August 27, 2007

So are they really Jackson Pollocks?

"Pollock Matters," curated by Ellen Landau. McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA. September 1-December 9.

Geoff Edgers reports in the Boston Globe: "That's a question, perhaps the question, surrounding the exhibition 'Pollock Matters,' which opens Saturday at Boston College's McMullen Museum of Art. Though the show features about 170 pieces, including paintings, drawings, photographs, and letters, the highlight promises to be about two dozen small drip paintings discovered in a storage locker five years ago, labeled as works by Pollock. Studied by scientists and argued over by art historians, the paint-spattered pictures will be on view for the first time. They're being displayed in the last of seven rooms housing the exhibit." Read more.

Ken Johnson, also at the Boston Globe, says the paintings are wonderful, and that whoever made them deserves our congratulations: "The brown paper wrapper in which Alex Matter says he found the paintings had the words 'Pollock Experimentals' scrawled in pencil on it, but the paintings don't look experimental. Most of them look like they were made with decisive intentionality and well-understood technique, and they are brought to a state of finish that the word experiment would seem to abjure. That almost all have been restored - many twice - may account in part for why they look so fresh, but that can't be the only reason for why they are so optically gripping." Read more.

Greg Cook in The Phoenix says the show's importance isn't in the paintings themselves, it's in the creative connections between the artists: "The art here is mostly minor stuff, including lesser works by Krasner, Hofmann, Alexander Calder, and Pollock. The point is the connections: Krasner funneling Hofmann’s ideas to Pollock; Matter funneling his friend Calder’s biomorphic abstraction to Pollock; the Matters helping bring Pollock to the attention of dealer Peggy Guggenheim; Matter’s photos inspiring a Hofmann drip painting." Read more.

Oh well. Long after I initially posted these reviews, Randy Kennedy reports in the NY Times that according to scientists, the paintings are, in fact, fake. "A forensic scientist said yesterday that a large group of paintings discovered several years ago and thought by some to be by Jackson Pollock included many containing paints and materials that were not available until after the artist’s death in 1956. At least one was painted on a board that was not produced earlier than the late 1970s or early ’80s, said the scientist, James Martin, in a lecture last night sponsored by the International Foundation for Art Research in Manhattan. Mr. Martin was commissioned to examine the paintings in 2005 by their owner, Alex Matter, the son of Herbert and Mercedes Matter, artists who were friends of Pollock’s. Mr. Matter has said he found the paintings, made in Pollock’s signature drip style, in 2002 or 2003 in a Long Island storage container that had belonged to his father. Although Mr. Martin, who is based in Williamstown, Mass., completed the analysis last fall, he has said he did not release it earlier because Mr. Matter’s lawyer told him he would face a lawsuit if he did so. It is unclear why he chose to go public now."