Artwork Detail

Number 22
1951
American, 1912–1956
Screenprint
27 1/8 x 21 "
University purchase, Yeatman Fund, 1952
WU 3856.5
© Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Jackson Pollock (American, 1912-1956) Screenprints This portfolio of six screenprints by Jackson Pollock was first shown alongside a large series of his black enamel paintings,known as the “black paintings,” at the Betty Parsons Gallery in New York in 1951.The prints are small-scale reproductions (one-quarter size) of six of these paintings, made in collaboration with Pollock’s brother Sanford McCoy in McCoy’s commercial screen-printing shop.To create them Pollock first had photonegatives of the paintings produced, which were then transferred to screens and printed in an edition of twenty-five portfolios. Priced at $200 each, the portfolios were intended to provide a less expensive option for potential collectors who could not afford to buy one of Pollock’s paintings. Both the prints and the paintings sold poorly, however, due in part to the reemergence of figuration in Pollock’s work, which was seen by some critics as a regression following the success of his nonrepresentational drip paintings of the late 1940s. Although he created the black paintings using a similar technique—working from above with the canvas on the floor and letting the paint stain the canvas—they include arms, eyes, and other recognizable imagery. This print portfolio was not Pollock’s first exploration in printmaking. He notably experimented both with lithography in the 1930s and with intaglio prints at Stanley William Hayter’s print studio Atelier 17 in the 1940s. Unlike those earlier prints, which Pollock created by hand, this series reflects a contradictory impulse, defined by the distancing of the artist’s hand through commercial reproduction. Consequently, the reduction in scale and the limitations of the screenprint medium resulted in a loss of detail and failed to replicate the tonal variations and stained effect of the original enamel-soaked canvases. Still, as a very early example of the incorporation of the commercial medium of screenprint in a fine art context, Pollock’s portfolio anticipates the widespread engagement with this process in the 1960s in the work of such artists as Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg. [Permanent collection text, 2018]