Pollock: The Project

Pollock: The Project

Pollock: The Project
Concept by Beth Marshall
Written and directed by John Didonna
With Special guests DRIP
Beth Marshall Productions
Mennello Museum of American Art, Orlando FL

Art is what you can get away with, and when the camera became commonplace, the Artiste had to switch gears from “making it LOOK real” to “making it FEEL real.” By WW2, the American art scene had given up on reality and took to throwing random blobs of paint on the canvas and defining art rather than letting the consumer define it. Using the words “random” or “chaotic” might get you a poke in the face or called “hopelessly out of touch” but the dripping, splattered work Pollock created has a certain charm. If nothing else, the thought “I could do that” really has some truth to it, as we see by the end of the evening.

In this mixed media event, the Mennello Museum of American Art serves as the backdrop for a flashbulb insight into the life and art of Jackson Pollock (John DiDonna). Dusk approached and the sky clouded but a group of 40 artists and patrons accumulates under a wobbly looking structure with a sheet of Plexiglas set atop it. Local dance company DRIP climbed ladders as dissonant Jazz and audio quotes from Pollock blare from speakers. As patrons look on, the dancers paint a black and white drip-style work on the plastic. Orbiting the event is an angry Jackson Pollock, chain smoking and glaring without making eye contact. The DRIP dancers don’t just paint; they wave the cans of paint and brushes ritualistically over the surface, recalling a priest blessing the communion host. Applying paint is not the point here, it’s the motion.

As the dancers withdraw, we are invited into the galley. The Mennello has snagged two small and dense drip-period paintings, and while the crowd is encouraged to deport itself at will, I was chastened by the host: “Please don’t block the Pollocks.” We transport to 1950 and the gallery becomes Pollock’s Studio on Long Island. His wife and fellow Artist Lee Krasner (Jen Bonner) greets German photographer Hans Namuth (Douglas McGeoch). Namuth has come to photograph Pollock at work, not so much because Pollock sought him but because Krasner recognized the importance of publicity. Pollock was cranky and a heavy drinker and the visit prompts an argument that is carried out in the lobby of museum. We stay with Namuth, who apologizes profusely, realizing he’s in the presence of an artist as great as himself. Pollock bends a bit and explains his work, demanding that it’s NOT an accidental but intentional. He can demonstrate this, and we return to the front step of the Mennello for the evidence. There DiDonna demonstrates the technique, creating a replica Pollock in black, white, and rust acrylic. I’ll give him this – DiDonna’s effort was not substantially worse than other forgeries I’ve seen.

DiDonna contemplates the visual texture of his work.

DiDonna contemplates the visual texture of his work.

So what do all these blobs of paint mean? Whatever we want them to. Like theater, painting mixes the intention of an artist with the by the interpretation of an audience. But behind the canvas or the curtain the people creating the art may well be much more dramatic than the art itself. DiDonna’s portrayal was powerful and occasionally scary, and while Bonner’s Brooklyn accent fluctuated, she appeared the sensible one in the house, and had the marketing savvy to turn her husband into a pop star. That stardom probably killed him, but that’s the price of fame.

Life is transient, but art persists and tomorrow is another show. DiDonna noticed some unacceptable “figurative images” in tonight’s painting, and they must be expurgated. That experience belongs to the next crowd who are defined as incrementally hipper. That’s how it all works: tonight’s revelations will jade by the mornings light, but a new trend is on the horizon – can you catch it before everyone else?

For more information, please visit http://www.mennellomuseum.com/

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