Jackson Pollock (American, 1912–1956)
Enamel on canvas; 68 1/8 x 105 in. (173 x 266.7 cm)
The Muriel Kallis Steinberg Newman Collection, Gift of Muriel Kallis Newman, in honor of her grandchildren, Ellen Steinberg Coven and Dr. Peter Steinberg, 2006 (2006.32.51)
© 2011 The Pollock–Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Jackson Pollock painted this mural-size canvas early in the summer of 1950. Having moved from Manhattan to eastern Long Island, in 1947 he returned to the drip and pour techniques that he may have learned ten years earlier from David Alfaro Siquieros. The resulting "allover" paintings, made from 1947 to 1950, constitute his greatest achievement.
Like almost all his New York colleagues, Pollock began his abstractions with drawings of figures, which were subsequently abstracted or obliterated. This canvas shows on its verso traces of drawing in black and yellow that are no longer visible on the surface, having been obscured by layers of other colors. Executed on the floor of his studio on a canvas roll that he later cut and stretched, the composition was worked on from all four sides of the rectangle. Using various techniques—pouring enamel paint from a hole in the can, dropping from a stick, flinging, and drizzling—he applied paint from a distance above the surface, using gravity and motion to form linear skeins.
The dominant critic of the day, Clement Greenberg, called such works "polyphonic." "Knit together of a multiplicity of identical or similar elements," he wrote, this art "repeats itself without strong variation from one end of the canvas to the other, and dispenses, apparently, with beginning, middle, and ending."