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Refurbished Pollock masterpiece goes on display

Pollock Restoration

By John Rogers

LOS ANGELES (AP) - "Mural," the brilliant painting that took 20th century American art in a new direction, has re-emerged from seclusion with a stunning face-lift that's given it a brighter look and an even more towering presence than it had before.

The oil-on-canvas masterpiece that measures more than 8 feet tall and nearly 20 feet long has been under wraps at the J. Paul Getty Museum for more than a year, undergoing an extensive restoration.

Painted in 1943 for wealthy art collector Peggy Guggenheim, it represents a key moment in Pollock's career in which he began to move from creating more symbolic, regional forms to the abstract expressionism of his "drip" paintings that would both distinguish his career and transform the art world.

"This painting made a cultural shift in a modern artist who redefined art in the 20th century," Jim Cuno, the J. Paul Getty Trust's president and CEO, said before museum officials took reporters on a tour of the gallery where the work will hang until June 1.

When visitors to the hilltop museum get their first glimpses of the painting Tuesday, the first thing they might notice is a far more colorful work than the one that hung for decades in the University of Iowa Museum of Art, which received it as a gift from Guggenheim in 1951.

Restorers painstakingly removed a varnish put in place during a 1973 restoration. Although that restoration likely saved the painting, the varnish substantially dimmed the intensity of its colors, said Yvonne Szafran, head of paintings conservation for the Getty.

As restorers returned the work to its original luster, they were also able to dispel some of the many myths surrounding it. The key one, perhaps, was that Pollock created the masterpiece in one nonstop burst of energy that began on New Year's Eve 1943 and lasted 24 to 36 hours.

Although the artist told his brother he spent the summer of 1943 working on it, the marathon myth was spread by Guggenheim and Pollock's wife, and might have been the result of a misunderstanding.

Restorers noticed that Pollock's initial paint marks, which cover the whole canvas, were made in four highly diluted colors and they could have been put on in a day, said Tom Learner, head of the Getty Conservation Institute. The other more substantial additions would have taken much longer to dry.

Pollock was only 31, and a relative unknown, when he completed the work. In the years that followed he would shake up the art world with his "drip paintings" that used house paints that he would pour directly onto canvases placed on the floor.

Although there's no evidence he placed "Mural" on the floor, and its many brush strokes are obvious, restorers did discover the use of house paint on parts of the canvas. The rest was created with high-quality artists' oils.

The painting, filled with colorful, twisting animal-like forms, was described by the artist himself as representing a stampede of animals from the American West.

"We can't say with certainty that it's the first known use of house paints by Pollock," Learner said as he pointed out areas where it was used. "But it's the earliest known analyzed use."

When Pollock finished the painting it wouldn't quite fit into the entryway to Guggenheim's New York City apartment, so the ends were folded slightly. That prompted rumors it had been cut.

"It definitely wasn't cut," Learner said, noting the ends have been restored to view.

After the painting leaves the Getty in June it will go to Iowa's Sioux City Art Center, where it will be displayed for several months. There are tentative plans to take it on a world tour after that before returning it to Iowa, where a new museum is being built.

To allow people to view a painting of such significance is key to the University of Iowa Museum of Art's educational mission, said the Iowa museum's director, Sean O'Harrow.

"This is a generation that believes the world is on an iPhone and as long as you see a picture of it, you have experienced the work," he said Monday. "Well, obviously that's not case."

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boyle1034 March 11 2014 at 8:41 AM

Bombastic Blow! Still if anyone has one of these (original Jackson works) in their garage they want to get rid of I'll help them to do so.

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1 reply
mercycamacho boyle1034 March 11 2014 at 10:22 AM

I too will get them off their hands...I'll even pay for the handling and shipping costs!

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catheem March 11 2014 at 10:45 AM

Wow....what a bunch of ignorant people you are. Just because you dont "get it" doesn't mean it isn't art!

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marcsmpsn March 11 2014 at 11:56 AM

Look at the artwork of Mark Rothko, his work sells for millions

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1 reply
a1016jb marcsmpsn March 11 2014 at 2:47 PM

His work is part of the same movement. Abstract Expressionism has two subcategories, color field and action painting. All the work that has come from this area is amazing! A Pollock in person is breathtaking and a Rothko causes the same reaction. This is the time of art where emotion is its audience.

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Captain Marvel March 11 2014 at 8:04 AM

To paraphrase the brilliant Colin Mochrie (Whose Line Is it?) paraphrasing Dr. Suess - "About this painting should I clap? No, no, no, it's crap, crap, crap." There are refrigerators throughout America with similar artwork secured to their doors with magnets and this "painting" is considered a masterpiece? What is it about art critics that compels them to fawn all over artists with dubious talent, but bizarre or destructive social behavior (Pollock, Andy Warhol, etc.)? "Talent without imagination is craftsmanship and gives us many useful items such as wickerwork picnic baskets. Imagination without talent gives us modern art." Tom Stoppard

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1 reply
mercycamacho Captain Marvel March 11 2014 at 8:15 AM

Oh my, a budding critic!

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nojohnnyno March 11 2014 at 11:04 AM

His work is brilliant! Until you have seen one in person, shut your mouth!

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debnaert March 11 2014 at 10:34 AM

When you can't PAINT or create you turn to painting NOTHING but confusion. An it's NOT art Until another person that's just as confused CALLS it art.

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mberwny March 11 2014 at 9:05 AM

it is truely a great painting....much mre exciting than his drip works

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1 reply
Thomas mberwny March 11 2014 at 9:12 AM

Learn how to spell, please.

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2 replies
AOL IS THE WORST Thomas March 11 2014 at 9:37 AM

Learn how to not be so pedantic sport.

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nojohnnyno Thomas March 11 2014 at 11:00 AM

Learn something about art please

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moeelmore March 11 2014 at 8:44 AM

don't love it or hate it - to me its not interesting snd to me its obvious that his idea of art and mine differ greatly. If art does not trigger a response upon seeing it, I have no interest. Pollock, Picasso, and a few others leave me cold. Much of it generates derision in my mind. In view of the vast amounts people pay for their stuff and the accolades given by art crtitcs I assume they are masters. Only I cannot see it. Kind of like comparing Beethovens 9th to a number one rap song -- both are enjoyed by some but not by others.

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marcsmpsn March 11 2014 at 10:33 AM

His artwork is a joke, dealers made abstract art popular because they couldn't get their hands on the old masterpieces, they were in private collections, or museums own them. They needed something to sell (also they can be quickly painted) so they made abstract art popular. one of the best con scams ever pull on the buying public, and it works very well even to this day.

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1 reply
a1016jb marcsmpsn March 11 2014 at 11:42 AM

Why don't you do some real research into this movement. This is a time of chaos and war. A time when art was shifting from Europe to America. Also look into the world of psychology and see who was emerging. This form of art mirrors the times it was produced in. You should do some real research before you get the right to judge!

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Thomas March 11 2014 at 9:12 AM

It's a slap in the face to all real artists, i.e., people who can draw and paint actual faces and objects, to call this dribbling of paint a "masterpiece." If any five-year old can do it, it could not be properly called art. (And please don't tell me that Picasso at one time said that it took him a lifetime to paint like a five-year old. Picasso successfully managed to pull the wool over so many people that even today we have morons who would pay millions of dollars for his gibberish.)

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