Away from the Easel: Jackson Pollock’s
Away from the Easel: Jackson Pollock’s Mural
In 1943 Jackson Pollock created what would be his largest-ever painting: Mural. Although Pollock was not yet consistently working with canvases on the floor—pouring and dripping paint from all sides, as he would by 1947—Mural represents a pivotal moment in the evolution of Pollock’s artistic style. Informed partly by the Surrealists’ exploration of the unconscious mind, and by the work of Mexican muralists José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera, and David Alfaro Siqueiros, among others, Pollock began to challenge traditional notions of painting. He experimented with real and mythical imagery, dynamic gestures, and a vibrant palette in Mural, thereby further developing his idiosyncratic style as it approached abstraction.
Mural also embodies the legacy of Peggy Guggenheim, museum founder Solomon R. Guggenheim’s niece, as a visionary collector and art dealer. Earlier in 1943, Pollock had submitted a painting (now titled Stenographic Figure, 1942) for a juried exhibition at Guggenheim’s museum-gallery Art of This Century, which had recently opened on West Fifty-Seventh Street in Manhattan. Guggenheim and her circle of advisers recognized Pollock’s potential.
Shortly thereafter, Guggenheim offered Pollock a contract with a monthly stipend, thus enabling him to conclude his brief employment as a custodian and preparator at the Museum of Non-Objective Painting (forerunner of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum) and paint full-time. Guggenheim additionally commissioned a work to cover an entire wall in the narrow entryway of the townhouse at 155 East Sixty-First Street in which she rented an upstairs apartment. Numerous artists, arts professionals, critics, and other guests encountered Mural in the years before Guggenheim left New York, in 1947. Such exposure helped establish Pollock among the preeminent painters of the era, and Guggenheim would later declare him “my one great discovery.”
Away from the Easel: Jackson Pollock’s Mural is a focused exhibition dedicated to Pollock’s Mural, which is now in the collection of the University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, Iowa City, as a result of Peggy Guggenheim’s donation. Mural has not been on view in New York in more than 20 years, and this presentation at the Guggenheim Museum marks its debut in the city following the completion of an extensive research and restoration project undertaken by the Getty Conservation Institute and the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.