Friday, August 19, 2016

ART BIZ | Aug. 11–Pollock Died 60 Years Ago

Pollock and Kligman.
Jackson Pollock died at 10:15 pm 60 years ago on August 11, 1956, in East Hampton Town not far from where we spend our summers. It was on Springs Fireplace Road at a still-dangerous area, where several factors contribute to accidents:
  • After a long straight stretch from East Hampton Village, a bend in the road.
  • An intersection on the bend with Woodbine Drive, with an exit that descends steeply and ends, depositing drivers on the main road. For those unfamiliar with this intersection, it can be scary to approach from any direction.
  • In the midst of this confusion, the county (concrete) section of Springs Fireplace Road ends, and the town-maintained asphalt road begins, with two small roads going off to the right.
  • Several roads come together at the next intersection, also busy, at the Barnes General Store, one entering Springs Fireplace Road from the Springs School and another exiting left to a much-used residential road.
The number of fatalities in East Hampton that weekend 60 years ago was very high, 10 people, of whom two were Pollock and one of his two female passengers. Fatalities remain high today for a small resort community (with single-lane highways for most of their length), despite serious  enforcement of DWI laws.

Pollock had some successes in the year 1953, but then relapsed into depression driven by:
  • His wife Lee Krasner's complaints about his excessive consumption of alcohol and his little-concealed affair with NYC art student Ruth Kligman. 
  • Pollock also became depressed about frequently quoted art critics who explained his avant-garde abstract painting as a coverup of his bad drawing. At one point Pollock was feeling so uninspired that he seemed to agree with his critics: "Do you think I would have painted this crap if I knew how to draw a hand?"
Kligman, who was dubbed the "death-car girl", survived the accident. The person she invited to come with her to East Hampton, and was killed along with Pollock in the accident, was a receptionist in the New York City beauty salon that Kligman frequented. After Pollock's death Kligman began spending time with Pollock's rival Willem de Kooning, who lived on Woodbine Road.

In subsequent years there was a huge brouhaha over the provenance and authenticity of a painting called Red, Black and Silver that Kligman and others maintain was by Pollock, while others, including Krasner, aver is a fake. The story is valuable as a case history of how personal relationships and provenance affect the valuation of a piece of art. Another one in East Hampton has recently surfaced.

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