I consider Jackson Pollock to be one of the most influential Modern artists of the 20th century. As a pioneer of one of the world’s most groundbreaking art movements, his creativity pushed the ideals of the surrealism movement miles beyond anyone’s comfort zone. Pollock explored with many different media as he pushed the communication of the subconscious mind. His exploration of media and spontaneous response on canvas opened the doors for many abstract expressionists to follow.
In Jackson Pollock’s earlier works you can see similarities between both his mentor Thomas Hart Benton and the ideals of the surrealism movement. In Pollock’s works such as Guardians of the street, 1943 and Stenographic, 1942 you can see a resemblance of composition to the styles of a busy Benton work such as Achelous and Hercules, 1947. Both artists use a strong sense of horizontal movement throughout the canvas, though Pollock shows mastery of a non-objective approach.
Aechous and Hercules, Thomas Hart Benton, 1947
Guardians of the Street, Jackson Pollock,1943
Stenographic (a 1942 abstract work riddled with influence from Benton) is a busy composition full of line, shape and intense color. Pollock chooses colors just outside the primary spectrum with his blues, yellows, and reds, which are complimented by negative spaces of solid black and soiled whites. Though the marks made on this composition look hurried, some viewers might say that they come together to create possible subject matter. In some areas of the canvas it appears as though there are body parts such as hand, feet, and maybe even facial features. The Black space behind the vibrant non-specifically organized lines and shapes could also be argued to give the composition a sense of space beyond the 2-D Plane of canvas. In many ways this earlier work of Jackson Pollock lies halfway between the surrealism movement and abstract expressionism.
Stenographic, Jackson Pollock, 1943
Though Pollock was introduced to a more liquefied paint in 1936 while working in a New York studio with Mexican painter David Alfaro Siqueiros, it was not until later in his career that he would complete entire canvases through drip painting. Pollock’s drip techniques and action-based gestural marking is what broke Pollock away from both the surrealism ideals and the co-aggressors of the abstract expressionism movement. Works such as Cathedral, 1947 and Number 5, 1948 were among many modern works that only Jackson Pollock could claim as his style.
Number 5, Jackson Pollock, 1948
His painting style such as Number 5, 1948 is truly an abstract work of art. Within this painting it would be difficult to decipher any type of subject matter making it a non-object composition. The only way to describe this work would be by way of formal elements. The painting consists of a tightly knitted weaving of yellow, brown, black and white lines that cover the entire surface of the painting. No color seems to stick out more than the other to assist in having no focal point within the 4-foot by 8-foot canvas. By taking away any suggestion of subject matter, Jackson Pollock has truly succeeded in creating an abstract expressionist work while breaking away from the definition of surrealism.
Jackson Pollock was a critical part of the Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism period and helped in part to bring the focus of the art world to America for the first time. He lived only a short time (1912-1956), but was very influential during his career. Part of his success should be attributed to his wife and fellow artist, Lee Krasner, who promoted a quiet Jackson Pollock. If it were not for Krasner Pollock may not have had the successes such as commissions from Peggy Guggenheim, reviews from Clement Greenburg, and a spread in Time Magazine.
The reasons I enjoy Pollock’s work, as a crusader of Modern art, he allows for a freedom of expression through body movement, he accepts the characteristics of his chosen medium, and he was successful at breaking down doors as he pioneered a new period in art with his unique styles of painting.