Jackson Pollock: Blind Spots

In 1951, two years after Life magazine asked if he was the greatest painter living in the US, Jackson Pollock’s work turned darker. He was now famous but still unable to find a healthy rapport with life. For the next 36 months, he abandoned his so-called signature style and adopted a new style. Historically underplayed, a new exhibition at Tate Liverpool – co-organised with the Dallas Museum of Art – aspires to say otherwise.
Blind Spots covers the period between 1951 and 1953 and represents “the most significant showing of this widely debated body of work in a public institution” in over 25 years. Tate says of the black pourings that not only do they mark a pivotal high point in his artistic direction, they also anticipate the post-painterly abstraction of the late fifties, early sixties.
The departure from his “colourful, lyrical, decorative, non-figurative paintings” feels rather sharp and while not necessarily mercurial in origin – it feels more intentional and certainly Pollock was keen to progress – it nevertheless marks clear boundaries between the two distinct approaches. The former was, of course, reflective of his highly respected drip technique, the latter was more dense in composition.
The art historian Michael Fried, who is quoted by Tate, said of the black pourings that Pollock was “on the verge of an entirely new and different kind of painting … of virtually limitless potential”. It was, in contrast to what his contemporaries were doing, radical in every regard.
“While several of Jackson Pollock’s contemporaries combined black and white, his black pourings were exceptional in their absolute merging of color and surface, which went over and above what Pollock himself had previously achieved,” Gavin Delahunty, senior curator of contemporary art at the Dallas Museum of Art, said last year when the show was first announced.
“This is a crucial difference for many contemporary artists revisiting Pollock’s work today. This exhibition will invite visitors to rediscover this critical moment in Pollock’s artistic development and inform a greater understanding of the artist’s distinctive trajectory.”
The show includes works from his absolute peak as an artist, sculptures that tend not to see the light of day – Pollock’s output in this medium is another overlooked area – and drawings he made during the early fifties. Collectively this results in a comprehensive presentation of his work, with, of course, an emphasis on the black pourings. These works are vital in appreciating the legacy of this revolutionary artist.
Jackson Pollock: Blind Spots at Tate Liverpool runs from June 30th until October 18th, 2015.
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