spective “exhibition” of Allan Kaprow’s Happenings, called Preced- ings, that I .. “The Legacy of Jackson Pollock” remains for some Kaprow’s sem- inal essay. ALLAN. E.S’J/f’15 0/11 TNt: I’ of A”j t1Nl> LIFE (fi”EI(K£L £. C Ul:’F c-ltLIFafl- NIA f’fi:ES..J’/ 😉 /- t. The Legacy of Jackson Pollock () The tragic news of . Allan Kaprow – The Legacy of Jackson Pollock – Download as PDF File .pdf), Text File .txt) or read online.

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Essays on the Blurring of Art and Life. University of California Press,pp.

The tragic news llegacy Pollock’s death two summers ago kapro profoundly depressing to many of us. We felt not only a sadness over the death of a great figure, but also a deep loss, as if something of ourselves had died too. We were a piece of him: We saw in his legact the possibility of an astounding freshness, a sort of ecstatic blindness. But there was another, morbid, side to his meaningfulness. To “die at the top” for being his kind of modern artist was to many, I think, implicit in the work before he died.

It was this bizarre implication that was so moving. We remembered van Gogh and Rimbaud. But now it was our time, and a man some of us knew. This ultimate sacrificial aspect of being an artist, while not a new idea, seemed in Pollock terribly modern, and in him the statement and the ritual were so grand, so authoritative and all-encompassing in their scale and daring that, whatever our private convictions, we could not fail to be affected by their spirit.

It was probably this sacrificial oc of Pollock that lay at the root of our depression. Pollock’s tragedy was more subtle than his death: We could not avoid seeing that during the last five years of his life his strength had weakened, and during the last three he had hardly worked at all. If the end had pollocl come, it came at the wrong time.

Explosion! The Legacy of Jackson Pollock

Was it not perfectly clear that modern art in general was slipping? Either it had become dull and repetitious as the “advanced” style, or legacyy numbers of formerly committed contemporary painters were defecting to earlier forms. America was celebrating a “sanity in art” movement, and the flags were out. Thus, we reasoned, Pollock japrow the center in a great failure: His heroic stand had been futile.

Rather than releasing the freedom that it at first promised, it caused not only a loss of power and possible disillusionment for Pollock but also that the japrow was up. And those of us still resistant to this truth would end the same way, hardly at the top. Such were our thoughts in August But over two years have passed. What we felt then was genuine enough, but our tribute, if it was that at all, was a limited one.

It was surely a manifestly human reaction on the part of those of us who were devoted to the most advanced artists around us and who felt the shock of being thrown out on our own.

But it did not seem that Pollock had indeed accomplished something, both by his attitude and by his very real gifts, that went beyond even those values recognized and acknowledged by sensitive artists and critics. The innovations are accepted. They are becoming part of textbooks. But some of the implications inherent in these new values are not as futile as we all began to believe; this kind of painting need not be called the tragic style. Not all the roads of this modern art lead to ideas of finality.

I hazard the guess that Pollock may have vaguely sensed this but was unable, because of illness or for other reasons, to do anything about it. He created some magnificent paintings. But he also destroyed painting. If we examine a few of the innovations mentioned above, it may be possible to see why this is so. For instance, the act of painting. In the last seventy-five years the random play of the hand upon the canvas or paper has become increasingly important.


Strokes, smears, lines, dots became less and less.

But from Impressionism up to, say, Gorky, the idea of an “order” to these markings was explicit enough. Even Dada, which purported to be free of such considerations as “composition,” obeyed the Cubist esthetic.

One colored shape balanced or modified or stimulated others, and these in turn were played off against or with the whole canvas, taking into account its size and shape—for the most part quite consciously. In short, part-to-whole or part-to-part relationships, no matter how strained, were a good 50 percent of the making of a picture most of the time they were a lot more, maybe 90 percent.

With Pollock, however, the so-called dance of dripping. He was encouraged in this by the Surrealist painters and lalan, but next to his their work is consistently “artful,” “arranged,” and full of finesse— aspects of outer control and training. With the huge canvas placed upon the floor, thus making it difficult for the artist to see the whole or any extended section of “parts,” Pollock could truthfully say that he was “in” his work.

Here the direct application of an automatic approach to the act makes it clear that not only is this not the old craft of painting, but it is perhaps bordering on ritual itself, which happens to use paint as one of its materials. The European Surrealists may have used automatism as an ingredient, but we can hardly say they really practiced it wholeheartedly. In fact, only the writers among them—and only in a few instances—enjoyed any success in this way. In retrospect, most of the Surrealist painters appear to have derived from a psychology book or from each other: Hardly automatic, at that.

And, more than the others associated with the Surrealists, such real talents as Picasso, Klee, and Miro belong to the stricter discipline of Cubism; poplock this is why their work appears to us, paradoxically, more free.

Surrealism attracted Pollock as an attitude rather than as a collection of artistic examples. But I used the words “almost absolute” when I spoke of the diaristic gesture as distinct kapdow the process of judging each move upon the canvas. Pollock, interrupting his work, would judge his “acts” very shrewdly and carefully for long periods before going into another “act.

This was his conscious artistry at work, and it makes him a part of the traditional community of painters. Yet the distance between the relatively self-contained works of the Europeans and the seemingly chaotic, sprawling works of the American indicates at best a tenuous connection to “paintings.

The painterly aspects of his contemporaries, such as Motherwell, Hofmann, de Al,an, Rothko, and even Still, point up at one moment a deficiency in him and at another moment te liberating feature. I choose to consider the second element the important one.

Allan Kaprow – Telegraph

I am convinced that to grasp a Pollock’s impact properly, we must be acrobats, constantly shuttling between an identification with the hands and body that flung the paint and stood “in” the canvas and submission to the objective markings, allowing them to entangle and assault us. This instability is indeed far from the idea of a “complete” painting. The artist, the spectator, and the outer world are much too interchangeably involved here. And if we object to the difficulty of complete comprehension, we are asking too little of the art.

To follow it, it is jacksoh to get rid of the usual idea of “Form,” i. We do not jacjson a painting of Pollock’s in any one place or hundred places.

Anywhere is everywhere, and we dip in and out when and where we can. This discovery has led to remarks that his art gives the impression of going on forever—a true insight that suggests how Pollock ignored the confines of the rectangular field in favor of a continuum going in all directions simultaneously, beyond the literal dimensions of any work.

Though legaccy points to a slackening of the attack as Pollock came to the edges of many of his canvases, in the best ones he compensated for this by tacking much of the painted surface around the back of his stretchers. The four sides of the painting are thus an abrupt leaving off of the activity, which our imaginations continue llegacy indefinitely, as though refusing to accept the artificiality of an “ending. We accept this innovation as valid because the artist understood with perfect naturalness “how to do it.


But this form allows us equal pleasure in participating in a delirium, a deadening of the reasoning faculties, a loss of “self” in the Western sense of the term. This strange combination of extreme individuality and selflessness makes jacksno work remarkably potent but also indicates a probably larger frame of psychological reference.

And for this reason any allusions to Pollock’s being the maker of giant textures are completely incorrect. They miss the point, and misunderstanding is bound to follow. But given the proper approach, a medium-sized exhibition space with the walls totally covered by Pollocks offers the most complete and meaningful sense of his art jacksoj.

Pollock’s choice of enormous canvases served many purposes, chief levacy which for our discussion is that his mural-scale paintings ceased to become paintings and became environments. Before a painting, allxn size as spectators, in relation to the size of the picture, profoundly influences how much we are willing to give up consciousness of our temporal existence while experiencing it.

Jackskn choice of great sizes resulted in our being confronted, assaulted, sucked in.

Yet letacy must not confuse the te of these with that of the hundreds of large paintings done in the Renaissance, which glorified an idealized everyday world familiar to the observer, often continuing the actual room legacj the painting by means of trompe l’oeil.

Pollock offers us no such familiarity, and our everyday world of convention and habit is replaced by the one created by the artist. Reversing the above procedure, the painting is continued out into the room. And this leads me to my final point: The space of these creations is not clearly palpable as such.

We can become entangled in the web to some extent and by moving in and out of the skein of lines and splash-ings can experience a kind of spatial extension. But even so, this space is an allusion far more vague than even the few inches of space-reading a Cubist work affords.

It may be that our need to identify with the process, the making of the whole affair, prevents a xllan on the specifics of before and behind so important in a more traditional art. But what I believe is clearly discernible is kapeow the entire painting comes out at us we are participants rather kxprow observersright into the room. It is possible to see in this connection how Pollock is the terminal result of a gradual trend that moved from the deep space of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries to the building out from the canvas of the Cubist collages.

In the present case the “picture” has moved so far kaprlw that the canvas is no longer a reference point. Pollick, although up on the wall, these marks surround us as they did the painter at work, so strict is the correspondence achieved between his impulse and the resultant art.

What we have, then, is art that tends to lose itself out of bounds, tends to fill our world with itself, art that in meaning, looks, impulse seems to break fairly kaaprow with the traditions of painters back to at least the Greeks. Pollock’s near destruction of this tradition may well. If so, it is an exceedingly important step and in its superior way offers a solution to the complaints of those who would have us put a bit of life into art.

But what do we do now? There are two alternatives. One is to continue in this vein. Probably many good “near-paintings” can be done varying this esthetic of Pollock’s without departing from it or going further. The other is to give up the making of paintings entirely—I mean the single flat rectangle or oval as we know it.

It has been seen how Pollock came pretty close to doing so himself.