“Art is either plagiarism or revolution,” said French post-Impressionist artist Paul Gauguin, meaning that artists either repeat existing convention or present a totally new way that did not exist. The history of art has been written by so many revolutionary artists. American abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock was a revolutionary of revolutionaries who broke long traditions and notions.
Pollock, who was working as a carpenter, became a professional artist by signing a contract with Peggy Guggenheim in July 1943. At first, Guggenheim asked him to paint a mural for her New York residence. At Marcel Duchamp’s suggestion, Pollock painted it on a canvas before it was attached to a wall.
The mural led Pollock to completely separate himself from the tradition of Western painting. He ditched traditional painting tools and materials such as the easel, the palette and oil paints. Instead, he chose such materials as cans, wood sticks and household enamel paint. He also used totally new methods of creating paintings. He rolled out a large canvas and scattered, poured or threw canned paint with wood sticks or old brushes. He worked, using all his body as if he had been dancing to fill the large canvas screen. Seen from different perspectives, he was not painting but doing performance art on a canvas. His works were also “all over” paintings, which did not have any up, down, left or right. After American art critic Harold Rosenberg called gestural abstraction as “action painting,” Pollock became the pioneer in action painting.
“On the floor I am more at ease. I feel nearer, more a part of the painting, since this way I can walk around it, work from the four sides and literally be in the painting,” Pollack said in 1947. He became one with his painting by going into it, rather than just painting it. He is now an icon of the 20th century art by presenting revolutionary art created with a totally new method.