The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

UI to present Pollock masterpiece

Jackson Pollock described one of his most distinctive murals as a scene out of the American West, a stampede of cows, horses, antelopes, and buffaloes: "Everything is charging across that goddamn surface."

To the untrained eye, the expansive painting — owned by the University of Iowa — features random, vibrant swirls of yellow, pink, red, and turquoise offset by stark black strokes — a design Joni Kinsey of the UI School of Art said pioneered the practice of "action painting."

"He really radically revolutionized the nature of painting," said Kinsey, a professor of art history. "He literally took the canvas and laid it on the floor instead of working vertically and moved across the canvas, flinging paint in a very gestural sort of mode … It was a physical process that was the art itself."

London art lecturer and editor David Anfam, who has curated a show focused on Mural, will speak on the creation of the work and its ongoing legacy at 7:30 p.m. today at Art Building West.

Mural will be the centerpiece of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, scheduled to open in Venice in April 2015. 

While Pollock’s Mural is hailed as an artistic achievement, Kinsey said, it is also a reflection of the era in which it was painted.

"I think that it was becoming clear to people even at the time, around 1950, that Pollock was doing something new and radically different that was important not only for him and American art generally, but for art in a larger sense," Kinsey said. "He represented a new direction, a kind of embodiment of people’s cultures, needs and aspirations at the time."

The painting, measuring 97.25 inches by 238 inches (approximately 8 feet by 20 feet), was commissioned by Guggenheim in 1942 to decorate her Manhattan apartment. Before it reached Guggenheim, Mural appeared as the focal point of Pollock’s first one-man show in 1943.

Guggenheim gave the piece to the UI in 1951 out of respect for the university’s ambitious and progressive art program during the 1940s.

Director of the University of Iowa Museum of Art Sean O’Harrow said Anfam’s lecture will not only shed light on Pollock’s Mural but offer an international perspective on the impact of the piece.

"This is the first time Dr. Anfam has delivered a talk in Iowa, and he is renowned for his knowledge on Pollock’s work," O’Harrow said. "He is a very big deal in the art world, and we are grateful for his visit. People in Iowa will be able to learn a lot from him. He is also a very amusing speaker and a entertaining person in general. "

UI art Professor Craig Adcock said the opportunity to view "one of the 20th century’s most important paintings" in person — coupled with Anfam’s presentation — is a rare opportunity for an audience outside of a big city.

"This work of art is owned by the University of Iowa Art Museum — a rather astonishing fact really," he said. "Professor Anfam’s lecture is sure to open up the meaning of Pollock’s great picture and Abstract Expressionism more generally. Ideally, his discussion will make students want to pursue difficult art like Pollock’s further."

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