Work on Monday: “Blue Poles” by Jackson Pollock

This week’s Work on Monday falls on the birthday of Jackson Pollock, arguably the most famous East End painter of them all. In celebration of his special day, we examine “Blue Poles,” originally  called, “Untitled, Number 11.”

Work on Monday is a weekly look at one piece of art related to the East End, usually by a Hamptons or North Fork artist, living or dead, created in any kind of media. Join the conversation by posting your thoughts in the comments below and email suggestions for a future Work on Monday here.

Blue Poles (full-size image here)
Jackson Pollock (January 28 1912-August 11, 1956)
Enamel and aluminium paint with glass on canvas
83.5 × 192.5 inches, 1952
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Pollock fans knows the late Abstract Expressionist‘s work must be viewed in person to truly appreciate its magnificence. The painter‘s room at the old Museum of Modern Art, featuring “One: Number 31” (1950) and “Full Fathom Five” (1947) could literally bring a passionate art lover to their knees. Pollock made his movements and actions tangible. And the way he added his handprint to “One” or random studio detritus such as cigarette butts, nails, matches and coins to “Full Fathom Five,” captured a moment in time. Pollock makes the viewer feel as if he or she is looking upon the inception and execution of an idea as it happened, more than five decades after the artist‘s death. That is a special kind of talent.

Unfortunately, “Blue Poles” resides at Australia‘s National Gallery in Canberra, but many New Yorkers and Hamptonites were lucky enough to see the classic work when it was part of MoMA‘s Pollock retrospective back in 1998-99. The piece is widely considered the last of Pollock‘s monumental Abstract Expressionist works. He painted it on the floor of his studio in Springs, using the technique of throwing and dripping paint, which he devised and perfected there. It’s quite possible remnants from “Blue Poles” remain on that studio floor, which is open to visitors at  the Pollock-Krasner House & Study Center on Fireplace Road in Springs.

These paintings changed the course of art worldwide, yet Pollock as an artist, and pieces like “Blue Poles,” continue to have detractors.

Ask any of these detractors to create a similar painting of their own design and none will be capable of creating the masterful and deep webs of paint, or such a successful overall composition. Pollock had a revolutionary approach and talent for controlling chaos, or creating a deliberate accident. “Blue Poles” demonstrates this especially well, with its “poles” on top of and within the overall field of drips and splatters.

Love it or hate it, Jackson Pollock‘s work—especially the drip paintings—must be seen in person to truly appreciate or make an informed judgement about its value, or lack thereof. Do yourself a favor and go see it.

Visit the Pollock-Krasner House website here.

Visit “Blue Poles” at the Australian National Gallery here.

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