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WOID Bulletin

Artist's Books.
96th Street Library, 112 East 96th Street (289-0908):
Bertha Rogers, "For the Girl buried in the Peat Bog."
Opening November 7, 2:00 pm; through November 30.

Contemporary Chinese Art and the Literary Culture of China.
(November 7, - January 15, 1999)
Lehman College Art Gallery, Bedford Park Boulevard West
Bronx,  (#4 or D train to Bedford Park Boulevard; one block west of the
Tues-Sat, 10:00-4:00

Jackson Pollock
(November 1 - February 2)
Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd Street
709-9480. http://www.moma.org
Sat/Sun/Mon/Thur, 10:30-6:00; Fri: 10:30-8:30 (voluntary contribution

Pollock's Blue-Chip Period.
For anyone who wants to learn about Jackson Pollock this is a perfect
survey: it includes his early works, his drawings, the major pieces, the
movies, the outtakes from the movies, and even a reconstruction of
Pollock's log cabin on Long Island. One of the movies zooms in on
Pollock's paint-stained boots - they look like van Gogh's. But then, the
show is full of these little touches of adulation, including the life-size
cutout of Jackson scowling in front of a canvas; too bad you can't have
your photo taken with your arm wrapped around him.
There's an old art-school chestnut that runs like this: Jackson Pollock
doubted to the end that he was really producing art: the stuff is too raw,
you see, too honest, and the fact that we are still disturbed by it proves
how hard it is to turn his work into mere art, even now. The funny thing
is, in this show Pollock's work really is raw - until 1949, when suddenly
it becomes as beautiful as textile designs. But it's not as if he had
reached his maturity: it's more as if after years of experimenting with
fundamentals of design he decided one day to cash in his chips: so the
early work is raw and the later work is lovely and both are really about
problems of design - left unresolved in the early work, happily expressed
in the later.

The show focuses on technique. There is even a display of panels
explaining his procedures: here is a duplication of few Pollock drips on a
sized canvas, next to an unsized section, here, an explanation of
Pollock's use of veils of color. Any artist should be thrilled by this; I
found it depressing. In one of the movies Pollock intones: "technique is
just a means of arriving at a statement." - But why THIS technique? From
this show one rarely gets the sense that these were problems of

There are a few exceptions in the show: one is a an untitled drawing in
black and colored ink from 1951 (collection of Jane Long Davis), which has
some of the signifying sharpness of an Henri Michaux poem. The other is
the last room of this show, in which a series of paintings of wildly
divergent styles suggest, at last, that Pollock was trying to grapple with
issues of meaning at the end of his life. Predictably, this room was
panned in the New York Times. After all, if all of Pollock's paintings
didn't look the same who would want to own a signature Pollock?

Charles Baudelaire, who practically invented the idea of art criticism,
once wrote a damning essay about what he called "le chiqu:" the
calligrapher who can draw Napoleon's hat, for instance, without lifting
his pen. For Baudelaire there was a kind of technical facility that fell
flat because it had no purpose. If Pollock had a purpose then this show
fails to explain it.

Paul Werner, New York City

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