Jackson Pollock’s Mural: The BIG show

It’s only in Los Angeles one more week. See it now!

Jackson Pollock’s Mural is a beautiful, modern piece to behold. It’s big, bright, colorful, vibrant and in your face. It can’t be missed and, while at the Getty until June 1, it shouldn’t be.

It’s full of colors, some obvious and some not so much that take more concentration to see. Unlike Pollock’s future works that have a look of randomness, organization and thought shine through in Mural.

It dominates the small gallery room where it resides. Side displays explain the backstory of Pollock and his relationship to patron Peggy Guggenheim but it is clear that Mural is the big show here.

Because of its imposing size, his wife Lee Krasner (herself an artist) said that it was necessary to tear a plaster wall out of their New York apartment so the canvas could be mounted vertically for painting (the occasional vertical drips of paint lend credence to the story).

It is clearly a near and far kind of painting. Looking at it up close shows the small subtler details but standing away from it gives the complete view of color, a certain organization of his thoughts and genuine appreciation of its size: it’s MASSIVE both physically and aesthetically.

Viewing it from the back of the room, in its big picture entirety, is to see Mural as more than the brush strokes. From that perspective, you can let your imagination wander and see the faces, the swirls and whatever else your brain wants to see.  

And if you look close enough, the beginning of Pollock’s most famous technique – the drips ― is visible.

On the left quarter of Mural, there are hints of the work to come from Pollock. Hidden among the brush stokes are the drips and splashes that will be the focus of his greatest works. But in Mural, while they are throughout, they are subtle and hidden and most reside in the lower left corner above his signature. In a sense, his signature style rests above his physical signature.

It was wise of the Getty to make Mural a two-part show. The painting itself is the headliner and the second gallery devoted to its conservation is the supporting player, showing analysis of the painting and the science behind the restoration of this masterpiece.

For art historians and aficionados, it is work and lingo that is second nature to them. Fortunately for the rest of us, some of the lingo (such as “hyperspectal imaging”) is broken down so that the non-arties can see and understand some of the science of art preservation.

The paints used and how they were applied are explained in text and small section graphic reproductions of Mural with details that are easy to understand. There are also photos of the gallery staff at work on Mural showing some of the painstaking labor most of which was done by hand.

The conservation department describes Mural’s life before its arrival at the Getty: the shape it was in and how they cleaned it, rehung it and finally, explaining some of their theories behind Pollock’s intent when creating it.

Pollock said Mural would be the first of many large scale works. From his Guggenheim Fellowship application of 1947: “I believe the easel picture to be a dying form, and the tendency of modern feeling is towards the wall picture or mural. I believe the time is not yet ripe for a full transition from easel to mural. The pictures I contemplate painting would constitute a halfway state, and an attempt to point out the direction of the future, without arriving there completely.”

Obviously spoken before the creation of his greatest and signature works.

Mural will be on display at The Getty Museum until June 1 then it heads back to its home at the University of Iowa.

© 2014

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