HANOVER -- The lesser-known and early works of Jackson Pollock — before he became known for his large-scale abstract drip paintings of the late 1940s — is on display at the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College as part of the museum's yearlong celebration of Jackson's 100th birthday.
Centennial celebrations of the work and impact of the groundbreaking abstract expressionist are taking place all over the world this year, said Hood Museum of Art curator Sarah Powers.
The exhibit “Men of Fire: Josť Clemente Orozco and Jackson Pollock” sheds light on how Pollock transformed into the abstract expressionist artist he is known as today, as well as his connection to Orozco, who as a figurative muralist artist working at Dartmouth in the 1930s, greatly inspired Pollack.
“The exhibit really focuses on a period of Pollock's work that really corresponds to his visits to Dartmouth,” Powers said. “It's not a period of Pollock's career that people know a lot about.”
It was a transformative period which had an impact on how (Pollock) developed as an artist, she said.
The piece in the show that best illustrates Oroczo's influence on Pollock is “Bald Woman with Skeleton,” she said. “He sort of hasn't found his voice yet, but he is very much searching for it. It's a moment of searching and experimenting really.”
This period of Pollock's work takes place in the 10 years preceding his 1943 breakthrough moment in abstract expressionism.
In the summer of 1936, then 24-year-old Pollock traveled from New York City to Dartmouth College to see Orozco's recently completed mural cycle.
“The mural was a revelation to him and, in the years following this trip, Pollock engaged with themes found in Orozco's masterpiece, including myth, ritual, sacrifice and the creative and destructive power of fire.
“Men of Fire” assembles the paintings, drawings and prints that Pollock created following his momentous trip to Dartmouth.
Most were made between 1938 and 1941, at a time when Pollock's engagement with Orozco's art was at its most pronounced,” the museum said in a press release.
Orozco's work is the other component to the exhibit and offers the public a unique opportunity to view rarely seen preparatory studies by Orozco when he was preparing to create his mural at Dartmouth.
It is also through Pollock's eyes that the art world is now seeing Orozco's figurative, narrative murals differently, Powers said.
Abstract expressionism is not necessarily about a narrative, but about the way the painting is painted, the brush strokes, she said. “We really can view Orozco differently after the lessons of abstract impressionism.”
And there is certainly an argument to be made that Pollock's large-scale paintings come from his background as an apprentice to muralist Thomas Hart Benton in New York and of his study of Orozco's work.
A challenge in putting the collection together was tracking down Pollock's early work, Powers said, which, up until recently, hasn't been of much interest to museums.
Most of the Pollock pieces in the collection are on loan from private collectors, she said. “Museums are beginning to understand the importance of this period and starting to collect it a little bit.”
Powers co-curated the exhibition with the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center, which plans to show the exhibit in New Jersey later this year.
Powers plans to lead a tour at Dartmouth on June 9 that will allow people to visit Orozco's mural on campus with her. They will then join her at the museum for a tour of the exhibition.
The show continues through June 17.