5 reasons why Jackson Pollack is a rock star

"If people would just look at paintings, I don’t think they would have any trouble enjoying them."
 Squiggly lines, drips, splashes, indistinct subjects. Jackson Pollack’s works might pose an enigma to art lovers, but this is also what makes them both polarizing and captivating at the same time.

The first I learned of Pollock - or more accurately, the first time I saw his “Autumn Rhythm Number 30” (1950) in a book -- I admit I felt alienated for not being able to appreciate his work at the most basic, sensible level. And what it means, I could not even guess.

Jackson Pollock's Autumn Rhythm
What I was only sure of is that I was caught in its improbability as art and as an event. But soon after learning more about Pollock, I got finally the point.

“If people would just look at paintings, I don’t think they would have any trouble enjoying them. It’s like looking at a bed of flowers, you don’t tear your hair out over what it means,” Ed Harris playing as Pollock says in an eponymous 2000 film about his life.

And this vision is what made him “revolutionary,” no matter which critical perspective one comes from. Some deride him for creating questionable art bordering on insanity, while others hailed him as a towering icon of previously uncharted artistic territories as action painting and abstract expressionism. There were also those who further mystified his art by using psychoanalysis to peer into his subconscious. (Really, now?)

But most important perhaps was what he represented: America’s own modern artist of pure form. Fazed by the role, he channelled it through alcoholism and died in a car crash in 1956.

On January 28, 2011 immortal through his works, Pollock reached 100 years old. Various tributes have been drawn up. One is a collection of his photos, letters and personal effects by the Archives of American Art. Time Magazine prepared a photo essay of his life, while the foundation behind his house at the Hamptons also launched a huge fundraising benefit to continually preserve the paint-spattered floors.

As for this (next great) generation, we recognize the Big Dripper’s legend in our characteristically Gen-Y way--a list of top 5 reasons why Pollock is the ultimate art rock star:

  1. His was the most expensive painting ever sold. In 2006, “No. 5, 1948” was reportedly bought by a guy named David Martinez for $140 million.
  2. He lived fast, died young, and made a mess of things.”
  3. Having introduced action painting, Jackson Pollock’s moves are to American art as Michael Jackson’s grooves are to American pop.
  4. His work can be simulated using Internet browser technologies. Visit JacksonPollock.org to create your very own Pollock.
  5. He had the guts to say: “I don’t paint nature, I am nature.”