JACKSON POLLOCK: An American Saga by Steven & Gregory White Smith Naifeh
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JACKSON POLLOCK: An American Saga

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An extensively researched biography that traces the internal and external forces that brought the unlikely Pollock to the forefront of American avant-garde art. Naifeh and Smith (The Mormon Murders, 1988; Why Can't Men Open Up? 1984) begin with a dark 1952 scene of Pollock, then 40, and artist Tony Smith, both drunk and hurling paint over a canvas on the studio floor. Here, they introduce Pollock's ""demons""--the need to compete, to provoke, to prove he could draw--behind both his imagery and his self-destruction. Looming large is his mother, scathingly portrayed as cold, ambitious, and responsible for driving his father out of Pollock's life. In his pivotal ""poured"" canvases (like Blue Poles, begun with Smith), Pollock resolved the psychic conflict he felt there to be between his parents--using masculine gestures to sow a rich and delicate web of paint. Refreshingly skeptical, the authors build their sometimes overdrawn psychological case on a wealth of facts, many gathered from over 2,000 interviews with 850 people. Characteristically, they even name the taxi service Pollock would call from the East Hampton railroad station. This level of detail is wearing until Pollock moves east, into the boil of the New York art world. In 1941, he meets Lee Krasner, also an artist, who adopts his cause as lover and de facto manager; soon Pollock's career takes off. To explain how Pollock came to paint his breakthrough 1940's canvases, the authors describe in detail the welter of ambition, money, artists, critics, and dealers surrounding him. After brief success, however, ever-present neuroses take over. Locked in a cycle of drinking and violence, Pollock destroys friendship and inspiration. The sordid slide ends when he drives his car off the road, killing himself, then 44, and a 25-year-old woman. Running almost 1,000 pages with 175 b&w photographs and 16 color reproductions, this un-pruned book dismantles art-world myth and adds to the already extensive Pollock research, including Deborah Soloman's also solid but less detailed 1987 biography, Jackson Pollock: A Biography. And what remains sadly ""American"" about Pollock's ""saga"" is the quick flare his work makes against the Hopperesque shadow of his life.

Pub Date: Jan. 28th, 1989
ISBN: 0913391190
Publisher: Potter--dist. by Crown