May 28th 2013

Discoveries made in Pollock painting

We are likely all familiar with the artwork of Jackson Pollock, whether we’re familiar with his name or not. The iconic, dizzying paintings from his abstract expressionist period are certainly ones that we’ve said, “A child could do that”, and many have mocked his genius.

However, we know the real deal: we DIDN’T do it, and therefore, he deserves the revolutionary recognition for his approach that has made his work what it is.

But now, there’s more to it.

Pollock’s unconventional working methods have long been touted a version of performance art (without the spectators). He would spread a large unstretched, unprimed canvas on the floor then pour, splatter, and spread paints (usually not your typical art paint) on its surface.

Photographs have caught him doing this method, and numerous books and articles have been written about his process and feeling as though he was in the painting. However, after a 10-month examination and restoration at the Museum of Modern Art of his “One: Number 31, 1950,” new information has been revealed.

After the traditional feather dusting, James Coddington, chief conservator, and Jennifer Hickey, project assistant conservator used sponges, moist erasers, and cotton-tipped swabs soaked in water and a gentle, pH-adjusted solution to clean the dirt and grime off of the painting, making his multiple coats and varying surfaces like new again. But what Coddington and Hickey soon discovered, was that the texture of this particular painting is different, appearing to resemble a repetitive brush strokes not seen in his other works. They also discovered a new kind of paint was used in these sections– a synthetic resin that was not documented to have been used elsewhere.

Knowing that previously the painting belonged to dealer and friend of Pollock Ben Heller, the team did research and found that a photograph of the painting from 1962 revealed none of the uncharacteristic areas on this version. Since Pollock died 6 years previous, it was impossible he did them himself.

“We presumed it was to cover up some damage, but we didn’t know how extensive it was,” Coddington said in a New York Times article, assuming that it was an attempt to cover issues that were occurring over time in the painting, such as cracks. The team also found vertical drips as opposed to drips that would indicate it was only done on the floor, which suggests a nature of finishing the paintings on the wall.

Interesting to note these discoveries after a long hiatus on new information surrounding Pollock and his technique. For the full story, check out the New York Times article here.

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Andrew loves art and design, and pursues his studies in his final year at the Ontario College of Art and Design. He loves seeking out new artists and giving them their dues, and in his spare time, focuses on his own abstract sculpture.