When Pollock Embraced Spontaneity

All works: Jackson Pollock, Untitled, 1944/45 (printed 1967). Engraving and drypoint in blown-black on white Italia wove paper. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. (1) and (2) The William Stamps Farish Fund, 2009; (3) Gift of the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, Inc., 2009

In 1930, Jackson Pollock confessed to his brother his frustration that his drawing was “rotten; it seems to lack freedom and rhy[thm].” That changed dramatically in 1944, when Pollock spent several months at Atelier 17, the printmaking workshop where he practiced the Paul Klee-inspired automatic writing taught by Stanley William Hayter. Hayter’s Atelier 17 was a central meeting place for avantgarde artists such as Pollock, William Baziotes, Adolph Gottlieb, and Mark Rothko.

These three works were printed from more than 10 plates that Pollock etched over several months at Hayter’s studio. Hayter, who had seen how the method of automatic drawing had invigorated French surrealist artists, saw the potential to convert more followers among the American abstract artists. He insisted that his acolytes etch directly into the zinc plates without any preparatory sketches and call upon their unconscious to generate line drawings. Hayter’s studio became a rite of passage for many Abstract Expressionists, although it had an especially profound impact on Pollock, who took from the experience an appreciation for spontaneous, nondescriptive line. The emphasis on the physical act of making art set the stage for Pollock’s breakthrough just a few years later to his drip paintings.

This work is on view in Ten Americans: After Paul Klee through May 6, 2018.

Returning to Long Island

Angels, Demons, and Savages: Pollock, Ossorio, Dubuffet” being installed

Photo: Klaus Ottmann

Angels, Demons, and Savages: Pollock, Ossorio, Dubuffet, being installed by staff at the new Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, New York, last week.  The Parrish is not far from Alfonso Ossorio’s Long Island estate, The Creeks, where he collected and displayed works by Pollock and Dubuffet. Angels, Demons, and Savages opened on Saturday and will be on display until October 27.

Inside the Pollock-Krasner House

In many ways, the story of Angels, Demons, and Savages: Pollock, Ossorio, Dubuffet unfolds in East Hampton, where Ossorio settled and Pollock lived (and painted) with his wife Lee Krasner in what is now the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center. Here is a virtual tour of the abstract expressionist’s homestead (with captions provided by the Stony Brook Foundation-run site), which a participant in this online game (and two friends) will visit later this summer.

PK House front

PK House living-dining room

PK Barn studio

Barn studio