Thursday, October 7, 2010

Letter to Jackson Pollock

Lee Krasner, Untitled, 1949 Oil on composition board, 48 x 37 in. (MoMA)
 By Kyle Gallup

October 7th, 2010

Jackson Pollock
c/o MoMA
11 West 53rd Street
NY NY  10019

Dear Mr. Pollock,

Congratulations on the inclusion of your pictures in the new “Abstract Expressionist New York” exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. I’m writing to let you know how much I like your paintings. Admittedly, I was a little nervous about seeing the show. In the past, I have had intense feelings of competition when I’ve seen your work. Feeling like I might have the urge to stand up on one of the benches in the museum gallery and shake my fists at your largest, most dominant pictures, I steadied myself the night before thinking of the eighteen years I spent painting large scale, my canvas stapled to the floor.

I’m proud of those years and of the work I made. I learned how to create unity and an open picture by pushing color around and making decisions while being inside the painting process. I think you would be pleased to see how many painters today create paintings out of the open structured space that you and your contemporaries discovered and mastered. There is beautiful, skillful work being shown at this moment in galleries all over New York that is indebted to all of you first generation Abstraction Expressionists.  Thank you for opening up that world to me, and other artists.

I know it wasn’t easy. I can sympathize. No money, having nightmares about Picasso, feeling the need to be in the studio each day working, finding your way through the painting while shedding parameters that were used in the past must have been both difficult and exhilarating. Even now, painting abstractly can sometimes feel like being naked in the wilderness but also like standing on the highest mountain looking out over a vast, lush landscape.

I should also mention, it’s hard to make the transition from work in the studio to being outside, in the real world. How do you let go of all it takes for one to muster the courage to confront the blank canvas while working, to then being just a regular guy in the world?  I’ve learned how to make that transition and I imagine you struggled with that too.

Please let your wife, Lee Krasner, know how much I liked her painting, “Untitled 1949” in the show. The painting called to me with an urgent whisper from across the gallery, “Come over and take a good look.” Seeing the picture, feeling its intensity with those smoky grays and whites, with the dabs of orange, yellow and blue leading my eye, summoned me with their hum. As I looked at the picture, the whisper became many voices. An important conversation was being conducted but what was actually being said I could not discern. It was like being in a room just before a toast is given, a conference of women talking just before the glass is clinked and the voices quiet down.

I want to be part of that conversation and I felt included when I looked at Lee’s painting. So Mr. Pollock, that’s what time does, it widens the circle of participants allowing more artists into the discussion.

    Thanks again, and best of luck with future exhibitions.

Yours truly,

Kyle Gallup   

Kyle Gallup is an artist who works in collage and watercolor.


Carl Belz said...

A really swell, effective, and personal approach. I remember seeing that Krasner picture years ago with Pollock nearby and thinking Pollock's bold shadow virtually obscured it. This "letter" sheds fresh, welcome light on the picture, and I'm grateful. (NB: See, the meanings of works of art Do change with changing times and circumstances, and the changes don't even necessitate killing the artist. Phew!)

Kyle Gallup said...

Thank you Carl for your comment.I know what you mean. I have seen other shows that included Pollock and Krasner and have always felt that Pollock's paintings took all my attention. My experience with Lee Krasner's painting that I write about is a new one for me.I was genuinely surprised by how I felt. Perhaps it's the way the show was curated or just that enough time has passed to see all this work clearly. Even though the artists were working at the same time and dealing with similar issues, each artist approached their painting boldly and independently.

Kyle Gallup said...

Perhaps too, so many artists today have taken up, turned over, remade,
rethought and wrangled with Abstract Expressionism that it has now been digested enough to see it more clearly. Process, process, process!