Thursday, August 10, 2006

Update on the "Matter Pollocks"

Alexandra Peers had a good piece in yesterday's Wall Street Journal on the so-called "Matter Pollocks," the authenticity of which continues to be hotly debated. She notes that tomorrow was supposed to have been the opening of an exhibition of the works at Guild Hall in East Hampton. Peers quotes "people close to the issue" as saying Guild Hall cancelled the show "when it received contracts showing that the Matter estate and other organizers wouldn't let the paintings be displayed as anything but Pollocks." The Matter family is negotiating with several other museums, and have one confirmed venue: the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, which plans to open "Pollock Matters" next June.

Peter Schjeldahl touched on this dispute in his recent review in The New Yorker of the Pollock show currently up at the Guggenheim:

"A prominent Pollock scholar had pronounced the [Matter works] authentic, though perhaps 'experimental.' Others bitterly demurred. A physics professor decided, based on a fractal analysis of the drip patterns, that the hand that made them wasn’t Pollock’s. All this played out sensationally in the press, accompanied by faintly plausible but unenchanting reproductions. They looked imitative to me. Of course, artists have been known to imitate themselves. ...

"Pollock at his peak burned his past conditioning and present turmoil, his very identity and character as a man, and he burned them clean. There’s nobody to recognize. That’s why it can be hard at first sight to tell a true Pollock from a fake. He prepared us to believe that absolutely anything was possible for him. What determines authenticity for me is a hardly scientific, no doubt fallible intuition of a raging need that found respite only in art."