Sculptures by Jackson Pollock

Jackson Pollock is well known for his unique style of action painting. But did you know he made sculptures too?
I discovered some of his sculptural work in the exhibition Jackson Pollock – Blind Spots.


Jackson Pollock – Untitled, 1949 (wire dipped in plaster and paint)

At the beginning of his career, Jackson Pollock was set more on sculpture than painting. In a letter to family, dated 1933, Pollock said:

I am devoting all my time to sculpture now – cutting in stone during the day and modelling at night – it holds my interest deeply – I like it better than painting – drawing is the essence of all.


Jackson Pollock – Stone Head, c1930-33 (stone)

Stone Head was made by Pollock in the early 1930’s when he was about 18 or 19 years old. This carved basalt head is the first recorded three dimensional work by Pollock. It was made under influence of the sculptor Ahron Ben-Shmuel (1903-84) with whom Pollock studied and later apprenticed after his move to New York in September 1930.

Sculpting was something Pollock would turn to in hard times, when painting – or life – was proving difficult. A collaboration with his friend, the sculptor Tony Smith, would be the last creative endeavour he would undertake before his death in a car crash in 1956 aged 44.


Jackson Pollock – Untitled, 1956 (plaster, sand, gauze and wire)

Tony Smith and Jackson Pollock met in the late 1940s at the time Pollock was making some of his greatest paintings. While their work shares little stylistically, their many shared interests included Native American sand painting, modern architecture, and the writing of James Joyce, and they quickly became close friends. Pollock was a painter who loved to make sculpture and Smith was an architect who loved to paint and finally found his calling in sculpture.

The sculptures Pollock made at Tony Smith’s home in 1956 are constructions of wire, gauze, and plaster. Shaped by sand-casting, they have a heavily textured surface similar to what Pollock often sought in his paintings.


Jackson Pollock – Untitled, 1956 (plaster, sand, gauze and wire)


Jackson Pollock – Untitled, 1956 (plaster, sand, gauze and wire). In the background Number 12, 1952

Pollock’s experiments in media such as papier-mâché and sand-casting show an interesting insight in his creative process or should we say “creative play”. We can even detect his sculptural impulse in his efforts to animate the surfaces of his paintings by attaching found objects such as bees or cigarette butts.


Jackson Pollock – Number 3, 1949: Tiger (oil paint, enamel paint and cigarette butts on canvas on board)

Pictures shown are taken by me in the exhibition Blind Spots – my apologies for the poor quality.


Blind spots – Jackson Pollock

“I like to use a dripping fluid paint… The method of painting is a natural growth out of a need. I want to express my feelings rather than to illustrate them. Technique is just a means of arriving at a statement.”
J. Pollock 1951


Jackson Pollock – Convergence: Number 10, 1952 (oil on canvas)

Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) is one of the most influential and provocative American artists of the 20th century. Between 1947 and 1950, Pollock perfected his revolutionary drip technique: he poured, dripped and flicked paint from the end of a brush or stick over a piece of canvas stretched out on his studio floor. For the work Yellow Islands (below) Pollock poured black paint onto the canvas over which he added areas of yellow and crimson with a brush. He then lifted the canvas upright while the paint was still wet, allowing it to sag and run.


Jackson Pollock – Yellow Islands, 1952 (oil on canvas)

These iconic works are currently shown in the exhibition Jackson Pollock – Blind Spots at the Dallas Museum of Art. The exhibition goes on to explore the transformation of Pollock’s paintings in the following years to his ‘black paintings’ as they are often referred to. But also his explorations in other media such as drawing, printmaking and sculpture are generously shown. These ‘blind spots’ in Pollocks practice show an artist searching for expression of his ongoing inward struggle.


Jackson Pollock – Untitled (Black and White Polyptych) c1950 (Oil on canvas)

Black and White Polyptych (above), with its mini-compositions like a strip of film stills, is the earliest painting in which Pollock condensed scale, restricted his palette to monochrome, and worked in series. He continues to explores divisions in Number 7  and Portrait and a Dream (below).


Jackson Pollock – Number 7 (black paint on canvas)


Jackson Pollock – Portrait and a Dream, 1953 (oil and enamel on canvas)

Portrait and a Dream is considered one of Pollock’s last major artistic statements. During the final years of his life, as his battle with alcoholism worsened, Pollock painted only a handful of works. In this painting the face on the right has been interpreted as a self-portrait. The left half contains a black graphic of frenetic energy, which may represent the dream of the painting’s title.


Exhibition view of Jackson’s Pollock works on paper (DMA)


Jackson Pollock Blind Spots showing at Dallas Museum of Art

Blind Spots still on view in the Dallas Museum of Art till March 20, 2016.
Pictures shown are taken by me in the exhibition.