Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Jackson Pollock’s MURAL at the Getty Museum, Los Angeles, California

Getty Museum, Los Angeles, California
Recently, I went to see Jackson Pollock’s painting, Mural, on exhibit at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.  The Getty has spent the past year restoring the painting, now more than seventy years old, and has brought it back to its full glory. It is a stunning work–alive with swirling colors on a giant canvas.  Along with the painting, which occupies one room, the exhibit also explains the history of the work and the technical and artistic process of restoring it.

In 1943, art dealer Peggy Guggenheim commissioned Jackson Pollack–a relatively unknown artist at the time–  to make a painting for the hallway of her New York apartment.  It was to be a mural–wall sized–but painted on canvas. The finished painting stood 8 feet high and was nearly 20 feet wide.  It was the largest free-standing oil painting of the modern era.  But what was even more remarkable were the colors and shapes that swirled across the canvas.  No one had ever painted anything like it before.  Jackson Pollock went on to create his famous “drip” paintings, but it was Mural that marked the beginning of his prominence as a painter and the beginning of the era of large scale abstract expressionist paintings.

It’s not easy to find homes for paintings as large as Mural and in 1951 Peggy Guggenheim gave Mural to the University of Iowa Department of Art.  A photo in the book produced by the Getty about the painting shows it hanging in one of the painting studios at the university.  The photo is dated 1952.  Fifteen years later I was a graduate student in art at the University of Iowa, but I don’t recall ever seeing the painting.

You can view MURAL at the Getty until June 1, 2014.  After that it will travel to Sioux City, Iowa, and then go on a world tour to Vienna, London, and other cities.  The University of Iowa is currently planning to build a new art museum.  When it is finished, the Pollock painting will be installed there.

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