There were many paintings, prints, and sculptures in the High Museum’s Picasso to Warhol exhibition that captured my attention as I meandered through.
I blew wholeheartedly at the mobiles in the side room devoted to Alexander Calder, watching as they cast shifting shadows on the walls. Their fluidity, the ability to assume a new identity with a small gust, was alluring.
Jasper Johns’ Summer gave me pause and made me contemplate who the shadow belonged to. Were they connected to the table on the other side? Off to a picnic? Walking home? Arriving/Leaving?
I admired the rendering of the wall and recreation of the Mona Lisa; felt a burn of appreciation and jealousy at the skill.
But the small alcove just beyond the room full of Marcel Duchamp drew me in. I sat behind two kind old women and was enraptured by a short film about Jackson Pollock.
I watched as he painted with a cigarette hanging from his lip, using one paint can and brush after another to flick paint on to the canvas. He was methodical, at times slowly drawing or rapidly zig-zagging the brush through the air. He seemed to know the different patterning each brush and amount of paint made. There was always a look of intense concentration on his brow, a purpose hunching his back.
When the film ended, I shuffled to the works displayed. I planted myself in front of one and just stared. The haze of pink, black, white, and red nearly swallowed me whole as I examined it. It was a smattering of paint splatters, a uncleaned painter’s floor, chaos. Every mark held purpose, or at least it was made purposefully. Pollock purposefully placed it there even if I couldn’t quite understand why.
It reminded me of when I looked at my chair drawing, my puzzlement at a smudged line that looked nothing like I had seen. I had once made the line with a purpose, even if it was now lost. (It held two purposes: recording and learning.) There was a purpose to every mark I made (both on the chair and every other drawing done in class), an attempt to record what I was seeing. While Pollock may have been attempting to illustrate an abstract idea and I, a concrete idea, the intent of recording it was clear. Even something as innocuous as a thin line holds a purpose. Be it design or learning.