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Jackson Action: Companion Video for My WSJ Article on Getty’s Restoration of Pollock’s Mural

Jackson Pollock's signature on "Mural," 1943 Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

Jackson Pollock’s signature on “Mural,” 1943
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

There’s a myth about Jackson Pollock‘s breakthrough 1943 painting, “Mural,” that I didn’t have the space to mention in my Wednesday Wall Street Journal article, Getty’s Jackson Pollock Restoration: It was often said that the painting was cut down in order to fit on the wall in Peggy Guggenheim’s apartment, for which it was commissioned. Not true.

However, a sizable portion of the left side of “Mural” was cut off in the reproduction accompanying my piece in the above-linked online version. (By the time you read this, I hope this may have been fixed.)

I wrote in my piece that my reaction to seeing “Mural” in Los Angeles, five years after admiring it in Iowa (its home state) was “complicated.” What I didn’t mention was that I was ambivalent, at first, not only about its altered appearance, but also about its installation.

At the Figge Art Museum, Davenport, IA, where “Mural” was exhibited after the flood-caused closure of the University of Iowa Museum of Art, the installation was conceived as a dramatic, head-on encounter, for maximum initial impact:

"Mural" at Figge Art Museum, as seen through opening to the gallery Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

“Mural” at the Figge Art Museum, as seen through the opening to the gallery
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

At the Getty, in what I came to recognize as an astute presentation (organized by Scott Schaefer, now the museum’s curator emeritus). “Mural” hangs to the right of the gallery’s entrance, invisible from outside. Visitors approach it from right to left, as Peggy Guggenheim’s guests would have encountered it when entering her hallway. The Getty’s visitors, like Peggy’s, become part of the procession of the painting’s underlying stick figures, who also move from right to left.

Here’s what it looks like at the Getty:

Jackson Pollock, "Mural," 1943, at Getty Museum Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

Jackson Pollock, “Mural,” 1943, at the Getty Museum
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

In the CultureGrrl Video, below, you’ll approach “Mural” as I did, and hear the Getty Museum’s senior conservator, Yvonne Szafran, and the Getty Conservation Institute’s head of science, Tom Learner, describe the work they did on “Mural” and the discoveries they made about how it was created.

A few particularly intriguing passages in the work (described by Learner in the video and mentioned by me in the article) contain stringy pink paint that appears to have been spattered, not brushed, onto the canvas, anticipating Pollock’s signature gestures in later paintings.

Here’s a close-up of one such passage (difficult to see in the video), descending diagonally from upper right to bottom left :


Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

With this background, come join me at the press preview to hear Sean O’Harrow, director of the University of Iowa Museum of Art, introduce the painting, followed by Yvonne’s and Tom’s show-and-tell about what Pollock accomplished and how he achieved it:

an ArtsJournal blog