One: Number 31 by Jackson Pollock

“I prefer to tack the un-stretched canvas to the floor. I need the resistance of a hard surface. On the floor I am more at ease. I feel nearer, more part of the painting, since this way I can walk around it, work from the four sides and literally be in the painting.” – Jackson Pollock

It was in 1939 when Pollock started to turn toward more symbolic and expressionist art. He was looking for a new vocabulary and found inspiration in other artists like Thomas Hart Benton and Mexican muralist Gabriel Orozco, but no one had as big of an influence on Pollock’s work as Pablo Picasso. His early works, like the Shewolf, Picasso’s influence is evident. In Picasso he discovered his artistic master, the artist after whom he would model his own work, while at the same time, from whom he would try to distance himself.

It was during this quest to overcome Picasso that Pollock finally moved towards non-objective abstraction. He developed the drip technique while working in his house in Springs, NY thus laying the groundwork for Abstract Expressionism and solidifying his “signature” gesture. Pollock began by tacking un-stretched canvas to the floor, and with a can of paint in one hand, and a stick of hardened brush in the other, he walked around the canvas, pouring and dripping paint all over it. This was a radically different approach that created paintings without a specific focal point, something often referred by art historians as an ‘all-over composition’.

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This innovation prompted the art critic Harold Rosenberg to observe that “at a certain moment, the canvas began to appear to one American painter after another as an arena in which to act … what was to go onto the canvas was not a picture, but an event.” Dripping paint onto an unstretched canvas required Pollock to use his entire body, which created this very unique connection between him and his work. When we look at this painting we can almost see artist’s body moving, dancing, leaning around this canvas on the floor.

Another factor that influenced the creation of Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings was Jazz. The rhythms and sounds of Charlie Parker’s, Max Roach’s and Miles Davis’ Hard Bop and Bebop that were heard all over New York, Chicago and the heartland, were some of the primary driving forces behind Pollock’s paintings. He claimed that the music would put him in a trance that enabled him to work and gave him a sense of rhythm while he painted. Pollock once wrote, “When I am in my painting I’m not aware of what I’m doing. It is only after sort of ‘get antiquated’ period that I see what I have been about.”

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