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Metropolitan Museum of Art: Reflection on Epic Abstraction: Pollock to Herrera Exhibition

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The museum that I visited for this research study was the Metropolitan Museum. The exhibition that I chose to view for this study was ‘Epic Abstraction: Pollock to Herrera,’ which was an ongoing exhibition that opened on 17th December 2018. The exhibition was on the second floor of the museum located in the Lila Acheson Wallace Wing, taking the positions of galleries 917-925. The main focus of the exhibition was to present abstract art in a better and new way that would thrill viewers and art enthusiasts. Therefore the exhibition contained large paintings that had thin frames all around them while other canvasses lacked frames. The paintings presented in the exhibition were from familiar staple artists of abstract art like Jackson Pollock, Willen de Kooning, Motherwell, Mark Rothko, and Cy Twombly. From my point of view, I think the Met managed t present the collection of these artists in an exciting and better way.

The first artwork I saw in one of the exhibition rooms was that one created by Jackson Pollock. Jackson painted the Pasiphae in 1943. As I keenly observed this artwork, I noticed that it in many figurative elements, but the most prominent element is the standing figure in the right periphery of the canvas. This artwork of Pollock indicates his expressionist ideas that were greatly influenced by Kandinsky, Picasso, and Klee. The painting of Pasiphae is oil on canvas art. In the same exhibition room, stood a massive painting of Autumn Rhythm that is created by the same artist, Jackson Pollock. Pollock made this artwork in October of 1950. This painting is a nonrepresentational picture that is composed of thinned paint applied to unprimed, unstretched canvass that was laid flat on the floor instead of being pinned on the easel. The size of the painting is 207 inches wide, and it used an environmental scale to envelop both sides of creating a visual rhythmic dynamics sense of buoyancy. The exhibition also had paintings of Mark Rothko, one of which was the Color field painting. There were two untitled watercolor artworks that were created from 1944 to 1946, all of which were profoundly moving. Another piece of art that I noticed in the exhibition was of Elizabeth Murray’s painting of Terrifying Terrain, done from 1989 to 19190. This piece was described as an oil on shaped canvases. More artwork were those of Louis Nevelson’s Mrs. N’s Palace, created out painted wood and mirror, an op-art that Kenneth Noland did in 1961 called October, and Carmen Herrera’s Equilibrio artwork that he did in 2012.

The artworks of Jackson Pollock were exquisite and composite, and they thrilled me more than the other pieces even though all of them were unique. Especially the painting of Pasiphae was the most remarkable one. The picture boasted of composite firm structures that and had integrated central white flanked beasts on either side by two figures that were standing on sentry like a posed manner. Pollock created these figures in an enigmatic and composite manner, which brought out the reminiscent of the medieval carvings of the tribal people. The tangled strokes of the brush in the painting and flourishes, Pollock was portraying a specific interpretation of automatism, which is a surrealistic technique that an artist employs to relinquish conscious control to the paintbrush when creating a piece of art. Most probably, Jackson began by painting the outline of the figures and proceeded by applying thin colors of washes and continuing to opaque swathes that he applied with increased strength. All of these designs and elements are pressed against the plane of the picture, which made me aware of the surfaces and textures of the canvas that I viewed with ewe an admiration. I was tempted to search through the painting to identify figures and other realities, but reality faded away so fast that I only left with the amusement and vibrant explosion of colors and shapes that dazzled my mind.

The painting can only be described as meticulous and grandeur, captivating my mind at first glance with each minute piece standing on its merit, illustrating an illusion of a painting within a painting. The second painting of Pollock, Autumn Rhythm, was much bigger, and it denoted that Pollock was at the peak of his power as an artist. The feeling that arose when I viewed this work was that of sensational grip as the heavy, arcing, graceful, swirling pooling lines of color caught my attention. This painting is the direct choreography of the artist applying the paint with a new way of thinking. Mark Rothko Color field is also amazing and very interesting as the brightest painting with most contrast deeply moved me. Louise Nevelson’s work of Mrs. N’s Palace was beautifully shaped, and the wooden room was geometrically shaped that thrilled me a lot, almost tempting me to walk inside and live in the home that the art represented.

The artwork of Pasiphae can be described as oil on canvas painting. The formal analysis of the painting can be attributed to weaved figures of free-form abstraction and arcane symbols. The painting was created through light paints in the outline of the figures and then thin color washes that build into thick opaque paint layers. It was then accentuated with linear contours colored patches cutting across the figures, establishing an independent rhythm. The next over paint part that Pollock applied was the gray overpainting at the topmost of the canvas controlling the momentum and reinstating order in the painting. Each layer of paint was directly applied not only by brush but also with a palette knife and paint squeezes to give it an animated look. Whereas, Autumn Rhythm represented a thinned paint poured onto an unstretched and unprimed canvas that laid flat on the ground. Pollock possibly splashed, scumbled, splattered, dribbled, and flicked the pigments in the most unorthodox way that made the painting not to have any focal point or hierarchy of elements forming the whole aspect of the painting to be significant. The others in the exhibition could not much the artwork depicted in these two painting canvases of Pollock.


  1. Duvernois, Isabelle, Julie Arslanoglu, and Silvia A. Centeno. “Cut from the Same Cloth: A Technical Comparison of Jackson Pollock’s Pasiphae and Mural.” Getty Research Journal 9, no. S1 (2017): 61-78.
  2. Peacock, Monica. “High or Low? The Value of Transitional Paintings by Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, and Mark Rothko.” (2018).
  3. Perchuk, Andrew, Alan Phenix, and Laura Rivers. “Making Mural: Technical Analysis and Interpretation.” Getty Research Journal 9, no. S1 (2017); 27-60.

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