Thursday, October 21, 2010

Jackson Pollock's Camouflage

In his recent book, called Tom and Jack, about the relationship between American artists Thomas Hart Benton (who was assigned to naval camouflage in WWI) and Jackson Pollock (who had been Benton's student), art historian Henry Adams argues that Pollock camouflaged the printed letters of his name in an early mural that he made for art collector Peggy Guggenheim. Adams writes—

He simply wrote the words "Jackson Pollock" very large across the canvas. By a nice coincidence, both first and last name had the same number of letters, so it wasn't hard to fit them in. So as not to make the effect too obvious, he introduced some dazzle patterns, like those used to camouflage a ship…[he] disguised them according to principles of camouflage that he had absorbed from Benton and other artists in Benton's circle… Scholars have generally traced Pollock's disruptive handling of form to cubism, but in fact his technique relies more on camouflage, a mode of painting that has a very different history [pp. 272-273].