Recipes)” is another playful, semi-surreal image mixing the artist’s text and visuals. The use of recipes and figures suggests Johnson’s attraction to pop culture.
Speaking of Surrealism, you would think that Alfonso Ossorio’s painting (made in the 1950s ) would evoke his own surreal influences, yet it does not. It does, however, reflect the vibrancy, spirit and density that both Ossorio and Pollock are known for.
Norman Rockwell’s study for The Connoisseur is an exception, as it responds directly to Pollock’s style and content and not to Rockwell’s. This abstract cover illustration for The Saturday Evening Post (January 13, 1962) shows a man looking at the painting in a gallery. The relationship between the art and the viewer is perhaps more important than the work itself. Because the figure’s back is to us, we can only imagine his reaction. But if it’s a positive one, does that mean Pollock has been accepted into the world of “middle America” represented by The Saturday Evening Post?
“Persistence of Pollock” will be on view at The Springs’ Pollock Krasner House (830 Fireplace Road) until July 28. Call 631-324-4929 for more information.