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Jackson Pollock


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Ellen G. Landau is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Humanities at Case Western Reserve University, where she has taught since 1982. She is also the author of Lee Krasner: A Catalogue Reaisonne, Reading Abstract Expressionism, and Artists for Victory, as well as many articles on twentieth-century American art.


The role of art historian as biographer is beset with contradictions, an artist's life and art being neither mutually exclusive nor synonymous. Balanced in his life on the edge of destruction and in his art on that of innovation, Pollock mirrored a chaotic world, one in which humans seemed to have lost control. Less gossipy than Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith's Jackson Pollock ( LJ 8/89), this book treats Pollock's personal life, creative work, and cultural milieu as discrete elements that produce a gradually developing image, not always in accord with the public's view of Pollock as rebellious cowboy or counterculture loner. Pollock was the major force behind the transfer of avant-garde art from France to the United States and the American idiom in which it was expressed. This ``American Prometheus'' is well served by this elegantly illustrated, carefully annotated, and well-written work. Recommended for all art libraries and large general collections.-- Paula Frosch, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

In a remarkably fresh look at Pollock's life (1912-1956) and work, Landau presents this driven artist as a Promethean rebel who exemplified the American traits of brashness, persistence and outward lack of sophistication, combined with inner primitivism and unbridled daring. An intensely self-conscious youth from Cody, Wyo., Pollock went to New York where mentor Thomas Hart Benton taught him rhythmical composition. The symbol-laden drawings Pollock brought to his Jungian therapist pointed him on a quest of psychic regeneration. His friend John Graham, a Polish-born modernist artist, exposed him to the occult, yoga and African, Oceanic and Egyptian art. He drew mental energy from strong-willed painter Lee Krasner, who became his wife. Landau, art history professor at Case Western Reserve University, unearths new material and re-evaluates the old in this stunningly illustrated, engrossing biographical-critical study. (Nov.)

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