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"Jackson Pollock: Works from the MoMA and European Collections"
1999-07-11 until 1999-10-03
Kunstsammlung Nordhein-Westfalen
Dusseldorf, , DE Germany

After the retrospective in New York and London, the Museum of Modern Art decided to make its large collection of works by Jackson Pollock available to the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, thus giving an opportunity to display a representative selection of the artist’s œuvre. The works from the Museum of Modern Art are supplemented by loans from a variety of European collections, so that the full scope of Pollock’s development will be come visible, together with its sharp climax which includes Number 32, a painting that belongs to the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen.

Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) is one of the most prominent representatives of post-war redefined American painting. In his revolutionary pictures of the late 40s he dripped and poured the paint creating complex fabrics, rhythmically accentuated by the thickening and thinning of the tracks of paint. Pollock found his own mode of expression with this form of composition, a method that tends towards boundlessness, with seemingly complete abstraction and a vigorous yet remarkably controlled treatment of colour. He quickly became the prototype of action painting and abstract expressionism. After many years of searching and restarting and of studying European and American examples, his vigorous paintings unexpectedly reached a measure of bold independence and tension between 1947 and 1950. His paintings and prints between 1934 and 1941 demonstrate the rich diversity of structures and images with which he experimented. Images became metaphors of subconscious stimuli thrusting themselves forward into our conscious minds. Using fragments from Picasso’s anatomical imagery and distorted reminiscences of the bestiary of surrealism, he created a system of revolving arabesques. His art was also influenced by Mexican decorative painting and northwest Indian art. In November 1943 Pollock held his first solo exhibition at Peggy Guggenheim’s gallery, Art of This Century. Alongside the mythical and symbolical figures and animals that dominated the exhibition, Pollock was already returning to experiments that involved the pouring, dripping and squirting of paint. In May of 1944 a painting by Pollock was purchased for the first time by a museum: The New York Museum of Modern Art bought The She-Wolf. In the winter of 1946/47 Pollock radically turned his back on the techniques and ideas of traditional painting. He dripped and poured extremely liquid enamel, aluminium and oil paints directly onto a horizontal surface attached to the studio floor. The year 1950 was the most prolific one in Pollock’s œuvre, with over 50 paintings. His three major monumental works were created in quick succession. Photographs of Pollock at work in his studio in the later summer of 1950 indicate that Number 32 came first, followed by One: Number 31 and finally Autumn Rhythm. Their prevailing moods are fundamentally different, with a heavily muscle-packed graphical attack of black in Number 32 and a lighter, tighter and lyrically oscillating suspense in One: Number 31. These two paintings are at the centre of the exhibition. After 1950, with the publication of several photographs and films showing Pollock at work, the creative process became inextricably linked with the viewing of the final work. The fascination of seeing the author in action was extremely effective. The paintings were well received by art critics, but none of them actually sold. In 1951 Pollock avoided colour and began to paint only in black. From 1952 onwards his productivity steadily declined. Only two pictures from Pollock’s final years might indicate a possible way ahead: The Deep and Easter and the Totem. Pollock’s last paintings were neither a new beginning nor a conclusion. They pointed both forwards and backwards. Around the autumn of 1954 he stopped painting altogether. On August 11, 1956, he died in a car crash.


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