(Copyright © 2002 Al Aronowitz)


(Copyright © 2001;Cordley Coit) Rocky Mountain Media Collective

[As for myself, I’m blown away by the power of Jackson Pollock’s canvases much the same as I was blown away by the power of Vincent Van Gogh’s A View of the Wheatfield at Arles when I first laid eyes on it. But journalist Cordley Coit was a drinking buddy of the painters of Jackson Pollock’s youth and this is Cordley’s however jaundiced point of view.-—Al Aronowitz]                     

It is windy and cold at three a.m., an hour before the wolves stir. I am thinking about painters; two painters, father and son in art. Jake Pollock was a drinking man, as a classically trained artist, he spent his learning in the home of Tom Benton. He'd stolen fire and knew it, but not from Benton. Everyone then knew it, but the writers of the time were too chicken to write about the truth; they had secrets.     

Jake stole fire from a most dangerous man. This time he was not so lucky, he robbed a more complex man, the Mexican muralist Sequerios.     

When Pollock moved to Maine there was a reason; Maine was safe, there were no Mexicans in Maine, also his drinking buddy Lamar Holt lived there. Lamar was a real man and Pollock liked to be around real men, tough guys. Lamar was brave, an ex-Coast Guardsman and Merchant seaman who'd worked the convoys in the North Atlantic in the last just war. Pollock had been a communist and followed the party line while ships were sinking and tonnage went undelivered.

Lamar Holt was in exile in Maine; he'd gotten skipper's papers but had to ship in the forecastle; too many sailors, not enough ships; 1946 was the start of the New World Order and America's ships were being sold to the flags of convenience so sailors were put ashore wholesale. Holt was editing the Maine Coast Fisherman, a weekly that would sleep with the fishes, extinct.     

Lamar was a great man to drink with and a loyal friend. Pollock was a thief in the night. How do I know Pollock was a thief? The thief in my heart ratted him out. Lamar appeared to be who he was. Pollock was a star who'd stolen the sun.     

He tried to rob Benton but Benton's style was and is unstealable. Benton had a direct line to the Old Masters and by that point was one himself; his paintings are only now being understood. Rita, Tom's wife, could see though Pollock, so Tom filed Pollock's guilty behavior away and continued to feed, hold Pollock's head as he dove, then himself drove to death. Although Pollock had dropped Benton for Sequerios, Benton tried to remain friendly to the Pollocks.     

Jake Pollock came to Sequerios when the muralist was at the height of his power. Plastic Reality, his trademark wrap around total mural style was playing into something larger. Sequerios had not yet set up the killing of Trotsky for his master Uncle Joe Stalin, but the two great socialist powers were getting ready to shed each other's blood and Sequerios was a soldier in Stalin's army when some mopping up was needed.     

Realism was the marching order of the day for Sequerios. He had to paint like Uncle Joe's commissars told him to.  But he knew more was out there and he'd started doing things about it. The young gringo Pollock was trying to impress him and not getting anywhere. The airbrush that Sequerioros used required more technique than Pollock had. It also made demands of patience, which was totally lacking in Pollock.     

Sequerios was a careful man; most soldiers keep the cat in the bag. But what he had found was larger than himself, larger than Pollock, and larger than the art world. Randomly arranged colors and paints can be quite attractive---even compelling---in the hands of a trained artist. In 1938 Pollock appeared hopeless. His work was poorly done, Benton said, (saw a Pollock---Tom had it sucked) and Benton had little time for the abstract of that era.

Abstract was tight and contrived, trying to be two things at once: free and scientific. Only symbolist Hillaire Hiler and other scientific painters could use abstract with a feeling of security.     

In 1939 Hitler and Stalin decided themselves to be friends and brother socialists for life (which they were):  they carved Poland and Sequerios went back to Mexico to paint and to help kill Leon Trotsky. How the abstract expressionist cat got out of the bag to that poor worm Pollock, I do not know, but it showed up in his paintings and the Left press loved him to death; after all, the art press of the forties took its orders from Moscow.     

The Left in America marched in goose step with Papa Joe. When Sequerios started loosening his public style a few years later the sycophants in the art world said he was following Pollock's lead. Not so, he was a very systematic thinker. He had taken quite a bashing in the twenties when getting started in mural painting. He wanted to no public mistakes. It is my contention that Pollock was a smart assed second-hander, a jackal who stole the big bone from the lion.     

Did the Lion make a house call? Or could the lion have had a friend? Men have died for stealing a lot less and Sequerios had killed before for a lot less reason. A practical question: how many times do the brakes fail on new Caddies?     

Pollock became a genius at the hand of the art press, not the Johnny-one-note painter he appeared to be. Was he simply throwing paint, or could it be he was just another drunk who'd rifled the intellectual till?  

Does the truth ride in the wind blowing from Mongolia to here? Listen in the night, hear the shaman's bone rattle dryly. The trees creak, clouds scud past. The only traffic this dawn are the lineman's truck and dark thoughts of Pollock.  ##



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