At the end of the 1940's, abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) is featured in Life magazine. Flashback to 1941, he's living with his brother in a tiny apartment in New York City, drinking too much, and exhibiting an occasional painting in group shows. That's when he meets artist Lee Krasner, who puts her career on hold to be his companion, lover, champion, wife, and, in essence, caretaker. To get him away from booze, insecurity, and the stress of city life, they move to the Hamptons where nature and sobriety help Pollock achieve a breakthrough in style: a critic praises, then Life magazine calls. But so do old demons: the end is nasty, brutish, and short. Written by
While this film is flooded with holes in Pollacks short career, we do get a glimpse of his struggle and process. I was sorry that a few other notable artist that were a part of Pollacks art scene were not portrayed during this great period of time. Mark Rothko, Louise Nevelson and Robert Motherwell to name a few. Also, Pollack worked as a security guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York for a short time. This environment was partly responsible for exposing him to the dominant European invasion of art in America. I would have liked more in depth insights into why Pollack began painting and why he was so tortured. Ed Harris does a fine job with the material he was working with, but they could have covered more bases in Pollacks life and I know Harris would have stepped up to the plate.
In one scene Pollack is pacing back and forth in front of a large blank canvass. It is a stunning scene watching his shadow run along that large white surface waiting for the moment he would begin to paint. Another scene takes us to East Hampton where he is kneeling down out in the salt marshes staring into a tide pool. Just this pose alone suggests a precursor to removing the canvass from the wall and placing it on the floor.
There are a few quiet moments that capture the subtle Pollack and I wish they explored more in this direction. In so many of these artist portrayals the essence of the process and inspiration gets lost in the drama of their personalities.
However, this movie takes on an ambitious man and an ambitious time in American Art. I was grateful to have seen with my own eyes several Pollack shows over the years and to have studied and experimented myself with Abstract Expressionism.
I think Ed Harris and Marcia Gay Harden should be nominated for their incredible portrayals of these two great artists. Moreover, whether you know a great deal about Pollack, this film will allow you to glimpse into the life of Jackson, but it will also expose you to his wonderful partner, Lee Krasner.
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