"Covering Pollock" at Guild Hall
BY STACEY GOERGEN
Untitled (covering Pollock), 2009 collage and acrylic on c-print
|Untitled (covering Pollock), 2009 collage and acrylic on c-print|
Since 1931, East Hampton’s Guild Hall has been embracing contemporary art by local artists. Richard Prince, who has studios in upstate New York as well as Wainscott, had long been on museum director and chief curator Christina Mossaides Strassfield’s wish list of contributors. In 2009 she was struck by Prince’s work based on photographs of Jackson Pollock painting in his Springs studio. “We thought it was a wonderful body of work with great relevance to the area,” says Strassfield. Shortly thereafter, she began to plan.
The result is “Covering Pollock,” an exhibition running August 13 through October 17 that encompasses 27 new works and is Prince’s first museum show on Long Island. Known for appropriating and manipulating existing images, Prince employs historical black and white photographs of Pollock at the height of his career. Pollock perfected his technique of allover drip painting at his Long Island studio, and these images of him at work were famously published in a 1949 Life magazine article asking: “Is he the greatest living painter in the United States?” Prince also appropriates photographs of Pollock with his mistress, Ruth Kligman, and wife, the artist Lee Krasner. Partially obscuring these images with cutouts of fashion models, vintage erotica, CD labels, canceled checks and paint, he transforms the original painting into a collage of different meaning.
“Pollock was the James Dean of the art world,” says Strassfield. “He was dead before he had time to fade. What would have happened to him if he had lived?” This is the question Prince strives to answer by layering images that explore beauty, fame and consumption. Addressing notions of the artist’s public role, Prince’s works reflect and perpetuate the bad-boy image Pollock cultivated. In these pieces, Prince exposes his own associations with modern manifestations of fame, including fashion models, rock stars, sex and money. Strassfield stresses: “The images are rich and lush. Each person will bring his own personal ideas about celebrity and notoriety, but also about Pollock.”
One of the most important artists of his time and a leader of the Abstract Expressionist movement, Pollock left a legacy that reaches well beyond the work he created while living, as evidenced by Prince’s contemporary reworking of his myth and our continued preoccupation with it. Guild Hall, 158 Main St., East Hampton, 324-0806; guildhall.org