Pollock's Legend Still Splattered On Art World | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

Pollock's Legend Still Splattered On Art World

Play associated audio

Even a century since his birth, American "splatter artist" Jackson Pollock still provokes heated debate about the very definition of art.

Was a man who placed a canvas on the floor and dripped paint straight from the can actually creating a work of art?

"It's very hard if you try to build the paint up to this extent with this many colors and not achieve mud," says National Gallery of Art curator Harry Cooper.

"He didn't achieve mud here — I think he achieved something quite beautiful," Cooper tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz. "And in the process, he opened up a whole new way of thinking about what a painting could be, how you could make a painting, what it could do in an abstract way."

The public perception at the time, though, was distinctly different than that of art critics.

"In the popular mind, he was Jack the Dripper," Cooper says. "I think all of those feelings and associations have remained with the work, no matter how many books and how many retrospectives he has."

In 2006, one of Pollock's works sold for $140 million — the most ever paid for a painting. He remains polarizing, a man whose work is as derided as it is desired.

Born in Cody, Wyo., on Jan. 28, 1912, Paul Jackson Pollock trained under the acclaimed American naturalist Thomas Hart Benton. During that time, Pollock's paintings were indistinguishable from Benton's — clear human forms with enhanced curves, as if windblown or carved like riverbeds.

Over time, Pollock's forms would become more surreal, like Picasso's. Surprisingly, the trademark splatter work doesn't make an appearance until Pollock's mid-30s.

"In fact, by the end of 1950 and '51, he's not doing the drips anymore," Cooper says. "He returns to the figure and spends his last years doing something quite different."

Pollock died tragically at the age of 44. After a lifetime struggling with alcoholism, he crashed his car while driving drunk. His death befit the legend that grew around his life.

"He was a macho man from Cody, Wyoming," Cooper says.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Kids' Films And Stories Share A Dark Theme: Dead Mothers

Why do so many animated movies star motherless kids? Sarah Boxer, a graphic novelist, cartoon-lover and mother, talks to NPR's Kelly McEvers about the phenomenon and the message it sends to children.
NPR

What If The World Cup Were Awarded For Saving Trees And Drinking Soda?

We thought you'd get a kick out of seeing how the four teams in the final World Cup matches stack up in global health and development.
NPR

What Will Become Of Obama's Request For Immigration Relief Funds?

NPR's Arun Rath talks to political correspondent Mara Liasson about the chances of a political agreement over how to handle the migration of thousands of Central American children.
NPR

Looking For Free Sperm, Women May Turn To Online Forums

Bypassing commercial sperm banks, thousands are logging on to websites where women can connect with men at no cost. Anecdotes abound, but the scope of the unregulated activity is unclear.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.