COLUMN SIXTY-SEVEN, JANUARY 1, 2002
(Copyright © 2002 Al Aronowitz)
POLLOCK: A LIFE REVIEW
Rocky Mountain Media Collective
for myself, I’m blown away by the power of Jackson Pollock’s canvases much
the same as I was blown away by the power of Vincent Van Gogh’s A View of
the Wheatfield at Arles when I first laid eyes on it. But journalist Cordley
Coit was a drinking buddy of the painters of Jackson Pollock’s youth and this
is Cordley’s however jaundiced point of view.-—Al Aronowitz]
It is windy
and cold at three a.m., an hour before the wolves stir. I am thinking about
painters; two painters, father and son in art. Jake Pollock was a drinking man,
as a classically trained artist, he spent his learning in the home of Tom
Benton. He'd stolen fire and knew it, but not from Benton. Everyone then knew
it, but the writers of the time were too chicken to write about the truth; they
fire from a most dangerous man. This time he was not so lucky, he robbed a more
complex man, the Mexican muralist Sequerios.
moved to Maine there was a reason; Maine was safe, there were no
was in exile in Maine; he'd gotten skipper's papers but had to ship in the
forecastle; too many sailors, not enough ships; 1946 was the start of the New
World Order and America's ships were being sold to the flags of convenience so
sailors were put ashore wholesale. Holt was editing the Maine Coast Fisherman,
a weekly that would sleep with the fishes, extinct.
Lamar was a
great man to drink with and a loyal friend. Pollock was a thief in the night.
How do I know Pollock was a thief? The thief in my heart ratted him out. Lamar
appeared to be who he was. Pollock was a star who'd stolen the sun.
He tried to
rob Benton but Benton's style was and is unstealable. Benton had a direct line
to the Old Masters and by that point was one himself; his paintings are only now
being understood. Rita, Tom's wife, could see though Pollock, so Tom filed
Pollock's guilty behavior away and continued to feed, hold Pollock's head as he
dove, then himself drove to death. Although Pollock had dropped Benton for
Sequerios, Benton tried to remain friendly to the Pollocks.
came to Sequerios when the muralist was at the height of his power. Plastic
Reality, his trademark wrap around total mural style was playing into something
larger. Sequerios had not yet set up the killing of Trotsky for his master Uncle
Joe Stalin, but the two great socialist powers were getting ready to shed each
other's blood and Sequerios was a soldier in Stalin's army when some mopping up
the marching order of the day for Sequerios. He had to paint like Uncle Joe's
commissars told him to. But he knew
more was out there and he'd started doing things about it. The young gringo
Pollock was trying to impress him and not getting anywhere. The airbrush that
Sequerioros used required more technique than Pollock had. It also made demands
of patience, which was totally lacking in Pollock.
a careful man; most soldiers keep the cat in the bag. But what he had found was
larger than himself, larger than Pollock, and larger than the art world.
Randomly arranged colors and paints can be quite attractive---even
compelling---in the hands of a trained artist. In 1938 Pollock appeared
hopeless. His work was poorly done, Benton said, (saw a Pollock---Tom had it
sucked) and Benton had little time for the abstract of that era.
tight and contrived, trying to be two things at once: free and scientific. Only
symbolist Hillaire Hiler and other scientific painters could use abstract with a feeling of
Hitler and Stalin decided themselves to be friends and brother socialists for
life (which they were): they carved
Poland and Sequerios went back to Mexico to paint and to help kill Leon Trotsky.
How the abstract expressionist cat got out of the bag to that poor worm Pollock,
I do not know, but it showed up in his paintings and the Left press loved him to
death; after all, the art press of the forties took its orders from Moscow.
The Left in
America marched in goose step with Papa Joe. When Sequerios started loosening
his public style a few years later the sycophants in the art world said he was
following Pollock's lead. Not so, he was a very systematic thinker. He had taken
quite a bashing in the twenties when getting started in mural painting. He
wanted to no public mistakes. It is my contention that Pollock was a smart assed
second-hander, a jackal who stole the big bone from the lion.
Did the Lion
make a house call? Or could the lion have had a friend? Men have died for
stealing a lot less and Sequerios had killed before for a lot less reason. A
practical question: how many times do the brakes fail on new Caddies?
became a genius at the hand of the art press, not the Johnny-one-note painter he
appeared to be. Was he simply throwing paint, or could it be he was just another
drunk who'd rifled the intellectual till?
Does the truth ride in the wind blowing from Mongolia to here? Listen in the night, hear the shaman's bone rattle dryly. The trees creak, clouds scud past. The only traffic this dawn are the lineman's truck and dark thoughts of Pollock. ##
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