Rhett Gérard Poché

A blog devoted to the study of art, art history, and visual literacy.

Drip, Drip, Drip

Everyone’s a critic, especially my Visual Literacy students.  In fact, their critical and creative thinking skills are put to the test every single class.  As discussed in previous posts, we are currently examining Marcel Duchamp’s readymades as part of a lecture series titled “What is Art?/Is it Art?”.  Our mission has been to qualify Duchamp’s “junk” (his readymades) as works of genius—artful objects that question the nature of authorship and viewership.

We will eventually turn our attention to Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings which, like Duchamp’s readymades, are often met with derision and suspicion.  Detractors label readymades and drip paintings as hoaxes—ordinary objects or mad scribblings audaciously passed off as legitimate art.

Those who see Pollock’s drip paintings as illegitimate suffer from a myopic insistence that all images should follow the paradigms of objective imagery and traditional craftsmanship.  Yet, I would argue that such resistance is forgivable and even understandable.  After all, as I mentioned earlier, everyone’s a critic and, to quote Cursive, “We all know art is hard.”  However, I believe that such responses to the drip paintings are further complicated when casual viewers encounter theorists and art historians who (rightfully) use big words and even BIGGER ideas (Jungian archetypes, Primitivism, automatism, subjectivity, etc.) when analyzing Pollock’s work.

Therefore, I’m going to encourage my Visual Literacy students, especially those who see the drip paintings with suspicion, to consider one very simple, accessible framework from which they may come to understand and appreciate Pollock’s images—MODERN JAZZ.

Left: Charlie Parker; Right: Hans Namuth, Jackson Pollock painting Autumn Rhythm (Number 30), 1950. © Hans Namuth Ltd.

Modern jazz is spontaneous, improvisational, intuitive, primal, rhythmic, chaotic, and “dripping” with American cool.  The same can be said about Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings.  I see an obvious connection here.  Yet, I’m not going to write about my theories as to why Pollock’s drip paintings look like visual representations of Gillespie, Monk, or Davis.  I’m saving that discussion for class.  For now, I suppose I’m more interested in simply encouraging my readers and students to appreciate the emotive and lyrical qualities of Pollock’s paintings and to do so with Charlie Parker in mind.

Listen—Charlie Parker, Dizzy Atmosphere, 1945

View—Jackson Pollock, Autumn Rhythm (Number 30), enamel on canvas, 1950

© 2011 The Pollock-Krasner Foundation/Artists Rights Society, New York

Filed under: Visual Literacy

One Response

  1. glenditz says:

    OK, so I have never even imagined looking at Pollack in terms of Jazz… but, I have to say, that after listening to the posted piece and then looking at the image, I could almost feel the paint dripping through the bellows of the horn and the ticking of the drums. That is a great perspective, I both look look forward to the conversation to come and the insights that will be offered in the future.

    Thank You for this eye-opening thought!

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