Which of these large paintings is better? One is by renowned artist Jackson Pollock, and one is by yours truly, The Aspen Beat.
I’m not known as an artist – heck, I’m not even known as a writer – but I can still apply paint to canvas, to myself and to everything else in the vicinity. That’s where my similarities with Pollock end.
Pollock was born in Cody, Wyoming, got expelled from two high schools, liked Mexican murals, was an alcoholic, and died drunk when he rolled his convertible. The car interior wound up looking like one of his paintings.
On an artistic level, Pollock is less admirable. His technique was to put the canvas on the floor and drip paint onto it. He called it his “drip technique.”
The leftists at Wikipedia – always verbosely enamored by all things predictably opposed to Western Civilization – proclaim that Pollock “was widely noticed for his technique of pouring or splashing liquid household paint onto a horizontal surface . . . enabling him to view and paint his canvases from all angles.”
In other words, if you put something on the floor, you can walk around it to see it from different sides.
Huh. How ingeniously artistic. Michelangelo could have saved himself a lot of chiropractic treatment if he’d thought to put the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel on the floor, paint it with drips, drops and drabs, and then put it back up on the ceiling.
An early art critic (is that really a paid job?) enthused (about Pollock, not Michelangelo), “I took one look at it and I thought, ‘Now that’s great art,’ and I knew Jackson was the greatest painter this country had produced.” Pollock’s first exhibition declared his work “Volcanic. It has fire. It is unpredictable. It is undisciplined. It spills out of itself in a mineral prodigality, not yet crystallized.”
OK, if they say so. But have you ever noticed how the quality of art is inversely proportional to the quantity of words used to describe it?
A Pollock painting is rumored to have sold a few years ago for $200 million. I suppose that’s about what the Sistine Chapel ceiling would sell for, and they’d probably throw in the chapel itself and maybe that building next door too.
My cynicism might be because the most I’ve been offered for my piece above is, um, lower than $200 million (but not as low as you might guess). Pollock was a very successful artist. I’m, um, not.
Other painters have imitated Pollock with more success than I’ve had, at least in the money department. In a notorious scandal, a prominent New York gallery sold Pollock fakes for years. The fakes were by a Chinese immigrant in Queens, and laundered through a complicated contrivance in Mexico to produce a false provenance. The same scam artists also produced and sold counterfeits of another famous modern painter, Mark Rothko.
The gallery itself contends that it, too, was tricked. Maybe so but, unlike the other victims, the gallery was greatly enriched until the fraud was discovered. (If you’re interested, this story is in a good Netflix show.)
Apart from all the criminal intrigue, the interesting thing about the Pollock and Rothko counterfeits is that nearly all the experts were fooled. The forgery was discovered only when forensic experts hired by a potential purchaser determined that some of the paint was not invented until years after the paintings were purportedly made.
Notably, no expert ever said, “This cannot be a Pollock, because it just isn’t good enough. It lacks that volcanic fire of Pollock. It fails to spill out of itself in a mineral prodigality, not yet crystallized.”
Question: How can an unknown painter in Queens produce something that, from an objective visual standpoint, is as “good” as something that sells for $200 million? What’s happened to our modern notion of art?
My last column, “Modern music is crap” decried the degeneration of music. It looks like the same has happened to art. The end of music and art suggests that that at least one of the Platonic triad – truth, justice and beauty – is dead. I submit that it wasn’t an accident. It was murder most foul.
Next column: Modern education is crap.