So if you had a similar childhood to mine, you probably first encountered a Jackson Pollock painting in an Olivia book. In the story, Olivia the pig accompanied her mother to the museum where she saw a Pollock painting and didn’t “get” it. She told her mother that she could re-create his work in about five minutes and *spoiler alert* decided to try on a wall at home! In looking at some sources on abstract expressionism for a paper this week, I encountered what was likely Jackson Pollock’s first drip painting.
Jackson Pollock is known for his massive canvases that display large drips and splotches of paint. He applied the paint with sticks, brushes, his hands, and even directly from the can. These paint marks on a canvas aren’t supposed to look like a figural representation of anything that exists in the world. In fact, Pollock would look at his paintings for quite a while during the “getting acquainted” stage of his process and painted over any areas that slightly resembled an object. He wished to express his emotions rather than depict them. As a viewer, sometimes it’s uncomfortable to not fully understand art. Some people joke that they could do this effortlessly, like Olivia, but because they were so uniquely conceptualized and created, Pollock’s works will forever be one of a kind.
In this particular work, he first applied a red paint all over the canvas, which is relatively small for his works at about 19 by 14 inches. Then he began layering on white and black. The use of color and line is so incredibly important when discussing Pollock’s works because, well, that is what makes up this composition! The lines themselves are mostly curved, but overlap at sharp intersections at points which creates an opposition in the work. The white and black paint contrast as well which allows us to make out each color clearly. The black is consistently layered on top of the white paint which creates an effect of three distinct layers to this work. The red is smooth underneath the dripped paint but also gives this painting an edge due to its vibrancy.
Through learning a little bit about Jackson Pollock’s art and Abstract Expressionism as a whole, I personally feel much more comfortable looking at art that I don’t necessary “get”. In sitting in the headspace of not understanding what this Pollock painting “meant”, I actually found myself feeling like I had figured it out somehow. Sometimes I think not understanding art is the whole point.