Everyone was out on Friday evening so instead of going home to an empty house I walked over to MoMA. There’s a modest Jackson Pollock exhibit.
Full Fathom Five 1947
This is considered to be one of his first ‘drip’ paintings. What a mess! But I like it. I wonder what possessed him to take his canvas off the easel and lay it on the floor? He used traditional oil paint but he also used house paint. He threw a lot of other junk in, too. You have to get close to see the other stuff. So close that you’ll be yelled at by the museum guard. Take it from me. It’s like a treasure hunt. Within the folds of paint you can find:
A skeleton key.
Paint tube caps.
A cigarette and another coin.
Pushpins and thumbtacks.
The title was suggested by Pollock’s neighbor. It’s a quote about a shipwreck from Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
“Full fathom five thy father lies
Of his bones are coral made
Those are pearls that were his eyes.”
Isn’t that beautiful? People stopped paying attention to him after the drip paintings. It’s as if Led Zeppelin sang ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and nothing else. Poor Jackson. It drove him mad. He wrapped his car around a tree in a drunken fit. Is it better to have known greatness, only to have it snatched away? Or are you better off never knowing?
He used a little bit of everything. Oil, paper, metal, photos, fabric, wood, canvas, buttons, a mirror, a pillow, cardboard and, yes, a taxidermied bald eagle. It’s a combination of painting, collage and sculpture all balled into one using found objects. He called these pieces Combines. He’d walk around downtown New York (we’re talking 1959 downtown) and pick up items that inspired him. Clearly, the centerpiece is that bald eagle.
It was given to him by fellow artist Sari Dienes. She found it in a hallway of the Carnegie Hall studio building. The rumor is it was killed and stuffed by one of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders. I wonder how it got to Carnegie Hall?
Bald eagles are a protected species, so selling this would be a felony. Consequently, when the owner passed away and bequeathed it to her children, the appraisers valued it at $0. The IRS disagreed and said it’s worth $65 million and they wanted $29.2 million in inheritance taxes, thank you very much. To get the IRS off their backs, they agreed to donate it to MoMA and MoMA agreed to always have it on display for the public to enjoy.
Four people sitting on a bench texting.
And where is this bench? In front of this:
Why bother to let one of Monet’s most vibrant tryptics wash over you when social media beckons? I wish I could report that they were absorbed MoMA’s museum app but, sadly, they were not. They were texting.
The bigger question here is: What the hell is wrong with me? Why am I in their lives? They’re not blocking my view of the painting. Why do I give a damn what they’re doing? This is the opposite of Zen detachment. I feel like a bitchy old man complaining about those damn kids and their newfangled technologies.
It is a shame, though. If I could un-invent mobile phones I’d do it in a second.
It was the last weekend for the monumental Picasso sculpture exhibit so it was pretty crowded. I’d like to propose a new rule: If you have a stroller, you can’t come into an art museum. They banned selfie sticks. Why wouldn’t the ban strollers?
Pablo’s clever guitars on a table.