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Indepth Arts News:

"Jackson Pollock at Williams College"
2006-04-14 until 2006-10-01
Williams College
Williamstown, MA, USA United States of America

The Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) proudly presents, Jackson Pollock at Williams College, a unique opportunity to see three of Pollock’s famous “drip” paintings in the Berkshires. These works are extremely fragile, due to the materials with which they were painted, and rarely travel. One of Pollock’s paintings will be coming to the Williamstown Art Conservation Center because it is in need of conservation treatment; the other pieces will be used for purposes of comparison. After the conservation process, the works will hang at WCMA, beginning April 14, 2006.

Jackson Pollock at Williams College will feature Number 2, 1949, from the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute Museum of Art; Number 13A, 1948: Arabesque, from the Yale University Art Gallery; and Number 7, 1950, from New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). The exhibition will demonstrate that conservation can shed light on Pollock’s complex “drip-painting” method, choice of unconventional materials, and his stylistic evolution. It also examines the best methods of preserving, authenticating, and experiencing Pollock’s work. The exhibition will also consider Pollock’s use of the “frieze format” for the first time in Pollock scholarship, and how it affects the composition, style, and ultimately, the meaning of those works.

This exhibition is a curatorial collaboration between WCMA’s new director, Lisa Corrin, and Tom Branchick, director of the Williamstown Art Conservation Center. They will be assisted by Jason Vrooman, a Williams graduate student and the Judith M. Lenett Fellow. The Lenett Fellowship is awarded to a graduate art history student to combine a “hands on” conservation treatment and art history research.

Jackson Pollock (American, 1912–1956)
Number 2, 1949, 1949
Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute, Museum of Art, Utica, New York
© 2006 Pollock-Krasner Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Pollock used the same commercially dyed red fabric as a background for both Number. 2, 1949 and Number 13A , 1948: Arabesque. In March, Branchick will remove a consolidant varnish coating that was applied in 1959 by conservators, “with the best of intentions,” from the background of Number. 2, 1949. This coating altered both tone and reflectance of the intended presentation surface. The Yale Pollock, Number 13A , 1948: Arabesque, was never varnished and will serve as the “control” picture from which Branchick and Vrooman can compare and contrast the surfaces of these two works. The two paintings were not made sequentially, so Vrooman will analyze why Pollock decided to again use the red oxide dyed fabric. Number 7, 1950, from the MoMA, was created in a similar style, and will serve as further comparison of Pollock’s unique painting style.

The analysis at the Williamstown Art Conservation Center and the exhibition at WCMA will add to the scholarship of Kirk Varnedoe and Pepe Karmel, who, in 1998, published a pivotal study of Pollock’s work for a major retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York.

“This is an exceptional opportunity for Williams and for the Berkshires,” stated Lisa Corrin, who came to WCMA this past October to assume the directorship. “We are enormously appreciative of our colleagues at the Williamstown Art Conservation Center, the Munson-Williams Proctor Arts Institute Museum of Art, the Yale University Art Gallery, and MoMA for their help in making this important project a reality and so quickly. How fortunate for our community to have these masterpieces of modern art on display again at WCMA for the first time in over fifty years.”

In December 1952, critic Clement Greenberg organized A Retrospective Show of the Paintings of Jackson Pollock, a landmark early survey of Pollock’s work dating from 1943-1951, which opened at Bennington College and then traveled to Williams. That exhibition included Autumn Rhythm: Number 30. 1950, now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and No. 2, 1949 from the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute Museum of Art, now widely accepted as some of Pollock’s greatest achievements.

Jackson Pollock at Williams College is being organized as a special tribute to Kirk Varnedoe, Williams Class of 1967. Varnedoe was the Chief Curator of Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). In addition to organizing MoMA’s groundbreaking Pollock retrospective, he also curated retrospectives of American painters Cy Twombly and Jasper Johns. He taught at the New York Institute of Fine Arts and was awarded a MacArthur “genius” Fellowship in 1984. "Kirk Varnedoe was an extraordinarily bold and visionary curator of modern art," Williams President Morton Owen Schapiro said. "How appropriate it is, then, to honor him here at the college he loved so dearly with this imaginative and striking exhibition." Friends of Kirk Varnedoe hope to establish a professorship at Williams in his honor. He died of cancer in 2003 at age 57.

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