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Jackson Pollock

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American artist Jackson Pollock is known for his reinvention of what a painting might depict by creating a revolutionary way to paint. He was part of the Abstract Expressionism movement, where gesture and paint application, rather than subject matter, became important. The work itself might come from the unconscious mind and might trigger an emotional response in the viewer.

Pollock was born in Cody, Wyoming but his family moved a frequently, living mainly in Arizona and California when he was young. He had a difficult time in school but his mother felt he was creative and had him tutored in art before he enrolled in the Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles. He was kicked out of several schools including this one. In 1930 when he was 18, he moved to New York City and attended the Arts Student League. Here, his teachers included artist Thomas Hart Benton who would come to be a big influence on Pollock\’s work. He traveled with Benton to the Western US and studied Benton’s techniques, incorporating the emphasis of gesture into his own style of painting. Pollock was also inspired by the Modernism movement, Picasso, Native American sand painting seen during surveying trips with his father, Asian calligraphy, and the Mexican mural tradition.

A workshop with Mexican artist David Alfaro Siqueiros in 1936 would be instrumental because they worked with liquid paint. From 1938 to 1942, Pollock was hired by the Federal Art Project, a Works Progress Administration (WPA) program for artists to have work during the Depression. In 1943, he had a solo exhibition at Peggy Guggenheim\’s influential Art of This Century gallery and, in 1945, he married artist Lee Krasner. They moved to Long Island to get away from big city life.

Pollock is best known for his \”drip period” paintings done between 1947 and 1950. He would lay a stretched canvas on the ground and circle it, looking at it from all angles and flicking, pouring, and dripping paint onto the canvas. While he worked, he would have a cigarette in his mouth, wear paint-stained boots, and have a glass of alcohol handy.

Pollock had problems with alcoholism for most of his life and stopped painting all together in 1955. He died at the age of 44 in a car crash. His work was championed by Krasner and many are in many museum collections. Both artists continue to be relevant to our age.

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