Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Brice Marden on Jackson Pollock

Thanks to a friend. I was able to get the COLD MOUNTAIN book of Marden's. Most of you who know me personally, know of my appreciation for Brice Marden. I find his work to be of utmost quality and vision. And he's not only great at making his own works, but he's also great at talking about his favorite painters. And speaking about them in a much more personal way than most art critics. Here is a clip from this book, I have spent the last 30 minutes typing out. I will go back and type in some of the rest of this talk about Pollock, especially since things like this NEED to be said and talked about.

And now, let's listen to Marden.

Video taken from the instagram account of his Daughter Mirabelle.

“There’s a very American reluctance to accept genius. With Pollock, there is always somehow the notion that he was doing something ‘wrong’: ‘he dripped, he was a little crazy, he drank too much, he had an automobile accident.’ Look at BLUE POLES, for instance. This is a complete painting: there is nothing more Pollock could have done with that painting. As someone said, there is simply no other painting comparable to BLUE POLES. Yet many people chose not to accept Pollock as capable of doing that painting. It became a very problematic work. “Why does Jackson Pollock painting suddenly have these things in it?”

“To maintain any kind of life as an artist is to make change. Yet for most observers change in an artists work is the most difficult thing to accept. It’s my belief that the culture is constantly striving to suppress the artist precisely because the whole part of making art is to maintain freedom – and in a society you don’t want people maintaining their individual freedom because it’s not societal. An artist ops to exercise freedom, and as one manifestation of that freedom, Jackson Pollock paints BLUE POLES and says, ‘Here, in exchange for me freedom I give you this.’ And the society doesn’t want to accept it. They say, ‘No, it’s not right. The last ones were right, but this one isn’t.’ A new book on Pollock says that he was drawing images and that they were ‘Falling on the canvas,’ which is another example of refusing to accept his genius. It’s really grasping at straws,’ ‘to look for alternative explanations of why the works look the way they do, as if Pollock were just too dumb to know what he was doing and the paintings somehow ended up looking this way. So many excuses…all rather than accept the fact that he was an amazing painter who encompassed in his work and astonishingly wide range of different things, including so many specifically American things.

“I have friends who insist that you cannot be an American painter unless you have driven across the country because otherwise you simply have no idea what this place is like. Pollock really knew this. The idea of movement is essential to Pollock’s work, but when talking about movement in a Pollock painting, you need to talk about the space of America. You need to know that during his lifetime Pollock traveled back and forth across the country, in cars, in trains, on the tops of boxcars. He spent a summer as a forest ranger on the north rim of the Grand Canyon. Think if an incredibly sensitive youth totally tuned in to the idea of making art, and then think of the impact on him of his immersion in this landscape for a whole summer and the effect that could have on what happens in the paintings.

“There’s a great deal of confusion about what an artist does in the studio as opposed to what happens outside the studio and what effect each of these environments and circumstances has on the artist. The great thing about Pollock – and something that since his death seems to have been forgotten about art – was his conviction that each work is part of a continuing quest. To be an artist is not about making individual works. To be an artist is to do your work and let your work express the evolution of a vision. It’s a continuous process for which there is never any full, unqualified reward. You don’t get something done and say, ‘oh, that’s it.’ You get something done and it’s part of a living situation. It isn’t a matter of getting something done, and then getting a number of things done, and then making an exhibition and selling the somethings. That’s what happens outside the studio, and for Pollock those issues never seemed to enter the studio, where he was finding his vision.


I will continue this as time permits.


  1. Nice, Jeffrey, thank you. Now going to go off and find that book.

  2. It's a bit on the hard side to find. I got lucky with my bud getting rid of his old books.


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Columbus, Ohio, United States