Decoding Jackson Pollock- page 2 | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian
Current Issue
November 2014 magazine cover
Subscribe

Save 81% off the newsstand price!

Decoding Jackson Pollock

Did the Abstract Expressionist hide his name amid the swirls and torrents of a legendary 1943 mural?

Smithsonian Magazine | Subscribe

(Continued from page 1)

Pollock's possibly writing his name in Mural testifies to an overlooked feature of his works: they have a structure, contrary to the popular notion that they could be done by any 5-year-old with a knack for splatters. In my view, Pollock organized the painting around his name according to a compositional system—vertical markings that serve as the loci of rhythmic spirals—borrowed directly from his mentor, Benton.

Pollock had studied under Benton for two years and once told a friend that he wanted Mural to be comparable to a Benton work, though he didn't have the technical ability to make a great realistic mural and needed to do something different.

I have found no evidence that Pollock wrote his name in such fashion on any other canvas. In a way, that makes sense. To Pollock, I think, Mural announced that he was replacing Benton, a father figure whom he once described as "the foremost American painter today." It was Pollock's way of making a name for himself.

Henry Adams is the author of Tom and Jack: The Intertwined Lives of Thomas Hart Benton and Jackson Pollock, to be published in November by Bloomsbury Press.

Tags
About Henry Adams
Henry Adams

Henry Adams is a contributor to Smithsonian magazine and a Professor of American Art at Case Western Reserve University.

Read more from this author

Comment on this Story

comments powered by Disqus