Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's BĂȘte Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Sunday, August 12, 2007

In the Julia Roberts movie from a few a years ago, Mona Lisa Smile, in which she plays an art history prof at an all-women's college in 1953, the unveiling of a recent painting by Jackson Pollack is a big, exciting deal.

Pollack has since lost his power to surprise.

By 1962, when Norman Rockwell painted The Connoisseur -- depicting a balding, grey-haired man in a grey suit taking in a painting presumably by Pollack and holding an umbrella and a white hat -- Pollack had been thoroughly assimilated into American cultural life, canvasses selling for major big bucks, safe and well-known enough to serve as the target of satire on the disconnect between avant-garde romanticism and avant-garde commercial success for the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. But even Rockwell couldn't destroy Pollack's aura of new-ness. In the same year as The Connoisseur, Penguin Books and A. Alvarez used Pollack's painting Convergence for the cover of an anthology of The New Poetry.

When Julia Roberts unveils the Pollack for her well-buttoned-up students in Mona Lisa Smile, the painting signals the clash between avant-garde art and upper-middle-class college life.

There is no clash there now.

I love Pollack. Musical -- rhythmic, melodious, harmonious. Dense and teeming. Lyrical. Gorgeous.

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