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Away From The Easel: Jackson Pollock’s Mural

Jackson Pollock’s “Mural” was created in 1943, becoming his largest painting ever. The artwork stretched nearly eight feet high and twenty feet wide with teal, yellow, and black brushstrokes. He was an abstract expressionist and marked his territory in art culture with “Mural.” Fitting That the name of the museum Jackson Pollock got his first solo art exhibition in, is named after Peggy’s surname. He submitted a painting, which is now titled, “Stenographic Figure, 1942,” giving him a contract to be a full-time artist, which established his career. It was the “Mural” painting that Peggy Guggenheim (Art Collector) commissioned for her Manhattan townhouse.

Mural © Jackson Pollock

There are 5 Guggenheim museums in the world and they’re located in New York, Bilbao, Venice, Abu Dhabi, and Berlin. In the past, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum was called the “Museum of Non-Objective Painting.” “Away from the Easel: Jackson Pollock’s Mural” is organized by Megan Fontanella (a curator, who focuses on institutional history and provenance).

Along with several other works, “Mural” was donated by Guggenheim to the University of Iowa, Iowa City. Now, “Mural” resides in Iowa’s Stanley Museum of Art. The “Away from the Easel: Jackson Pollock’s Mural” exhibition is presented by the Guggenheim Museum. In 2012, the painting was analyzed by the Getty Conservation Institute and the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. After this study, it became known that “Mural” being painted in one day is false. It’s been 20 years since “Mural” has been viewed in New, York.

At the “Away from the Easel: Jackson Pollock’s Mural,” from October 3, 2020-September 19, 2021, you can get an up close, irreplaceable moment that’ll last a lifetime. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is open Thursday-Monday from 11:00 A.M.-6:00 P.M.. The “Members-only hours are Mondays at 6:00 P.M.-8:00 P.M.. Just a 5 minute walking distance from Park Avenue, the address to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is 1071 5th Ave, Manhattan, New York, NY 10128. If you have any questions, feel free to call at (212) 423-3500. Reserve your tickets in advance before they sell out fast.

Background of Jackson Pollock:

While Jackson Pollock is known for his surrealist signature used in action painting, his first love was sculpting. The same artist you know for being in a studio flinging buckets of paint around to create multiple splatter effects and decorative lines on a canvas (placed on the floor) started of sculpting. In 1930, when an 18-year-old Pollock was in Los Angeles, he enrolled in a clay-modeling course in high school. Afterwards, he desired to be a great sculpture like Michelangelo, moving to New York to pursue his artistic dream.

In Greenwich Village, New York, he took classes in clay modeling and stone carving, studying with Ahron Ben-Shmuel. That’s where he practiced the technique of direct carving (which was pioneered by Constantin Brancusi). Direct carving is when artists create a sculpture from wood or stone where the final form is entirely planned before the start. Due to his ongoing practice, he created his first known sculpture of a 4-inch piece of black basalt carved into a black mask, (from 1930-1933, which is untitled).

Pollocks passion for sculpting was had his full attention. In fact, his passion for sculpting took so much of his attention, he stopped attending the classes he was enrolled in. This process continued for an entire year where he never painted. A letter that Pollock wrote to his father read, ““Cutting in stone holds my interest deeply,” he wrote in a letter to his father. “I like it better than painting.” After learning from Robert Laurent, (a figural sculpture at the Art Students League), in 1938, he began focusing on wax while touching up on a mural for the Work Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project.

In the 30s, Pollock was interested in painting ceramics with inspiration from his teacher Thomas Hart Benton. During the Summer for four years (from 1934-1937), Pollock created ceramics at Martha’s Vineyard with Benton and his wife, Rita. The Bentons donated some of his ceramics to museums and it’s rumored that only two survived. One ceramic is titled, “Flight of Man” in Boston, which he gave to his psychiatrist, James H. Wall. The other ceramic titled, “The Story of My Life” was made at the same time and given to Thomas Dillon in Larchmont, New York. During this period, alcoholism took over, landing him in a treatment center, where his program included therapeutic art making that satisfies him.

Once the 1940s hit, Pollock returned to painting, to address what he saw as “the problems of modern painting,” which included relying on the easel and on tradition in a dying art form. Before the years 1942-1943, Pollock didn’t appreciate Henri Matisse. Though he didn’t find an appreciation for Matisse back then, his wife, (Lee Krasner, a student at the conservative National Academy of Design) admired Matisse, ever since the late 20s. His wife was an artist as well and in 1945, they both moved to Long Island. While Pollock was not creating art, he was still thinking about art, going on walks and picking up nature from the ground to include in sculptural objects. As a gift, he created a sculpture (decorated with painted terracotta) to Willem de Kooning. Another one of his sculptures, between 1949-1951, was featured in a Museum of Modern Art exhibition.

As an artist, Jackson Pollock wanted to compete with himself with the intentions of his sculptures being as noteworthy as his paintings. He owned land in East Hampton back in 1956, which had massive boulders removed specifically for his sculptures. Still suffering alcoholism and depression, in the summer, he traveled to New Jersey to visit an old friend named Smith, where he worked with sand casting. Sand casting is used to create a mold where liquid metal added into the mold to create a part. Basically, it’s pouring damp plaster into molded sand. His sand casting technique left a gritty finish. Some of the shapes he used happened by accidents, which are the perfect mistakes.

A month later, Jackson Pollock died in a car accident. In honor of the artist, a 50-ton boulder that was still in his East Hampton backyard (which he planned on sculpting) was placed on a hill in Green River Cemetery by his family and friends. The boulder in the cemetery has a suitable representation on how the influential artist began his art career.

Work Cites:

Hart, Kim. Artsy. “Jackson Pollock’s First Love Was Sculpture, Not Painting.” 8, Feb. 2018 at 6:54 P.M.

Art & Object. “Away from the Easel: Jackson Pollock’s Mural.” 5, Oct. 2020.

Jackson Pollock. “Stenographic Figure, 1943 by Jackson Pollock.” 2011.


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