Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Jackson Pollock’s Convergence Is All That Is American
Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) was a famous American painter who helped pioneer the Abstract Expressionist movement (post WWII art movement). Some say that Pollock’s unconventional style is merely chaotic splatters of paint randomly thrown onto a canvas with no skill or idea behind it. However, he has been accepted as a whole in the artistic community as a heroine of character that transcends both tradition and tragedy. Regardless of this, many have their ingrained beliefs—somewhat pretentious—of what and should not constitute art. Because of the freeness in his style, Pollock seems to be at the center of this debate. In order to gain a greater understanding and exemplify his place among the most notable artists, it is necessary to take a look at one of his more famous paintings.
Perhaps his most famous work was a painting entitled Convergence, which was a collage of colors splattered on a canvas that created masterful shapes and lines that evoke emotions and attack the eye. The painting was created in 1952, and is oil on canvas; 93.5 inches by 155 inches (Karmel, 1999). With Pollock’s brushstrokes he was able to make handy use of colors, lines, textures, lights, and contrasting shapes. This painting is enormous and its size can only really be appreciated in person. In 1964, puzzle producing company, Springbok Editions, released Convergence (Inspired by Pollock’s painting) the jigsaw puzzle. It was a 340-piece puzzle that they promoted as “the world’s most difficult puzzle” ("Jackson Pollock: Convergence Jigsaw Puzzle," n.d.). The impact of Pollock’s Convergence was evident in 1965 when hundreds of thousands of Americans purchased the jigsaw puzzle ("Jigsaw Puzzle History - The History of the Jigsaw Puzzle - Anne D. Williams - Jigsaw puzzles History and Origins," n.d.).
Pollock is most-known for painting with his canvas on the floor, and creating something called the “pouring technique” (Oxford Art Online: Pollock, n.d.). He did this by “…using heavily loaded brushes, sticks and turkey-basters,” to apply the paint (Oxford Art Online: Pollock, n.d.). The country really took notice of Pollock and embraced him in 1949 after a four-page spread in Life Magazine was published about him. Word spread fast of Pollock’s unconventional style, proving that art comes in many forms and has no boundaries. Pollock was a very unique recluse who would go into an almost trance-like state when painting. In Possibilities I, Winter 1947-48, Pollock was quoted, as saying, “When I am in my painting, I'm not aware of what I'm doing. It's only after a sort of ‘get acquainted’ period that I see what I have been about. I have no fears about making changes, destroying the image, etc., because the painting has a life of its own” (Karmel, 1999).
Pollock is mentioned in just about every journal that considers contemporary art. The mystery in his style has always been a thing of intrigue to the art world, weather you like him or not. No one can truly discern exactly what his paintings stood for. Many credible references acknowledge Pollock’s style as “seeming to derive from limitations of education and experience” (Oxford Art Online: Pollock, n.d.). The frustration of the art community in this respect appears to be the failure to be able to put-their-finger-on the very essence of what made him such a success with his public. The conventional world seems to have a problem rapping their minds around links between Pollock’s overindulgent-unconventional-style and his high-ranking status in modern mythology.
Defense of Convergence as Culturally Pivotal
Jackson Pollock's style of painting, as exemplified by Convergence, is an important, innovative development in the history of painting. At the time of the painting, the United States took very seriously the threat of Communism and the cold war with Russia. Convergence was the embodiment of free speech and freedom of expression. Pollock threw mud in the face of convention and rebelled against the constraints of societies oppressions. It was everything that America stood for all rapped up in a messy, but deep package. On that same note, some of Pollock’s works were even sponsored by the Congress for Cultural Freedom (an anti-communist advocacy group founded in 1950), which was backed by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) (Karmel, 1999). The CIA appreciated Pollock’s style, because it steered clear of social realism and overt political gestures. Pollock’s abstract work was hard to decipher, but his rebellious nature and expressions of freedom were clearly evident.
In a well-known essay ("American Action Painters") in 1952, featured in ARTnews, Harold Rosenberg coined the term "action painting," and about Pollock’s work he wrote, "What was to go on the canvas was not a picture but an event” (Karmel, 1999). During Pollock’s peek as an artist, new forms of thought were emerging. Pollock was on the front lines, even the inspiration or fore-runner, of these new schools of thought. One of them aimed to garner the ability to create a deeper self-expression. Many believed that if a person could focus more on living-in-the-moment, that they could evoke a deeper/more-profound creative expression (Spolin, 1986). This movement was termed Stream-of-consciousness by the great Pragmatist, William James, which came to be defined as “spontaneous live or recorded performances, as in film, music, and dramatic and comic monologues, intended to recreate the raw experience of the person portrayed or the performer” (Spolin, 1986). Somehow Pollock was able to tap into this zone and take it where not many have taken it before. The world certainly took notice. This line of thinking was carried-on with the inspiration of Pollock’s culturally innovative style.
American drama teacher and author, Viola Spolin, brought this new style of thinking formally in-vogue in the late 1950s; just after Pollock’s somewhat premature death. Spolin is considered by several as the “Grandmother of Improvisational theatre;” which led to such things like Saturday Night Live and countless other examples of the like; which led to a branching-out of other expressionist forms (Spolin, 1986). This proves that Pollock’s influence still lasts today. In fact, it proves that it is so ingrained in our society that we have all been inadvertently influenced by it; weather we know it or not.
Jackson Pollock’s painting style, as well as his personality, has become thoroughly entrenched into our society. Pollock will forever be known as an innovator and pioneer of Abstract Expressionism, whose blatant quest for freedom of restraints provided inspiration for generations to come. Not only was Pollock embraced by the public, but he was also endorsed by the government as an excellent representation of the prototype of what an American painter’s philosophy should be in the 1950s; as exemplified in his most famous painting, Convergence. The fact is that Pollock’s painting Convergence represented not only a transformation in art, but a transformation in culture and thinking.
It was a concept of letting the Freud coined, “unconscious mind,” express itself in an unfiltered way; spawning the art form: Improvisation. Whether Pollock knew it or not, he epitomized the “Individuation Philosophy” of the great Psychologist, Carl Jung; which stated, “The development of individuality, the discovery of what an individual really thinks and believes, as opposed to the collective thoughts, feelings and beliefs imposed on him by society, becomes a quest of vital significance” (G., 1999).
G., J. C. (1999). The Essential Jung. New York: Princeton UP.
Jackson Pollock: Convergence Jigsaw Puzzle. (n.d.). In Pomegranate's Secure, Online Store. Retrieved August 20, 2009, from http://pomegranate.stores.yahoo.net/aa558.html
Jigsaw Puzzle History - The History of the Jigsaw Puzzle - Anne D. Williams - Jigsaw puzzles History and Origins. (n.d.). In MGC Custom Made Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles - Custom Photo Puzzles maker Jigsaw Puzzle Manufacturer. Retrieved August 20, 2009, from http://www.mgcpuzzles.com/mgcpuzzles/puzzle_history/
Karmel, P. (1999). Jackson Pollock interviews, articles, and reviews. New York: Museum of Modern Art: Distributed by H.N. Abrams.
Oxford Art Online: Vigée-Lebrun (n.d.). Retrieved August 19, 2009, from http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/grove/art/T068491?q=jackson+pollock&source=oao_gao&source=oao_t118&source=oao_t234&source=oao_t4&search=quick&hbutton_search.x=22&hbutton_search.y=9&pos=1&_start=1#firsthit
Sayre, H. M. (2007). A World of Art (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.
Spolin, V. (1986). Theater Games for the Classroom A Teacher's Handbook. New York: Northwestern UP.