Optical Allusions

ONE STRONG IMPRESSION left by the Jackson Pollock exhibition at MoMA is just how specific his gift was. Put brutally, he couldn’t draw, had no deep feeling for color, and (as Clement Greenberg noted a long time ago) never developed a painter’s touch in the usual sense of the term. What was going for him, then? Above all a drive to realize pictorial intensity at any price. Psychologically, this seems to have involved a need to suffuse every square millimeter of the surfaces on which he worked with a maximum amount of almost bodily energy: What he wanted was a painting that would everywhere bear witness to the all-or-nothing urgency of his desire, that even at the risk of appearing choked and clotted and incoherent (or simply ugly, an epithet Greenberg applied to his art in 1946) would refuse to sacrifice one part of the picture to another, that in the end would leave the viewer with no

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