Jackson Pollock, Number 18, 1951, 1951. Enamel on canvas, 59 1/4 × 55 7/8 in. (150.5 × 141.9 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of The American Contemporary Art Foundation Inc., Leonard A. Lauder, President 2002.258
MAXANDERSON: In 1951, the year Jackson Pollock made this painting, he explained his approach to art during an interview: “The modern artist, it seems to me, is working and expressing an inner world—working with space and time and expressing his feelings rather than illustrating.”
MAXANDERSON: To make this work, Pollock placed his canvas onto the floor. Notice how the enamel paint soaks into parts of the canvas almost like ink. The artist used unconventional tools, like a turkey baster, to create the expressive lines and shapes that give this painting much of its energy and vitality.
Unlike the earlier drip paintings that brought him international recognition, in this late body of work, made a few years before his death, Pollock incorporated recognizable imagery. Near the center of the canvas, we see a shape that resembles an eye, or perhaps a breast. And the large form that dominates the lower half of the canvas looks a bit like a sleeping animal. Art critics at the time almost universally panned this series of works, and expressed great disappointment about Pollock’s return to figuration. But as the artist explained, “when you are painting out of your unconscious, figures are bound to emerge.”