List of illustrations

  • William Baziotes, Robert Motherwell, and painting by Jackson Pollock
  • The Night Dancer
  • Watercolor
  • How to Look at Modern Art in America
  • Brought to Bay
  • Head of a jaguar
  • Untitled ["The Lord of Creation"]
  • Alphabet of Terror, or, Eyes of Oedipus
  • Pasiphaë
  • The Syrian Bull
  • Interior
  • Birth
  • Elephant Hunt
  • Cannibals Roast a Man
  • Woman with a Mask, Number 2
  • Negro Masks
  • The Jungle
  • Hot Jazz (Bleecker Street Tavern Mural)
  • Laughing Boy Rolling
  • The Hunter
  • Jackson Pollock in his studio
  • Woman in the Window, still
  • Portrait of Mark Rothko
  • The Blue Dahlia, publicity still
  • Jackson Pollock
  • Alkahest of Paracelsus
  • Guardians of the Secret
  • Portrait and a Dream
  • Untitled drawing, JP-CR 3:520r
  • Untitled drawing, JP-CR 3:537r
  • Untitled drawing, JP-CR 3:589
  • Untitled drawing, JP-CR 3:590
  • Bird
  • Untitled drawing, JP-CR 3:536r
  • Untitled drawing, JP-CR 3:442r
  • Untitled drawing, JP-CR 3:516
  • Untitled drawing, JP-CR 3:544
  • The Epic of American Civilization: Ancient Human Sacrifice
  • Untitled [Crucifixion] gouache, JP-CR 4:940
  • The Epic of American Civilization: Cortéz and the Cross
  • Untitled drawing, JP-CR 3:469r
  • Untitled drawing, JP-CR 3:556
  • The Snake of the Passions
  • Untitled drawing, JP-CR 3:521v
  • Untitled drawing, JP-CR 3:518v
  • Untitled drawing, JP-CR 3:521r
  • Untitled drawing, JP-CR 3:515
  • Untitled drawing, JP-CR 3:550
  • Untitled drawing, JP-CR 3:522r
  • Untitled drawing, JP-CR 3:549
  • M. Esther Harding, "Woman's Mysteries, Ancient and Modern": Figures 1 to 4
  • M. Esther Harding, "Woman's Mysteries, Ancient and Modern": Figures 28 to 31
  • Untitled drawing, JP-CR 3:519r
  • M. Esther Harding, "Woman's Mysteries, Ancient and Modern": Figures 35 to 39
  • Untitled drawing, JP-CR 3:525
  • Untitled drawing, JP-CR 3:547
  • H. G. Baynes, "Mythology of the Soul": Drawing 12
  • Untitled drawing, JP-CR 3:531
  • The Dark Past, still
  • Struggle of Two Natures in Man
  • Untitled ["Man in Chains"]
  • Elaine and Willem de Kooning
  • Bill and Elaine de Kooning
  • The Irascibles
  • The Deep
  • High Man
  • Woman and Bicycle
  • Woman in the Window, publicity still
  • Out of the Web: Number 7, 1949
  • Out of the Web: Number 7, 1949, detail
  • Number 7, 1951
  • The Moon Woman
  • There Were Seven in Eight
  • The Key
  • Untitled [Composition with Black Pouring]
  • Number 22A, 1948
  • Slow Swirl at the Edge of the Sea
  • Triad
  • Cut Out
  • Cut-Out Figure
  • Untitled (Rhythmical Dance)
  • Untitled (JP-CR 4:1033)
  • Shadows: Number 2, 1948
  • Number 26A, 1948
  • Jackson Pollock with "Wooden Horse"
  • Vortex
  • Imprisoned Figure
  • Out of the Past, still
  • Out of the Past, still
  • D.O.A., still
  • Conflict, still
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Description: Reframing Abstract Expressionism: Subjectivity and Painting in the 1940s
The germ of this book can be traced to a research paper written ten years ago for T. J. Clark’s seminar on the New York School at Harvard University. The distance between that tentative beginning and the present volume is long (my 1988 doctoral dissertation stands somewhere near the midpoint), and I could never have come so far without the help of a great many people. …
Description: Reframing Abstract Expressionism: Subjectivity and Painting in the 1940s
Works of art are often sites where the issues or questions a community or culture finds urgent, fundamental, or troublesome are elaborated and negotiated. In part, this is a matter of what Nelson Goodman calls the “cognitive efficacy” of visual representations: through representing or symbolizing selected elements of “the world,” experience is made susceptible to ordering and rearrangement; the world can be more completely grasped, ordered, and illuminated. Visual representation is, …

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Description: Reframing Abstract Expressionism: Subjectivity and Painting in the 1940s
Foucault’s injunction to historians quoted in the epigraph has immediate and literal relevance to the study of painting in New York during the 1940s. If we are in the midst of “redefining” or “reappraising” that art, as it has become fashionable to contend, an examination of the conventional categories structuring our understanding of the period would seem a necessary part of that process. The central category is, of course, Abstract Expressionism, or the New York School. Redefinition …

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Description: Reframing Abstract Expressionism: Subjectivity and Painting in the 1940s
The upbeat lyric by Ira Gershwin quoted in the epigraph, set to a bouncy, captivating melody recovered from the papers left by his recently deceased brother George, served as the official anthem of the 1939–40 New York World’s Fair. “Dawn of a New Day,” like the fair itself, exemplified one sort of possible response to recent, worrisome historical events. Its metaphors were not very fresh—gray skies, the wolf at the door—but the message was none the less attractive for that. Perhaps the hard …

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Description: Reframing Abstract Expressionism: Subjectivity and Painting in the 1940s
Although several of the New York School painters took pains to make it clear, at certain stages of their careers, that their art engaged “the unconscious,” none pursued this engagement more insistently than Jackson Pollock. As his friend and colleague James Brooks put it, Pollock’s “break into the irrational was the most violent of any of the artists’, and his exploration of the unconscious, the most daring and persistent.” Although persistent, Pollock’s engagement with the unconscious was by no …

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Description: Reframing Abstract Expressionism: Subjectivity and Painting in the 1940s
Mumford and Wylie, as quoted in the epigraphs above, were anything but voices in the wilderness. The imperative they articulated could be found in one form or another in the pages of a remarkable number of books and articles published in wartime (as well as prewar and postwar) New York. By the time of World War II, the quest for a new view of “human nature,” for a new form of human self-description, had become a high priority of middle-class culture in the United States. …

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Description: Reframing Abstract Expressionism: Subjectivity and Painting in the 1940s
Jackson Pollock’s paintings have endured intense critical scrutiny since their first exhibition, and over the years, through repetition, elaboration, and consolidation of selected propositions, an orthodox assessment of their evolution and significance has become established. There are, to be sure, tensions and instabilities within this prevailing account of Pollock’s oeuvre, and there is considerable disagreement among scholars over some of its details and emphases; but its principal aspects, …

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Description: Reframing Abstract Expressionism: Subjectivity and Painting in the 1940s
The process by which a mind-body constitutes itself as a subject is complicated and continual, psychological and social. In one influential account, Jacques Lacan has portrayed it as beginning with the child’s recognition of the image in the mirror as the reflection of itself, perceived as an imaginary unity. This hypothetically presocial initial phase is soon succeeded by a social one: the subject becomes shaped and reshaped in the entry into the Symbolic, the domain of language and law, where …

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Reframing Abstract Expressionism: Subjectivity and Painting in the 1940s
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