The Jackson Pollock: Blinds Spots exhibition at the Tate Liverpool brings together a large assembly of Pollock’s lesser known monochrome Black Paintings. The exhibition explores Pollock’s extensive and expansive practice juxtaposing these works with his recognisable pieces to demonstrate the shift in his practice. The exhibition’s aim is to address the important blind spots of our understanding of both Pollock the artist and his practice, and to highlight his prolific development right up until his death in 1956.
The exhibition is split into six sections, each illustrate not only the development of his practice during his later career but display different aspects of Pollock’s work that are not widely discussed such as sculpture and prints. Whilst the inclusion of these was interesting in showing Pollock’s exploration of other media, in addition to the support they gave in demonstrating Pollock’s progression of style; the exhibition context still reads coherently without them in its inclusion of three pivotal sections which show his development. The first is the Introduction, which displays the traditional drip paintings alongside his early monochrome Black Paintings; the inclusion of these recognisable Pollock paintings allows the viewer to compare the newer work to his existing style. This therefore visually reveals the development of this new style, which is applied in a more fluid way, allowing the paint to seep and run in a thoughtful and deliberate manner. Number 23 (1948) perfectly shows this change of direction, and highlights the possibilities of the new method in the way he has allowed the black and white paint to bleed together creating grey hues. The style is reminiscent of Japanese calligraphy in the application of the paint both in its fluidity and incorporation of negative areas of space.
The next defining development sees Pollock’s return to the figurative in the Betty Parson Exhibition (1951). This displays his new technique of a more direct relationship between the raw canvas and black enamel; the lines become graphic, and the paint is allowed to stain the canvas rather than the drip technique of quickly layered paint in thin lines. The final section Conclusion and Legacy continues the tension between abstraction and representation, but reintroduces colour so the works become an infusion of Pollock’s different techniques and a realisation of his experimentation of different styles within his Black Paintings period. The work remains solid and graphic but they still retain the energy of his earlier drip paintings. Portrait and a Dream (1953) demonstrates this perfectly in its combination of the graphic figure and delicate calligraphic lines. It shows Pollock’s progression and offers a glimpse into huge potential for this realisation of figurative abstraction, meanwhile serving as a poignant remainder of his untimely death. This makes it the perfect concluding painting for the Jackson Pollock: Blind Spots show as it not only alters our perception of what a ‘Jackson Pollock’ is but acts as a realisation of the development of the Black Paintings the exhibition explores.
Claire Walker is a writer based in Wigan.
Jackson Pollock: Blind Spots, Tate Liverpool, Liverpool
30 June – 18 October 2015
Image courtesy of Tate Liverpool
© The Pollock-Krasner Foundation ARS, NY and DACS, London 2015.