Unilluminating but sturdily informative, thin but modestly involving: a serviceable biography of fierce, shy,...



Unilluminating but sturdily informative, thin but modestly involving: a serviceable biography of fierce, shy, self-destructive art-pioneer Pollock--with journalist Solomon steering an inoffensive course between sensationalism on the one hand, serious art-history or psychobiography on the other. Youngest son of a drifting farmer/surveyor (who eventually abandoned the family), Pollock grew up in Arizona and California a solitary, withdrawn boy, painfully insecure, sharing the artistic ambitions--but none of the drawing talent--of his older brothers. Following brother Charles to N.Y. and the Art Students League, Pollock studied with kind, paternal Thomas Hart Benton, living hand-to-mouth, often depressed and alcoholic. But, influenced by tribal art, by Orozco, Picasso (Guernica especially), Miro, and others, the painter developed his own style through the 30's and 40's: abstract yet feverishly emotional, forsaking objects or figures for ""allover"" designs, culminating in the ""drip"" technique that allowed him to ""escape the technical demands of art"". . .and to ""create a flowing, continuous, gigantic line, a kind of superhuman calligraphy."" This achievement eventually (by the early 50's) brought notoriety, a mixture of acclaim and scorn, but no financial security. And, unable to go beyond the ""drip"" creatively, Pollock sank back into ""fanatic self-doubt,"" depressed and drunk--with fatal car-crash results in 1956, age 44. Solomon's attempts at psycho-study are sketchy and superficial, occasionally glib. (""So fierce was his hatred of authority figures that once he became one, once he had mastered his own style, he had no choice but to rebel against his own mastery."") The relationship with artist-wife Lee Krasner remains blurry, though Solomon's basic view of Krasner--tough, ambitious, supportive but not self-sacrificing--is persuasive. And Pollock's place in the history of Abstract Expressionism and modern art is only spottily addressed--with inadequate support for such labels as ""the first American painter to battle Picasso for a style of his own and to suceed."" Still, despite a rudimentary prose style, Solomon's narrative (drawing in part on family letters and extensive interviews) is crisply detailed and steadily paced--making this, with 51 b/w illustrations, an uninspired but solid account for a middle-weight audience.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1987

ISBN: 0815411820

Page Count: -

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1987