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Jackson Pollock: Early Sketchbooks and Drawings.
Exh. schedule: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 22, 1997 - February 8, 1998.
The Jackson Pollock Sketchbooks in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1997. Essays by Katherine Baetjer, Lisa Mintz Messinger, Nan Rosenthal. 88 pp., 64 b/w ills. In conjunction with the exhibition, the museum also issued facsimiles of the sketchbooks in an edition of 500.
Focus: Pollock and Printmaking.
Exh. schedule: The Museum of Modern Art, New York, September 17, 1998 - January 12, 1999.
That Pollock's years of greatness are those of the poured paintings of 1947 - 50 has largely been taken for granted. The recent Museum of Modern Art retrospective of his work also promotes rather than challenges such an understanding. "Bringing together so many different pictures from Pollock's glory years" is "perhaps the biggest accomplishment of the retrospective," Michael Kimmelman wrote in his New York Times review of the MaMA exhibition. Seeing in a cluster of 1950 paintings "the great museum moment," Paul Richards in the Washington Post wrote, with some justice, that the curators Kirk Varnedoe and Pepe Karmel "so constructed their display that you have had to climb through the mud and flames and thorns of Pollock's urgent early visions to get here." The dazzle of the poured paintings appears miraculous, indeed strangely unmotivated.
There is something correct about such a view, but it fails to do justice to the light that the tortuous climb casts on the artist's mature works. That struggle took place in a specific landscape. Normally, MoMA's permanent collection itself provides some of the most immediate context out of which Pollock's art organically arose. The absence from the museum's premises of Picasso's Girl before a Mirror during the retrospective was notably ironic, since it may be seen as such an important influence on the legendary American painter.
Audrey Isselbacher, author of the brochure that accompanied MoMA's small but illuminating supplementary exhibition Focus: Pollock and Printmaking, assembled by Deborah Wye, revealed another aspect of the significance of context. Countering "the stereotypical image" of Pollock as "an artist wildly pouring paint onto huge canvases," the six 1943 screenprints on exhibit, newly acquired by the museum, demonstrate by virtue of the process of printmaking Pollock's careful …