August 21, 2015

 Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) and his dripped masterpieces are on display at the Tate in Liverpool. You know Pollock for his dripping colorful works, but this show focuses on a little-seen side of the abstract expressionist’s art. The Blind Spots exhibition displays paintings known as his “Black Pourings”, which were made between 1951 and 1953 and involved pouring paint rather than dripping it.


The show, which also features some rare Pollock sculptures, is a collaboration between the Albert Dock gallery and Dallas Museum of Art – whose curator of contemporary art, Gavin Delahunty, was previously head of exhibitions at Liverpool.

The exhibition does employ Pollock’s iconic drip paintings – with their hypnotic, disciplined vigour – but as an introduction and contrast to the later pieces, the “black pourings”. A radical departure in the artist’s practice, these were created using enamel paint, which both stained and soaked into the unstretched, unprimed canvas. 

The emergence of the black pourings was also notable for having signalled a return to figuration, which featured at the start of Pollock’s career. Faces and figures appear in the second part of the show, frequently interpreted as psychologically symbolic for the artist.

Pollock once said, “I want to express my feelings rather than illustrate them. Technique is just a means of arriving at a statement.” Nowhere are those feelings more evident than in the black paintings. What it presents is an idea in constant revolution, and a way of painting of such infinite variety that each work – against all the odds – comes as a radical surprise.

Whether the work he produced in the darkened emotion of those late years signalled the beginning of a bold new phase or a decline in creativity is contended – and this is the central question of the Tate Liverpool exhibition.

By exhibiting these “blind spots” in Pollock’s career, the Tate Liverpool hopes to inspire new ways of thinking about the man Time Magazine called “Jack the Dripper”. The paintings are presented as a kind of “black period” akin to Picasso’s rose or blue period, and the gallery hopes that, uninfluenced by their preconceptions of his more iconic works, viewers can decide for themselves whether this radical figure was indeed the greatest American artist of his generation or a symbol of avant-garde art’s lost power in the 20th century.

 The exhibition ends the 18th October 2015.

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