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MPM presents 'Jackson Pollock's Mural. Energy Made Visible'

04/20/2016

From 21st April to 11th September, 2016, the exhibition Jackson Pollock’s Mural. Energy Made Visible brings together around this great work a total of 41 pieces by Pollock himself and by other artists such as Adolph Gottlieb, Lee Krasner, Roberto Matta, Robert Motherwell, David Reed, Antonio Saura, Charles Seliger, David Smith, Frederick Sommer, Juan Uslé and Andy Warhol.

In 1943, Jackson Pollock was commissioned by Peggy Guggenheim to create an artwork to decorate the hallway of her home. Confronted by a large blank canvas, the artist tackled the project by painting Mural, which is today considered to be one of the key works of his career. The painting will be on view in Spain for the first, and perhaps the last, time at Museo Picasso Málaga.

In Mural, Pollock channelled numerous personal and artistic influences, in particular that of one of the most famous artists alive at the time, Pablo Picasso. Pollock had seen Guernica in New York and it had had a profound impact on him.

At over two metres high by six metres long (242.9 x 603.9 cm), Mural was Jackson Pollock’s answer to a commission by gallerist and collector Peggy Guggenheim. She wanted an artwork for her home that would also highlight her support of the young American artists whose work she had begun to show at her gallery. The commission was signed in July 1943 and the result was a work that was key to the development of US modern art, thanks to its unique combination of energetic brushstrokes, the freedom of the lines, the size of the canvas and its singular abstract style, which makes room for forms to be openly suggested. On this point, Pollock stated years later: “It’s a stampede […] Every animal in the American West, cows and horses and antelopes and buffaloes. Everything is charging across that goddamn surface”*.

Pollock’s vision may have been due to memories of his childhood in the American West, and while forms can be made out, the initial impact is one of abstraction and freedom, as opposed to the restrictions that are imposed by figures. The tremendous energy that Pollock conveyed in Mural, along with the large scale format he employed, opened up new horizons in his work, and in that of other US artists who were starting to experiment with new forms of painting that were becoming more abstract and objective, and which were no longer quite so focussed on American scenes and landscapes.

In Mural, Jackson Pollock summarized many of the artistic influences he had received since the start of his career, such as his admiration for the Mexican muralists and also, to some extent, for the most famous living artist at that time, Pablo Picasso. Pollock had seen Guernica in New York and it had made a profound impression on him which was to surface in works such as this great canvas, gifted by Peggy Guggenheim to the University of Iowa Museum of Art.

Pollock and Picasso Guernica and the studies for it enthralled Pollock. In drawings and in at least two small paintings, he approached specific motifs of Picasso’s great painting. Pollock’s wife, the artist Lee Krasner, said in an interview in 1969: “there is no question that he admired Picasso and at the same time competed with him, wanted to go past him”. She tells of how, one day, when she and Pollock were still living in New York, she heard something fall in the studio, and then Pollock yelled out: ”God damn it, that guy missed nothing!”. When Krasner went in to see what had happened, she found him staring into space with a book on Picasso’s work thrown onto the floor.

Jackson Pollock saw Picasso’s Guernica for the very first time in 1939, at the Valentine gallery exhibition, and later in November of the same year, at the Picasso retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, where it hung from 1944 onwards, until it was sent to Spain in 1981.

As well as Picasso, Pollock also admired the work of other great names in Spanish art, such as Joan Miró and El Greco. He was greatly struck by the spiritual intensity of Greco’s works, as he believed that for art to be truly powerful it had to both transcend and mediate in order for deeper emotions to be felt.

Jackson Pollock Jackson Pollock was born in Cody, Wyoming, in 1912, and was raised in California. He was interested in art as an adolescent and in 1930 moved to New York, where, like many artists who grew up during the Depression and the Second World War, he was trained in Regionalism, the realistic depiction of scenes and characters of the American Mid-West. He was also interested in the leading European modern art movements, such as Surrealism, which led him to delve further into the idea of art as an expression of the subconscious mind, and later to Abstraction.

In New York he also encountered and admired the work of the Mexican muralists David A. Siqueiros and José C. Orozco, alongside whom he took part in a federal programme for artists. It was also in New York that he saw the painter Diego Rivera paint his mural for the Rockefeller Center. In the early 1940s, he met his colleague and future wife, artist Lee Krasner, who helped him focus his energies on painting.

The creation in 1943 of Mural for Peggy Guggenheim was a turning point in his career. Besides giving him recognition within the art world, it signified an evolution from figurative art to Abstract Expressionism, which is today considered to be the first genuinely American 20th-century art movement, and to have expressed the freedom of the United States. The work was the forerunner of the technique that was to become Pollock’s trademark style: drip art.

Pollock began to make drip paintings after his marriage to Krasner in 1945 and moving from Manhattan to Long Island. This change of home coincided with a change in style and the birth of the body of work for which he was to become most famous. His drip paintings involved pouring or dripping paint onto a usually large canvas, placed flat on the floor of his studio. The method encouraged the appearance of a kind of “sensed” line, which did not indicate the edge of a plane so much as a kind of optically imprecise “place”.

By the early 1950s, the US Cold War years, he had become a cultural icon and the foremost representative of what was known as action painting, which was based on the energy of the actual painting process, rather than careful application with a brush. In 1956, MoMa was preparing a major retrospective of his work. Instead, it was to be a major tribute to the artist, following his death in August of that year in a car accident, aged 44.

Energy Made Visible Curated by David Anfam, Senior Consulting Curator of the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver (USA), and organized by the University of Iowa Museum of Art – to whose collection the canvas belongs—, the exhibition Jackson Pollock’s Mural. Energy Made Visible is showing this monumental work for the first and perhaps last time in Spain. It comes to Europe after undergoing a two-year restoration at the Getty Conservation Institute in Los Angeles. Mural arrives at Museo Picasso after having been shown at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice and at the Deutsche Bank Kunsthalle in Berlin. It will continue its journey onwards to the exhibition Abstract Expressionism, at the Royal Academy of Arts in London.

The exhibition brings together around Mural a selection of 41 works, amongst them a number of paintings by Pollock, along with works by other artists such as Adolph Gottlieb, Lee Krasner, Roberto Matta, Robert Motherwell, David Reed, Antonio Saura, Charles Seliger, David Smith, Frederick Sommer, Juan Uslé and Andy Warhol. Among the works on display are a number of images by photographers like Herbert Matter, Barbara Morgan, Aaron Siskind and Gjon Mili, that explore the relationship between the work of Pollock and the so-called action photography.

With this exhibition, Museo Picasso Málaga once again examines factors, such as antagonisms or effects, that the work of Pablo Picasso had on artists of a later generation, from the mid-20th century right up to the present, continuing a thread that began with exhibitions of work by artists such as Bill Viola (2010), Martin Kippenberger (2011), Richard Prince (2012) and Louise Bourgeois, last year, which was hailed by critics as one of the best exhibitions in Spain in 2015.

Parallel activities Museo Picasso Málaga and the publishing house Antonio Machado Libros have published Energy Made Visible. Jackson Pollock. An Anthology. The book is part of the La balsa de la medusa collection, run by Valeriano Bozal, Lecturer in History of Art and Madrid’s Comlputese Unversity. Edited by MPM’s artistic director, José Lebrero Stals, the book brings together an anthology of writings – most of which have been translated into Spanish for the first time – that help readers to understand Pollock’s work and its complex nature.

Meanwhile, Thames &“;” Hudson has published a book written by David Anfam, which examines the meaning of Mural and its artistic context. Both this book, which is published in English, and the anthology are available at the MPM Bookshop.

The associated cultural events kick off on Thursday 21st April at 7.00pm, with the first in a series of talks that discuss Pollock’s work, Abstract Expressionism, and the formation of the artist’s image. They will also look at the complex process of restoring large-format artworks. These three sessions will be held between April and June, and the speakers include the curator, David Anfam";" critic and publisher Fernando Huici";" academician José Manuel Cabra de Luna";" the artistic director of Museo Picasso Málaga, José Lebrero Stals";" artist Isidoro Valcárcel Medina";" documentary film directors Miguel Álvarez-Fernández and Luis Deltell";" gallerist Alfredo Viñas, and conservators Yvonne Szafran (Getty Museum) and Jorge García Gómez-Tejedor (MNCARS).

The exhibition will also be the main subject of the museum’s Gallery Talks guided tours, which take place every Saturday at noon. Put your name down at the ticket office to take part. The tour is free with admission.

Two special days devoted to this exhibition have also been programmed, on Saturday 25th June, and Saturday 10th September. There will be activities for children, families and adults throughout both of these days. The activities will conclude with a summer film, screened in the Museum garden, where visitors can watch the film Pollock (2000), starring, produced and directed by Ed Harris.

The full calendar of events will be available on the Museum website along with the other activities on the programme, which will include workshops and children’s notebooks.

Museo Picasso Málaga would like to thank its sponsor CaixaBank, as well as Delta Airlines for its collaboration in the organization of this exhibition.

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More info and images: comunicacion@mpicassom.org

Related Exhibition

Jackson Pollock's Mural

Energy Made Visible