February 8, 2001

A Portrait Of The Artist

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Why are there are so many action or thriller movies, comedies, and love stories, but no art movies? I guess one could say that the above movies are in fact art, while others might say that in order to be interested in an art movie, you have to know the artist being depicted. Most commonly, however, people say they’ve never heard of an art movie playing in the theater. That’s the problem.

Do we not see a movie if we don’t either know the so-called stars of the flick or at least know part of the story? In all reality, how many people actually know anything about action? How many people are actually funny? And how many people have ever had anything even remotely close to a love story happen in their own affairs? Rarely. But the fact remains that movies about artists are not popular. They don’t have the hype that other movies get, so why see it, right?

That is a sadly mistaken view, however. Because of it, great art movies like Basquait remain virtually unknown. Who ‘s at fault? Is it Hollywood, or are parents just not teaching their kids to explore anymore? After all, why would anyone see The Wedding Planner? The entire story was given to us in the preview and the actors are not all too talented either. Oh wait, but they are HOT! Well, those who want to learn a little something about the past (oh God no!) should see Pollock.

Pollock is based on the life and struggles of world-renowned artist Jackson Pollock. Directed by and starring Ed Harris in the title role and Marcia Gay Harden as Pollock’s wife, the painter Lee Krasner, this is a rare film that depicts a part of American history everyone should know about. One does not have to like art to see a little history instead of fantasy. But enough with the criticism. Let’s get to the movie.

Jackson Pollock is a struggling painter in 40’s New York. We follow him through his rise to the top — although it is not a steady route — until his eventual death in 1956. Pollock is known among the Abstract Expressionists of his time, but his work did not sell.

When he meets fellow artist, Lee Krasner, his life improves. He is introduced to Peggy Guggenheim, who has a love/hate relationship with Pollock, but knows that he is special. His first show is not a great success, but with the help of critic and later-on friend Clement Greenberg, Pollock gains recognition and soon becomes one of New York’s hottest artists. Soon he and Krasner move to the country as he continues painting.

One day, while in his studio, Pollock has an fortunate accident. While laying canvas out on the floor, he spills some paint on the ground before it. It should be noted that he preferred painting on the ground, since he could walk around the painting and have more control over the canvas. It is just a splash of paint, but Pollock is fascinated. He continues dripping some paint on the floor until he proceeds to transfer this technique to the canvas. This technique, also known as action painting, makes him famous.

According to Willem De Kooning, “Jackson broke it wide open.” With this accident he creates the most provocative and new paintings the art world has ever seen. He becomes a star, but the attention soon gets to him, and after years of not drinking, he returns to the bottle. This time around, his artwork suffers, his love life starts to fade, and he soon dies.

The movie is a great depiction of a time and of Pollock himself, but it was hard to feel all of Pollock’s pain. Harris was great, but the movie seemed a bit long and ended abruptly. Now, maybe I am falling into the same trap that Hollywood has set. Perhaps I expected an ending with great music and tears, but I just felt like it was missing something. Nonetheless, if you would like to know about Pollock and his art, as well as see what artists go through in the process of creating, this is a great film.

Archived article by Nino Linsmayer