Jackson Pollock is known for his abstract paintings. He abandoned traditional painting tools such as brushes and poured paint directly onto large canvases placed on the floor. In his paintings, he strove to express his "unconscious mind". He admired and was inspired by modern artists such as Pablo Picassa and Joan Miro. His style was also influenced by Native American and Mexican mural artists.
Jackson Pollock was born in 1912 in Cody, Wyoming. He grew up in California and moved to New York with his brothers in 1930. In New York, he studied at the Art Student League, under the guidance of Thomas Hart Benton, the leader of the Regionalist school of painting. Although later Pollock departed from Benton's style radically, Pollock showed Benton's influence. For example, one of Benton's idea was that "a horizontally oriented picture should be organized by means of a series of vertical poles placed at intervals on the canvas, around which rhythmic sequences could be arranged". Pollock's last painting, The Blue Poles ( Fig. 1) , clearly demonstrated this organization. Later in the 1930s,, Pollock worked with the Mexican mural painters Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros on large mural commissions for political rallies. These artist were inspired by the Mexican revolution of 1910-20. They wanted to transform both the practice of painting and the society in which the artist lived. Siqueiro believed that in order to reflect the new society that would be ushered by communism, the material and techniques of painting had to change. Pollock later adopted Sequeiro's disdain for traditional tools and started to use sticks, trowels, knives, etc, instead. In the painting Mural 1943 (Figure 2), Pollock showed his interest in abstract art. His experience opened up a new way of painting for him and he eventually developed his own "drip" painting style later.
Pollock first started pouring paints onto pre-existing painting as a way of obscuring the forms. In the late 1940s, he moved to a more complete abstract art such that both figure and form were absent. He believed that his paintings were not only reflection of his "unconscious mind", but also of the culture of the time he was living in. He believed that in the modern age, painting should not be an "illustration of / but the equivalent/ concentrated/fluid." Later, he stopped giving titles to his painting and instead used numbers (Figure 3). He remarked that the lack of title offers the audience a chance to focus on an area of the painting that attracts them. The audience should not try to speculate what the artist has in mind when painting. Rather, he argued, art should be free and the audience should evaluate and feel the painting based on their own experience.
Unfortunately, his career was cut short when he died of a car accident while driving under influence in 1956.
Figure 1. Blue Poles: Number 11,1952
Figure 2. Mural 1942 oil on canvas
Figure 3. Number one, 1948
Cernuschi, Claude. Jackson Pollock, "psychoanalytic" drawings. Durham: Duke UP in association with the Duke University Museum of Art, 1992.
Pollock, Jackson. Jackson Pollock's Blue Poles. Washington D.C.: National Gallery of Australia, 2003.