the art of ballOOn-painting

by uwe kurz

Jackson Pollock (1912-1956)


Jackson PollockJackson Pollock was the prominent figure of the abstract expressionism. He began his studies in painting at the Art Students' League in New York directed by Thomas Hart Benton (Regionalism). During the thirties his work was led by the Regionalism and influenced by Mexican wall-paintings of artists like Orozco, Rivera and Siqueiros as well as by individual aspects of the Surrealism. From 1938 to 1942 he worked for the Federal Art Project.
   First in the forties Jackson Pollock painted representational, although never planned, but not »automatic« like Masson (»automatic painting«). Contrary to Max Ernst Pollock did not correct his paintings. In the middle of the forties he painted only in an abstract »drip and splash« style and in 1947 he became well-known. Instead of the traditional easel Pollock fastened the canvas on the floor or at a wall. He poured and dripped the colour from a can or a tin on the canvas, instead of brushes Pollock used sticks, cloths, towels and knifes. Sometimes he took also sand, glass and other materials to create  his work.
    He discovered a deeply human art, an art, which shows originally the rhythm of human beeings. A long, continuous river. Everything is released, lines and colours and thinking.
   Pollock´s  originality made the American art independent from Europe for the first time. Then, in March 1951 »the Vogue photoraphs«: Models pose against his Drip Paintings. Pollock, however, rejected the term »American painting«, in suspection of the association to the established regionalism.
    Jackson Pollock´s action paintings are not tempestuous, masculine and aggressive, as it may appear at first. These paintings are particularly tender and lyric in their swinging liberty (more comparable with the European Impressionists in music, poetry and painting). The design of his work did not have any relation with the form or extents of the canvas; indeed sometimes the canvas was united or cut to complete the painting. All this characters were important for the new American painting, which developed in the late forties and early fifties.


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Drip Painting


In the year 1942 in New York a painting by Max Ernst causes the attention of some young artists. It shows overlapping colour tracks, which are twisted and entangeled in rhythmic sweeps around the center of the painting. The colour tracks could not have been applied with a brush. Max Ernst explains the procedure, which he calls »oscillation« to the inquisitiv young colleagues:

An empty can merges two m to a cord of or, bores a small hole into the soil, fills the box with liquid colour. Let the box at the end of a cord over a flatbeing situated canvas and swing. The box leads by movements of the hands, the levers, the shoulder and the whole body. In this way troepfeln surprising lines on the canvas. The play of the association can begin then.

Among the young artists is also Jackson Pollock. Stimulated by Max Ernst´s oscillation procedure he develops a large sized, gesticulatory painting-method, called »Dripping« or »Drip Painting«. Jackson Pollock alters the procedure. He lets the colour-filled can not swing at a cord, but leads it with the hand or bound to a stick in large circling moves over the canvas. Or he hurls the colour directly from the full brush on the canvas spread on the floor. He goes around the canvas and acts from all directions »into« the surface. Sometimes he scratches with sticks into the coincidentally developed colour tracks.
   Already the slight modification in the methodology shows on Pollock´s paintings a completely different effect. Compared with the expressive intention of Jackson Pollock the art historian Werner Spies calls the guided oscillation of Max Ernst as

a guided initiative of the painting-tool. The movements, once begun by the hand, make themselves independent and can only be reduced by a more or less strong or abrupt braking action.


reference: E. Bruegel: Praxis Kunst Zufallsverfahren , Hannover (Schroedel), 2000
translated by Uwe Kurz


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