Jackson Pollock: Blind Spots

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On Sunday we went over to Liverpool to visit some of the latest exhibitions, including the show of works by Jackson Pollock at the Tate.

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The Tate have had one of Pollocks large scale drip paintings, Summertime: Number 9A (1948) on display in the gallery for a while and this had been transferred to the exhibition.

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It’s on display in the first room along with some of his other, similar paintings from the same era.

It’s very typical of the works for which Pollock is most well known where he drips paint from a container, swinging over his substrate placed on the floor. Seems easy. “Anyone could do that”. Randomly applying paint to his canvas. But it isn’t so simple. The randomness is subject to constraints. The artist determines the area where the paint drips, the size of the area, the size of the drips, how fast the container swings and where. There’s more than one colour and he decides which colours to use and in which order they are applied. There’s a lot of decisions he makes and although the pant is randomly applied it is done in a controlled way with the artist setting the boundaries. So, in reality, it’s a controlled process and it takes skill to make something that works. Pollock was clear about this

“I control the flow of the paint. There is no accident, just as there is no beginning or end.”

It’s like real life in many ways. That consists of many random events but within the constraints people choose and apply. And that’s how nature works as well. Atoms and molecules move randomly but there is an overriding order which can be influenced by the constraints humans apply.

Many of the paintings on display were from the later part of his career, a few years before he died in 1956, and, unlike his earlier works, they are predominantly black with the paint applied heavily, thrown on using turkey basters and thickly brushed on to the canvas, creating patterns that are less delicate than in his earlier work. They reflect the turmoil of a life addicted to alcohol and feeling self pity.

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Yellow Islands 1952 (Source: Tate website)

There were figurative elements in these works too nd some of these reminded me of  some of Picasso’s works.

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Portrait and a Dream 1953 (Sorce: Tate website)

It was interesting to be able to compare and contrasts these later works with his better known earlier paintings. They are similar, but different. They show that his style evolved and changed, although with the same underlying approach – the control of randomness.

A good show and we’ll be visiting again before it finishes in October.

The McNay Art Museum – the Collection

Marion McNay was an American painter and art teacher who inherited a substantial oil fortune upon the death of her father. She was an enthusiastic collector of Modern Art and on her death bequeathed her collection of some 700 paintings and other works of art to found the first Modern Art Museum in Texas. The Museum has built on the bequest and now has almost 20,000 works in their collection.

The gallery spaces are light, bright, spacious and airy and there was an excellent range of works on display.

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The collection particularly focuses on 19th, 20th and 21st-century European and American paintings, sculptures and photographs. It also includes medieval and renaissance works, art and artefacts from New Mexico and an extensive collection of theatre arts.

The 19th and early 20th Century is represented by artists including Monet

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Gauguin

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Modigliani

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Braque

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and Picasso

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Post War European art included works by

Ben Nicholson

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and Barbara Hepworth

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Not surprisingly there were a large number of works by American artists, including Joan Mitchell

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Hudson River Day Line (1955)

Willem de Kooning

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Eddy Farm (1964)

Sue Fuller

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String Composition #T220 (1965)

and two small paintings by Jackson Pollock

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I liked this little sculpture, Snake on a table (1944) by Alexander Calder

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This painting by Diego Rivera was one of the first works purchased by Marion McNay.

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Delfina Flores (1927) by Diego Rivera

Upstairs in the old house there works from the Medieval and Renaissance collection and the collection of artefacts from New Mexico. I wasn’t so keen on the former but rather liked the display of paintings, pottery, textiles and other objects that constituted the latter.

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I particularly liked the examples of Pueblo pottery, created by Native Americans, they had on display.

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Overall an excellent gallery, well worth the ride out there on the bus.

They also had a good collection of sculpture (besides the two works above). I’ll return to that in another post.