It's Not Art - Jackson Pollock

[There are some NSFW images at the bottom of the post]

"Every good painter paints what he is." - Jackson Pollock

It does not behoove an artist to say a good artist paints what he is and then proceed to paint the splatter of eviscerated remains floating on the cold, inky, blackness of a bottomless, patch of ocean. At night. Randomly.


Wiki says:

Jackson Pollock, was an influential American painter and a major figure in the abstract expressionist movement. He was well known for his unique style of drip painting

Oh. Oh. Is that what you call it? I used to know this guy in school, Claire, and during the summer he worked on the maintenance crew of the college, painting and repainting classrooms. He would paint his work boots with the colour of paint he was using at that time. In time his boots had a multi-layered, industrial pastel rainbow appearance. That was art compared to Jackson Pollock's abstract expressionist drip style.

"It is only when I lose contact with the painting that the result is a mess. Otherwise there is pure harmony, an easy give and take, and the painting comes out well." - Jackson Pollock

Pure harmony when it works? A mess when he loses contact? Well, I fail to see the difference.

I think I can almost see something in this one. Coffee stains.

Komodo dragon with a buffalo body?

"I have no fear of making changes, destroying the image, etc., because the painting has a life of its own" - Jackson Pollock 

No fear destroying the image? Well done, then. If destroying the image is what an artist sets out to accomplish, and he accomplishes it, is that art?

Art as a subject is too existential for me. I need for things to make sense and art doesn't follow rules. In fact the rule is that there are no rules. If I have to stand and look at a piece of art and try and find meaning in it, it has failed by my standards. If I have to think about anything to 'get' it, it's failed.

Standing on a huge canvas dripping paint all over it requires no talent. Just because it's big doesn't make it art and just because someone tells me it's art, doesn't meant I have to accept it. If I can recreate what this artist does, it's not art. Not to me, but then that's the "art is subjective" BS we're fed. If he thinks it's art, it's art. Art as a subject is a huge, flaky, pompous pain in the ass to me.

Which sounds a lot like Jackson Pollock himself. He used to paint with a stick while dropping cigarette ashes all over his canvases but I don't really care about that. A movie based on the man's life was released in 2000.

Over at this sight, Arthur Ball also dislikes Jackson Pollock and thinks he's an asshole as well. He created the above inanimate trebuchet Jackson Pollack painting creator. He says:

I made this to mock Jackson. It is a trebuchet. When you push the arm and brush down into the troth below filled with paint, then release it, the arm will fling paint forward to create splatters. People say sometimes that their child could create a Jackson Pollock. Well, I say an inanimate object can create a Jackson pollock painting.


And then there's art that's just ugly. I like art to be attractive. It doesn't have to be photorealistic or anything. It can follow many styles and mediums but it has to be attractive in some way. This is not attractive:

This is called "Gravity" by Michael Haussman. It's a video installation and here is a write up if you want to  check it out. It is described: 

Each of the five subjects is filmed in slow motion, floating upward then descending down to the earth, where they bottom out in gravity's clutch. Yet each person is magically stationary. They do not move an inch. All that moves is their skin, cellulite, muscles, bones, and expression, creating a disturbing yet beautiful shift in body mass and emotion. Even the background stays perplexingly still. The total effect is that of a moving painting.

OK whatever. If it was a scientific study of the visual effect of gravity on bodies, large and small, I would say it was interesting and filmed in an artsy way, but as art? Just art? I don't get it. "disturbing yet beautiful"? "A moving painting"? It annoyed the hell out of me. Maybe it's my inferior video card but the movement was nearly undetectable and who needs to see breasts bouncing up and down elongating to their* apex and nader because their owner is bouncing naked on a trampoline? Is this supposed to be Baroque video art a la Rubens? Yeah, no..

GRAVITY was chosen by LA Weekly as one of “10 Great Artworks at Art Platform Los Angeles Art Fair 2012”. Go figure.

*the Lad walked in here to say something to me, saw the "Gravity" video's capture of the redheaded woman, forgot what he was going to say, walked into the hallway and started banging his head on the wall saying: "No. No. No. No" in mock anguish. I rest my case.


iambriezy said...

Yup. Although I don't necessarily think art has to be attractive, it does have to make sense on some level. And it does have to be impossible for me, a completely talentless non-artist, to recreate.

Frimmy said...

No it doesn't have to be attractive. It does have to have some sense to it, I absolutely agree. Picasso's cubist style didn't produce attractive work but it did make sense on some level. Also, he has other non-cubist works that clearly show he was an artist in a more conventional sense of the word so he has credibility something Pollock does not have in my opinion. Picasso's Garcon a la Pipe is attractive for example.

What got me started on this subject was a post I saw about famous artists first paintings. Picasso's Picador, painted when he was eight, is cool as hell. I'm not completely fond of cubist works because it isn't conventionally attractive, but it obviously generates from genuine artistic talent and I can respect that. It has its own beauty if you want to think about it deeply. But I don't. I'd expend that kind of energy talking about books or philosophy or food or 600 thread count bed sheets or chameleons.

Frimmy said...

Or fractals

Frimmy said...

I sounded like I contradicted myself. The making sense is what is attractive, I guess is what I'm trying to say. If it makes no sense it's ugly. Pfft, I suppose "making sense" is subjective too. Art. As a subject I don't much like it, I think.

Unknown said...

My definition of art: if you can't tell if it was painted by a chimpanzee or a human being, it's not art.

With Pollock you couldn't tell if it was painted by a chimpanzee, a human, or was the result of someone puking on the canvass.

Pollock was definitely an artist in one sense--the art of deception. He was able to con gullible people into accepted trash as art. Remember the story of the "Emperor's New Clothes." I'd guess Pollock was familiar with it.

Frimmy said...

I agree. He seemed to have a disregard or even disrespect for art, if anything. Dropping cigarette ash all over his paintings? Why not just splat a big hand kind flipping the bird?

Anonymous said...

Fine artists, art historians, and art curators are together on the understanding that artists of modern times are not creators of beautiful things, or designers, but people who express a particular intention or push a conventional boundary through (typically) visual means.

I'm a believer of the idea that you shouldn't simply like or dislike something because of what historians, academics, etc, tell you. However, it can't be denied what these artists provided for artists to come. Pollock was a bit of a process painter, which in itself was something that was very new at the time, and unexplored. The beauty in his work relies just as much as the act of creation as the final product itself. Pollock believed that he was working from the unconscious mind, which was a relatively recent idea only being talked about by Sigmund Freud around 1900-1905, which is only about 45 years before Pollock began creating his abstract expressionist paintings. He felt his paintings were more similar to records of his psychological being, than say a portrait, or landscape.

Other artists experimentation led ways for others, whether it was refining, or moving in the opposite direction. To quote Willem de Kooning, "Every so often a painter has to destroy painting. Cezanne did it and then Picasso did it again with Cubism. Then Pollock did it- he busted our idea of a picture all to hell. Then there could be a new picture again."

All of that being said, no one is under any obligation to like, or find any piece of work visually stimulating; but the concept of "what is art" or "who is an artist", lies in the intent of the work.

Frimmy said...

Asgtwaa, Gifted Explainer of Abstract Concepts, the only thing missing from your comment was a final *mic drop*. I like the idea that Pollock's works were reflections of his psychological being. Thank you for your thoughtful comment. The Frimm abides.

Unknown said...

... while Asgtwaaa deposited us wonderful expose on "the abstract"... PLEASE allow me to step in and Voice of reason call BS!!! - Loud and proud, if you don't mind...
Let's just logically juxtapose this medium to another with which I am quite familiar- music.
I am a professional vocalist. I view myself as an artist.
My vocal performance is a work of performing art.
Ergo- imagine my response if I went to see a band - or vocal performer-
and the extent to which he "performed" were grunts and growls... or screeches...
I guess- if we were being objective and liberal with the application of the word- you could SAY it's still TECHNICALLY art...
Inasmuch as it were an expression by someone delivered to an audience...
So if we apply that sad and wide definition- EVERYTHING is ART.. or at least ANYTHING that someone says is art- is therefore art.
The dilution effect however being that then we have effectively destroyed the value of the word. My outlook is should we HAVE standards and expectations from and for EVERYTHING?
Maybe we can just say- to paraphrase an Orwellian Animal Farm reference: "Everything is art... but some things are more artistic than others." Or my take specifically: "Everything is art- but some artists SUCK!!"
Say what you will- but if I possess far and away more "talent" than a given artist in a given medium, then I will have difficulty appreciating and/or respecting his "art"...
Moreover if roughly ANY other denizen can produce similar- if not identical works- then the standard by which we define the work as art is shockingly low.
Peace out and God bless!

1LTLos said...

Most comments are framed by the fact that commentors all live in a iphone ipad digital age
with very little experience of the technologies of the era of the 40's that were impetus of Pollocks
work. One commentor leaves this to which I responded:
"Art as a subject is too existential for me. I need for things to make sense and art doesn't follow rules. In fact the rule is that there are no rules. If I have to stand and look at a piece of art and try and find meaning in it, it has failed by my standards. If I have to think about anything to 'get' it, it's failed."

No, your prefab painting criterion fail. Jacksons work is pigment on canvas. That is the definition of art regardless of whether one needs to, desires to, or simply does "get it" in spite of themselves. Pollock's work is the easiest and most fun of all American abstract painting to view specifically because his work required no description or definition. His Artwork was topic unspecific however, driven by Pollocks responses to forces that impacted he and his world, though these were undefinable by him but were,put simply, sensed and or felt. Pollock's art, and it is Art, was the closest to a seismic record of undefined and undefinable human emotion. And these were unselfishly created not only for all to view but to also feel. You are right, if you have think of anything its a failure. However, in this case, you fail. You choose to think, and forgot sensation, affect. When one views a Modigliani's landscapes before he sold out to create stylized figure eight ladies, his landscapes struck you with a baseball bat. Yes, they were of a recognizable place but the aggressive brushwork within the shadows are a precursor to Pollack and his discontinuous fluid linear paintings.
Carlos Ramos

Frimmy said...

Thank you for your thoughtful reply

Alplily said...

Pollock was the first to really show the world that a painting could be interesting in its own right without being representational. You are not supposed to see anything specific or recognizable in them (only what your own imagination produces). He was quite deliberate in the way he applied paint. They were completely abstract, a giant leap away from Cubism, etc. Like them or not, Pollock was the first, and he broke things wide open for the art world. If not for him, and his contemporaries, we would not have abstract art in the way we do now. Even the artists of his time saw that. He made anything possible. That, I believe, makes them art. I happen to think many of them are quite beautiful, as are those of Joan Mitchell, Franz Kline, etc. They spark my imagination with their energy and color.

Frimmy said...

I can see how someone doing work like Pollack - way WAY outside the box at the time - would open a door for different directions by pushing those boundaries. If nobody ever pushed boundaries we'd never have anything new. I checked out Joan Mitchell and Franz Kline and liked their work. Kline's stark black slashes on a light background jogged a memory of silhouettes of sluices for transporting lumber in old times. Why? That intrigued me.
I appreciate everyone's point of view on this subject. Civil discourse and conversations like this open minds.

Arian said...

And then after all those "inner trouble" explanations of what Pollock did I am going to break ti down again to simplicity. Pollock himself was an artist because he managed to label himself like this. It is like Beyonce, she can put the microphone in her anus, rip a fart and her fans will buy it.
What Pollock did was not art thought, because if someone else can do the exact same thing and shows it to someone who values Pollock, he will say "wow look at this masterpiece", if that someone learns it is made by some random guy, he will immediately stop liking it, because now somehow the painting doesn't have "the inner trouble of the artists and subconscious mind of Pollock".

ART is something valuable without the need of a brand name or the artist itself. In the same sense Beyonce's fart will never be art itself, it gets its validation because it came out of Beyonce's anus and not some random person. Same way cubism is not the best art, but Picasso is an artist because he managed to brand himself one and eventually have people pay thousands for one of his mediocre work.

If I see a painting that has photo realism, bright colours, amazing techniques etc, I will probably look up the name of the artist only to find more work like this to enjoy, I won't try to find a name just to be a fan and follow whatever that person does.

We humans, have an in built sense of beauty that has to do with symmetry, good proportions etc. look up the golden ratio and the golden ratio mask. This conversation can go all the way to 2030 if we continue but the final thoughts are Pollock was an artists himself because he managed to make a name by doing something and be recognized by it, on the other hand any painting pollock made is not art itself.

Frimmy said...

Thank you for this. I absolutely loved it and it made sense. I can totally adopt this point of view


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