Planned Spontaneity

Jackson Pollock at the Phillips Collection is the Daily Pic by Blake Gopnik

The Daily Pic: Why did the AbEx-er make a print, then copy it by hand?

This pairing represents the strangest, most interesting moment in “Angels, Demons, and Savages: Pollock, Ossorio and Dubuffet”, which just closed at the Phillips Collection in Washington. The show was about contacts between its three titular artists, but a wall of Pollocks is what stopped me. The picture on the left is a photographic screenprint after a painting, and Pollock wasn’t happy with the result. So he made not one but two very, very close painted copies of the print – one is on the right here – for reasons I can’t quite figure out. I guess he was trying to put back in the spontaneity of the original canvas, but the act of copying itself negates the unmediated expression that the AbEx “hand” is supposed to be about. It looks as though process is less important than final result, even for an action painter like Pollock. Or maybe he wanted to play with perfect handmade seriality, decades before others were trying that move. (Or just one decade before Warhol did, with his soup cans.)

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