Jackson Pollock’s »Mural« is not just a remarkable pictorial achievement in its own right, it is also a watershed in the development of modern American art. In the middle of a twentieth century traumatized by the Second World War, Pollock’s monumental work resembled a new creative beginning from which the movement that would be known as Abstract Expressionism sprang. The semi-abstract personages and gestural marks that had populated Pollock’s paintings until then here unfolded across the canvas with an unprecedented freedom and confidence. As the largest work that Pollock ever executed, »Mural« was also a vital stepping stone that led the way to the sheer audacity of the poured paintings that he began in 1947.
Commissioned by the art collector Peggy Guggenheim for the entrance hall of her residence on East 61st Street in New York in the summer of 1943, »Mural« synthesizes a remarkable host of sources and ideas. These range from the example of the great Mexican muralists José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros and Diego Rivera; native American Indian art; Picasso’s work of the »Guernica« period and wartime action photography.
At the crux of »Mural« stands Pollock’s profound involvement with making visible energy, motion and the images in his mind’s eye. The artist, born in Wyoming in 1912, was inspired by the vast open spaces of the West, the untamed forces and rhythms of nature, and what he perceived as the tonic rawness of the American continent compared to the refinements of European culture. »Jackson Pollock’s Mural: Energy Made Visible« documents why this single work revolutionized the history of art. The exhibition includes further key paintings by Pollock, as well as by artists who were close to him, including Lee Krasner and Robert Motherwell, as well as those who subsequently responded to his legacy, such as Andy Warhol. Photographs by Herbert Matter, Barbara Morgan and Gjon Mili, among others, in particular shed fresh light on Pollock’s vision and its links to an entire tradition of picturing human energy.
After Peggy Guggenheim returned to Europe, she gifted »Mural« to the University of Iowa Museum of Art in 1948. Since then, it has rarely been shown elsewhere. After an eighteen month campaign at the Getty Conservation Institute, Los Angeles, »Mural« is now being presented—in its resplendent newly-cleaned and restored state—in Venice, Berlin, Málaga and London.
»Mural« has engrossed generations of artists, critics, and aficionados since its inception down to the present day. This groundbreaking exhibition, organized by the University of Iowa Museum of Art, is curated by Dr. David Anfam, Senior Consulting Curator at the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver and a preeminent expert on Abstract Expressionism. Most of the works come from the collection of the university museum, and many were gifts from Peggy Guggenheim.
For Berlin, the exhibition was supplemented by a comprehensive set of works of subjective photography from the Kicken Collection. Loans from Kunsthalle Bielefeld and private collectors round out the show.