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Michael KimmelmanThe following is a review of the Jackson Pollock retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, New York:
...The retrospective, a landmark, is nearly perfect. Restraint is pointless. If you care about art you live for exhibitions like this, in which an artist, against the heavy odds of his own skewed talent and unhinged personality, pursued something so wild, untested and mysterious that its full meaning was unclear even to him, yet who briefly wrung from his peculiar system of painting one variation after another.
This is perhaps the biggest accomplishment of the retrospective, which Kirk Varnedoe has organized with Pete Karmel: bringing together so many different pictures from Pollack's glory years, they prove how little the drip paintings conform to any single description (starting with the word drip) and how much they demand to be regarded closely, anew, one by one--which is what exhibitions are for. It's funny how an old-fashioned formalist re-examination of the art can seem like a fresh approach after all the psychobabble and cold war conspiracy theorizing and pop social analysis that has dominated Pollock studies for years....
His biggest triumphs are, of course, the classic paintings from 1950: 'Autumn Rhythm,' 'No. 32,' and 'One.' They are hung together here so you can scan them by swiveling your head 180 degrees. It's an amazing sight. Standing a few feet away from them, I had the odd and slightly dizzying feeling of staring up into the sky....
Nothing in art since then, not Pop or Minimalism or anything else, is as radical and audacious. It doesn't matter that other artists dripped paint before Pollock; they didn't make of it what he did. To play C-E-G on a piano is not to compose a Mozart sonata. Pollock's paintings remain the central story of modern art in the second half of the century, above all because they gave permission to all other artists to break the rules.
...Pollock didn't come out of nowhere, but he was a quintessential American because of his aspiration to make something from what seemed like nothing. Having said more than he knew with his drip paintings, he clearly didn't know what else to say at the end of his life.
In retrospect, he had already, of course, said more than enough. -- The New York Times