In 1947 Jackson Pollock arrived at a new mode of working that brought him international fame. His method consisted of flinging and dripping thinned enamel paint onto an unstretched canvas laid on the floor of his studio. This direct, physical engagement with his materials welcomed gravity, velocity, and improvisation into the artistic process, and allowed line and color to stand alone, functioning entirely independently of form.
His works, which came to be known as “drip paintings,” present less a picture than a record of the fluid properties of paint itself. Though self-reflexive in nature, they readily inspire larger interpretations; the explosive, allover expanses of Number 1A, 1948 (1948) and One: Number 31, 1950 (1950) can be seen as registering a moment in time marked by both the thrill of space exploration and the threat of global atomic destruction.
During the Cold War, Pollock’s paintings and those of his Abstract Expressionist peers, including Mark Rothko, Franz Kline, and Willem de Kooning, were promoted, in exhibitions toured abroad by MoMA’s International Council, as emblems of the freedoms fostered under liberal democracy.
Introduction by Annie Ochmanek, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Painting and Sculpture, MoMA