In New York the Museum of Modern Art's Pollock exhibition was thrilling in the manner of a saga. With exhilarating force it told the incident-packed story of an inspired and inspiring career cut off at 44 by a self-destructive death. It showed what confusion there was in the early development of a young artist of limited talent and uncertain direction. It demonstrated how he found within himself an intuition of the course he had to take, an uncharted course for which he was uniquely suited. It proved that by the time he was in his mid-thirties he had become a major artist who was opening up possibilities for a whole generation of painters, most of them older than himself, and then for a host of artists who came after. It displayed an extraordinary variety of formal invention and mood which nonetheless functioned inside the fairly narrow framework within which his peculiar talents were effective. It recorded a career fired by demonic energy, cosmic imagination, intense integrity, vast ambition and the physical intelligence of a great dancer or athlete. At the same time, it was an exhibition which affected the mind more than the viscera because of the unsuitability of the galleries housing it.
LRB 1 April 1999 | PDF Download