Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

January 28, 2012 – June 4, 2012
Exhibited in Washington, D.C. at the Lawrence A. Fleischman Gallery

Jackson Pollock (1912–1956) is an American icon. Creator of rhythmic and energetic “action painting,” he is internationally hailed as a leading figure in Abstract Expressionism.

Born in Wyoming and raised in Arizona and California, he moved to New York City in 1930. Working through a variety of influences, from Regionalism and Surrealism to Native American art, Pollock arrived at a unique pictorial language that he called “direct painting,” which created the visual equivalent of emotions and sensations. The technique was also a channel for positive energy and an antidote to Pollock’s own internal conflicts.

Although Pollock’s career was short–a mere 12 years between his first solo exhibition and his last–he decisively shaped the direction of painting after World War II. Both his art and his personality fulfilled the needs of an era that questioned traditional cultural values and hailed individual freedom of expression.

Pollock’s singular history is richly documented in the Archives of American Art, principally in the papers donated by his wife, the painter Lee Krasner (1908–1984), but also in those of his eldest brother Charles (1902–1988), and of his friends and associates. This exhibition, its title taken from one of Pollock’s own statements, celebrates the centenary of his birth, the magnitude of his achievement, and his enduring legacy.

Helen A. Harrison
Guest Curator

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Jackson Pollock

Jackson Pollock, 1950

Creator: Hans Namuth

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Jackson Pollock as a young boy feeding ducks

Jackson Pollock as a young boy feeding ducks, 1914

The youngest of five brothers, Pollock was an adorable, tow-headed toddler who grew into a handsome youth. By the time his family settled in Los Angeles, he had begun to think about becoming an artist. But even as a teenager he was abusing alcohol and experiencing mood swings that would plague him throughout his life.

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Jackson Pollock at age 10 with his dog, Gyp

Jackson Pollock at age 10 with his dog, Gyp, 1922

In Orland, California.

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Jackson Pollock

Jackson Pollock, 1928

Taken at age 16 when Pollock was a student at Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles.

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Jackson Pollock and Charles Pollock in New York

Jackson Pollock and Charles Pollock in New York, 1930

Jackson’s eldest brother, Charles, already training as an artist, helped him to find direction. At 18, Jackson enrolled at the Art Students League in New York City to study with Regionalist painter Thomas Hart Benton. He assisted Benton on a mural project and observed Mexican muralists Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco.

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

George Cox, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Jackson Pollock in New York

George Cox, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Jackson Pollock in New York, 1936

In 1936 Pollock joined a workshop run by Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros, who encouraged experimentation with liquid commercial paints instead of conventional art materials. This was Pollock’s first exposure to the paint-pouring technique.

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Jackson Pollock reading

Jackson Pollock reading, 1943

Creator: Reuben Kadish

Pollock at age 31, in his studio at 46 East 8th Street, with an early stage of THE GUARDIANS OF THE SECRET.

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Jackson Pollock

Jackson Pollock, 1944

Creator: Bernard Schardt

During World War II, Pollock began to adopt the improvisational approach that would be his hallmark. He was now living with fellow painter Lee Krasner. Peggy Guggenheim’s gallery, Art of This Century, presented his first solo exhibition, and Guggenheim commissioned a mural for her town house. This photograph shows Pollock at age 32 in Truro, Massachusetts.

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Jackson Pollock at potter's wheel in the East Hampton studio of Mrs. Larry Larkin

Jackson Pollock at potter's wheel in the East Hampton studio of Mrs. Larry Larkin, 1949 or 1950

In 1945, Pollock and Krasner married and moved to a homestead in Springs on eastern Long Island, where they both thrived in the peaceful rural surroundings. In a converted storage barn, Pollock perfected his pouring technique.

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Jackson Pollock holding a can of paint

Jackson Pollock holding a can of paint, 1950

Creator: Rudy Burckhardt

Pollock at age 38, in the barn studio in Springs.

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Jackson Pollock, age 40

Jackson Pollock, age 40, 1952

Outside the barn studio with NUMBER 9, 1952: BLACK, WHITE, TAN.

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Jackson Pollock in his studio

Jackson Pollock in his studio, 1950

Creator: Hans Namuth

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Copy of Jackson Pollock's birth certificate

Copy of Jackson Pollock's birth certificate, 1938 May 31

Paul Jackson Pollock was born in Cody, Wyoming, on January 28, 1912. The family lived in several places in Arizona and California, finally settling in Los Angeles in 1928. After failing at various farming ventures, his father LeRoy became a surveyor and was often away from home working on road crews. It was his mother, Stella, who held the family together while raising five sons.

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Pollock family eating watermelon in Arizona

Pollock family eating watermelon in Arizona, circa 1914

Left to right: LeRoy, Frank, Charles, Jackson, Marvin Jay, Sanford, Stella.

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Stella Pollock holding a child

Stella Pollock holding a child, ca. 1914

Stella Pollock on the Phoenix farm, holding a neighbor’s child. Jackson, age about 2, is visible in the background.

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Jackson Pollock cutting his father's hair

Jackson Pollock cutting his father's hair, 1927

From 1925 to 1928 the Pollock family lived in Riverside, California. During the summers, Jackson and Sanford spent time at their father’s work camps and joined his crew building the road to the north rim of the Grand Canyon. Pollock later said that memories of the expansive Western landscape influenced his artistic vision.

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Jackson Pollock hiking with his father and brothers

Jackson Pollock hiking with his father and brothers, 1924

LeRoy Pollock (rear) with sons Sanford, Jackson, and Frank, exploring cliff dwellings, Tonto National Forest, Arizona.

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Jackson Pollock and Sande Pollock at the Grand Canyon

Jackson Pollock and Sande Pollock at the Grand Canyon, 1927

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Jackson Pollock and LeRoy Pollock at the Grand Canyon

Jackson Pollock and LeRoy Pollock at the Grand Canyon, 1927

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Jackson Pollock eating watermelon

Jackson Pollock eating watermelon, ca. 1927

Jackson (in hat, left) with hunters.

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Jackson Pollock hunting

Jackson Pollock hunting, ca. 1927

In Southern California.

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Jackson Pollock in Southern California

Jackson Pollock in Southern California, ca. 1927

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Jackson Pollock standing on a dock

Jackson Pollock standing on a dock, ca. 1930

Taken in California.

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Jackson Pollock with two unidentified friends

Jackson Pollock with two unidentified friends, ca. 1929

Pollock in California.

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Jackson Pollock and a group of young people

Jackson Pollock and a group of young people, ca. 1929

Pollock (third from left) with friends, California.

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner

Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner, 1949

Creator: Wilfrid Zogbaum

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner marriage certificate

Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner marriage certificate, 1945 Oct 25

Creator: Collegiate Reformed Protestant Dutch Church of the City of New York

Krasner's name is given on the certificate as Lenore Krassner. She later changed the spelling of her last name, dropping the second s.

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Thomas Hart Benton and Rita Benton letter to Jackson Pollock

Thomas Hart Benton and Rita Benton letter to Jackson Pollock, 1938 Oct. 3

Creator: Thomas Hart Benton

Pollock studied with Thomas Hart Benton at the Art Students League from 1930 to 1932. In the summers he often visited the Benton family on Martha’s Vineyard. Once a heavy drinker himself, Benton urged his former student to “cut out the monkey business and get to work.”

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

David Alfaro Siqueiros letter to Jackson Pollock, Sandy Pollock, and Harold Lehman

David Alfaro Siqueiros letter to Jackson Pollock, Sandy Pollock, and Harold Lehman, 1936 Dec.

Creator: David Alfaro Siqueiros

In 1936, while employed by the WPA Federal Art Project, Jackson and Sanford participated in the Siqueiros Experimental Workshop, where they explored unconventional materials, including liquid paint. The workshop had been devoted primarily to producing floats, banners, and posters for left-wing political causes, using Siqueiros’ unorthodox materials and innovative techniques.

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Jackson Pollock paintings and drawings

Jackson Pollock paintings and drawings, 1943 Nov.

Creator: Art of This Century

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Dr. Violet Staub de Laszlo letter to the Examining Medical Officer of the Selective Service System

Dr. Violet Staub de Laszlo letter to the Examining Medical Officer of the Selective Service System, 1941 May 3

Creator: Violet S. (Violet Staub) De Laszlo

In 1937 Pollock began psychiatric treatment for alcoholism and emotional instability—problems that led to his classification (4-F) as unfit for military service.

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Selective Service notice of classification for Jackson Pollock

Selective Service notice of classification for Jackson Pollock, 1945 Oct. 15

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Jackson Pollock postcard to Lee Krasner

Jackson Pollock postcard to Lee Krasner, 1943 July 15

Creator: Jackson Pollock

In late 1941, Pollock met Lenore (Lee) Krasner, a fellow WPA artist, who was exhibiting with him in a show of advanced French and American painting. They became lovers, and Krasner began living with him in 1942. The following year his work came to the attention of Peggy Guggenheim, who became his dealer and patron for the next five years. In this postcard Pollock mentions his contract with Guggenheim and her mural commission.

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Contract between Betty Parsons and Peggy Guggenheim regarding representation of Jackson Pollock

Contract between Betty Parsons and Peggy Guggenheim regarding representation of Jackson Pollock, 1947 May 12

Creator: Peggy Guggenheim

After Guggenheim closed Art of This Century and moved to Italy in 1947, she contracted with Betty Parsons to represent Pollock as her agent until March 1948, after which Parsons became his dealer. Parsons, herself an artist, exhibited his work annually through 1951 and placed examples in important group shows nationally. Guggenheim continued to promote him in Europe, donating his work to several museums and exhibiting pieces from her collection in Venice, Florence, and Milan.

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Jackson Pollock letter to Betty Parsons

Jackson Pollock letter to Betty Parsons, ca. 1951

Creator: Jackson Pollock

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Jackson Pollock letter to Reuben Kadish

Jackson Pollock letter to Reuben Kadish, 1945 Nov. 10

Creator: Jackson Pollock

By 1945, it was apparent that Pollock’s drinking was interfering with his career. After visiting friends Reuben and Barbara Kadish in Springs, East Hampton, Krasner and Pollock decided to move there, away from the temptations of the urban art world. They moved to Springs in November. In his letters to the Kadishes and another friend, Louis Bunce, Pollock described the transition to country life.

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Jackson Pollock letter to Louis Bunce

Jackson Pollock letter to Louis Bunce, 1946 June 2

Creator: Jackson Pollock

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner with Krasner's family

Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner with Krasner's family, 1946

Lee Krasner’s family visiting Springs, summer 1946. Front row: Lee’s niece Muriel Stein with Jackson and Lee’s dog, Gyp, and nephew Ronald Stein. Back row: Jackson, Lee, Lee’s mother Anna Krassner, sister Ruth Stein and her husband William Stein.

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Notes on artistic process

Notes on artistic process, 194-?

Creator: Jackson Pollock

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Jackson Pollock at work

Jackson Pollock at work, 1950

Creator: Rudy Burckhardt

Pollock in the barn studio, appearing to be at work on number 32. In fact the painting was already finished.

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Jackson Pollock with his painting Untitled Number 32

Jackson Pollock with his painting Untitled Number 32, 1954

Creator: Hans Namuth

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Pollock family reunion

Pollock family reunion, 1950

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Jackson Pollock, Clement Greenberg, Helen Frankenthaler, Lee Krasner and an unidentified child at the beach

Jackson Pollock, Clement Greenberg, Helen Frankenthaler, Lee Krasner and an unidentified child at the beach, 1952 July

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Lee Krasner, Clement Greenberg and Jackson Pollock

Lee Krasner, Clement Greenberg and Jackson Pollock, 1952 July

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Jackson Pollock's passport

Jackson Pollock's passport, 1955 July 21

Creator: United States. Dept. of State.

Plans were made to visit Europe in 1956, but as Pollock’s career and marriage began to unravel, he decided not to go. Krasner sailed for Europe alone, while Pollock remained in Springs with his lover, Ruth Kligman. On August 11, 1956, Pollock died in an automobile accident about a mile from home.

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Lee Krasner letter to Jackson Pollock

Lee Krasner letter to Jackson Pollock, 1956 July 22

Creator: Lee Krasner

Three weeks after Krasner sent this letter from Paris, Pollock died in the automobile accident on Springs-Fireplace Road.

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Jackson Pollock's studio one month after his death

Jackson Pollock's studio one month after his death, 1956 Sept.

Creator: Maurice Berezov

In Paris, on the morning of August 12, 1956, Krasner received a telephone call informing her of Pollock’s death. She flew home to organize his funeral and burial in Green River Cemetery in Springs, and asked her friend, the artist and photographer Maurice Berezov, to document the studio as Pollock left it. In December, a memorial exhibition opened at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

"Rebel artist's tragic ending" from Life magazine, 1956 Aug. 27

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Martha Jackson letter to Lee Krasner

Martha Jackson letter to Lee Krasner, 1956 Oct. 16

Creator: Martha Kellogg Jackson

One of scores of condolence letters and sympathy cards preserved in the Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner papers.

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Exhibit brochure for Jackson Pollock works on paper

Exhibit brochure for Jackson Pollock works on paper, 1968

Creator: Museum of Modern Art (New York, N.Y.)

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

W.E. Woolfenden letter to James Valliere

W.E. Woolfenden letter to James Valliere, 1963 July 19

Creator: William E. (William Edward) Woolfenden

In the early 1960s, Krasner hired a graduate student, James T. Valliere, to organize Pollock’s papers and lay the groundwork for a complete catalogue of his work. They sought the advice of William E. Woolfenden, director of the fledgling Archives of American Art, founded in 1954 and then headquartered at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Installation view of an exhibit featuring paintings by Jackson Pollock at Whitechapel Gallery

Installation view of an exhibit featuring paintings by Jackson Pollock at Whitechapel Gallery, 1958

Creator: Sam Lambert

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Sidney Janis letter to Jackson Pollock

Sidney Janis letter to Jackson Pollock, 1943 Sept. 27

Creator: Sidney Janis

Pollock’s art has always been controversial. Detractors dismiss it as formless, meaningless, and technically deficient, while admirers praise its compositional integrity, emotional expressiveness, and technical fluency.

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Hans Hofmann letter to Jackson Pollock

Hans Hofmann letter to Jackson Pollock, 1945 Mar. 18

Creator: Hans Hofmann

The exhibition he praises opened officially at Art of This Century the following day.

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Mrs. Helen K. Sellers fan letter to Jackson Pollock, with photo of her son Manning

Mrs. Helen K. Sellers fan letter to Jackson Pollock, with photo of her son Manning, 1948 Aug. 8

Creator: Helen K. Sellers

The Life magazine profile of Pollock, which appeared on this date, prompted a flurry of fan mail to the artist, as well as a torrent of negative letters to Life.

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Daniel T. Miller letter to Jackson Pollock.

Daniel T. Miller letter to Jackson Pollock., 1950 Nov. 9

Creator: Daniel T. Miller

Miller, who ran the Springs General Store, wrote in care of the gallery because Pollock and Krasner were spending the winter in New York City. The exhibition to which he refers opened on November 28. “This blasted war” is the Korean conflict.

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Clyfford E. Still letter to Jackson Pollock

Clyfford E. Still letter to Jackson Pollock, 1953 Oct. 29

Creator: Clyfford E. Still

Still, a painter who was also on the cutting edge of the avant-garde, later withdrew his support for Pollock’s work.

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Alfonso A. Ossorio letter to Jackson Pollock

Alfonso A. Ossorio letter to Jackson Pollock, 1951 Jan. 21

Creator: Alfonso A. Ossorio

A fellow artist and collector of Pollock’s work, Ossorio was lending his carriage house and studio on MacDougal Alley in Greenwich Village, New York City, to Pollock and Krasner for the winter while he was in Europe.

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Shozo Shimamoto, Japan letter to Jackson Pollock, East Hampton, N.Y.

Shozo Shimamoto, Japan letter to Jackson Pollock, East Hampton, N.Y., 1956 Feb. 6

Creator: Shozo Shimamoto

Written on behalf of the Gutai Art Group, Japanese experimental artists who expressed kinship with Pollock and sought his advice.

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Betty Parsons Gallery guest book page

Betty Parsons Gallery guest book page, ca. 1951

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

Advertisement for Schlitz beer from Life magazine

Advertisement for Schlitz beer from Life magazine, 1952 Feb. 12

The Pollock painting featured is Number 23, 1949.

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Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

An article featuring University of Tennessee student June Acree modeling her homemade Pollock fabric in Tennessee Weekly

An article featuring University of Tennessee student June Acree modeling her homemade Pollock fabric in Tennessee Weekly, 1952 July 20

Creator: Joan Short

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