If there’s really just one Pollock exhibition you see this year, it has to be this collection of Pollock artwork, photos and other memorabilia. Sure, it is not an exhibition of Pollock paintings per se, but the rich biographical diversity and insight from “Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art” is simply a must see. We can’t emphasise “must see” enough, well, actually we could, but we don’t want to treat you like a 5-year-old child.
The material from the Smithsonian contains hundreds of scanned photos, letters, postcards, rare printed material, writings and other forms of memorabilia, many of which are available at the organisation’s website here. The exhibition opened on the 100th year of Pollock’s birthday on January 28 at the Lawrence A. Fleischman Gallery in the Smithsonian’s Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture, and will remain on show until May 15.
One of the reasons why the show is just so great is the organiser behind it: the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center and its director, Helen A. Harrison. As Harrison said: “Jackson Pollock rewrote the modern art rule book—in fact, he burned it. Fortunately, he didn’t also burn his personal papers, which his wife, painter Lee Krasner, donated to the Archives. They’re a virtual scrapbook of Pollock’s life and career. What better way to celebrate his 100th birthday than to share some of the highlights with the public?”
We couldn’t agree more. In fact, Pollock literally permeates everything about the exhibition. The title itself is from his own poetic statement about his work and his life is explored through the first person view of Krasner (1908–1984) and his eldest brother Charles (1902–1988), as well as close friends and associates. This includes letters he kept from his art teachers, Hans Hofmann and Thomas Hart Benton, his fellow artists, including Clyfford Still, and unforgettable writings by passionate fans and contemptuous critics. Highlights of the exhibition include the iconic photographs of Pollock at work in his studio taken by Hans Namuth and uncommon snapshots of Pollock hiking with his brothers and chilling on the beach with Clement Greenberg and Helen Frankenthaler.
One should keep in the back of one’s mind that Pollock’s career was extraordinarily short. He exhibited work for only 12 years (the time from his first to last show), but still managed to change the course of painting, expressionist art, traditional cultural values and individual freedom of expression for a generation to come. It seems like an impossibly far way to come from the central states of Wyoming and Arizona, but such is the beauty and profundity of his artwork. We don’t have any Pollock memorabilia, but we do have many gallery-quality reproduction Pollock paintings that won’t break the budget. Own a professional reproduction of his work and be amazed at one of America’s greatest treasures.