TABLE OF CONTENTS

NEGATIVE CAPABILITIES: CLAES OLDENBURG AND JACKSON POLLOCK

ANYONE RESEARCHING CLAES OLDENBURG will eventually stumble across Adrian Henri’s 1974 volume Total Art: Environments, Happenings, and Performance. Riddled with myth and misinformation and unconvincingly associating phenomena ranging from seventeenth-century street festivals to the Parisian events of May 1968, Henri’s rightfully forgotten publication nonetheless remains symptomatic of art history’s predominant reception of Oldenburg’s early production. (A large selection of this work is on view this month at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, in an exhibition that brings together Oldenburg’s key 1960s projects.) Pointedly refusing Edward Kienholz’s insistence that Oldenburg’s Store installation and performances deserved an entire chapter, Henri presented Oldenburg and, indeed, the entirety of postwar artistic performance as subsumable to the perspective of Allan Kaprow, whom he describes as “the central figure in the rise of the happening, and the main authority on the way in which it evolved out of the environment.”1

Kaprow’s influence is particularly visible in Henri’s sole reference to Jackson Pollock, whom he characterizes as “an actor.” “Indeed,” Henri continues, “part of one’s response to his pictures is a physical, kinetic ‘following’ of the artist’s movements in painting it: hence the need to stand near to see them properly.”2 Henri is evidently paraphrasing, without entirely understanding, Kaprow’s 1958 essay “The Legacy of Jackson Pollock,” wherein Kaprow describes Pollock’s paintings as “com[ing] out at us (we are participants rather than observers), right into the room. . . . Hence, although up on the wall, these marks surround us as they did the painter at work, so strict is the correspondence achieved between his impulse and the resultant art.”3 In this, Henri reinforces what has become a standard historical genealogy, in which Kaprow’s interpretation of Pollock subtends his status as the “central figure” of postwar environments and performance.

Oldenburg read “The Legacy of Jackson Pollock,” attended Kaprow’s inaugural performance 18 Happenings in 6 Parts, 1959, and included him in the activities he organized at the Judson Gallery in 1960. Yet, despite such associations, Oldenburg’s project fundamentally differed from Kaprow’s in ways that remain inadequately recognized. The distinctions between Kaprow’s and Oldenburg’s development impact not only our comprehension of the latter artist (and of a received art-historical narrative in which he has too often been considered the more peripheral player), but also our understanding of the extent to which Oldenburg, too, was motivated by an engagement with Pollock’s legacy.

Even as The Street, 1960, and The Store, 1961, took the form of installations, Oldenburg drew back from Kaprow’s totalizing environmental impulse. Where Kaprow endorsed an extensive, organic, “molecule-like” accumulation of material encompassing the gallery and, eventually, larger environmental spaces, Oldenburg insisted on a more evident to and fro between the overall situation and the singular objects or components within it, describing “the use of a concentrated poetic symbol” as one of the most important “individualizing characteristics of my work alone.”4 “The form here,” he explained of The Store, “is not so much environmental as fragmental.”5

If Kaprow justified his environmental aesthetic by means of a privileged experience of Pollock’s work—“A medium-sized exhibition space with the walls totally covered by Pollocks,” he wrote, “offers the most complete and meaningful sense of his art possible”—Oldenburg’s “fragmental” understanding pointed toward a facet of the Abstract Expressionist’s production he likely never directly encountered: Pollock’s fleeting engagements with the sculptural.6 To my knowledge, the only critic to link Oldenburg to this aspect of Pollock was Frank O’Hara, who perceptively, though tentatively, advanced the connection when reviewing Oldenburg’s Green Gallery Store exhibition of 1962:

Oddly enough, since it is really I suppose sculpture, [Oldenburg’s] work relates somewhat to Pollock’s cut-out painting of the late ’40’s. I recall in particular a cut-out wooden figure by Pollock, shaped rather like a cloverleaf and painted in his drip technique and done to be hung free from a wire; Oldenburg has a comic edge and whimsy like that figure, but I doubt if he could have ever seen it since it disappeared around 1952 and has never been recovered, and so far as I know there were no other Pollock “sculptures” of this kind. I bring him up only to indicate how much of the pleasure and brilliance of painting is in Oldenburg’s work, whether brushed or dripped on the strange preoccupations of his mind. It may be too that part of Oldenburg’s vivacity consists in the satiric employment of “delicious” abstract paint-techniques to render our delicious desserts and snacks in the suave monumentalizing . . . of contemporary American Bread and Wine and Pants, but I think there is more to it all than that.7

Whether O’Hara was referencing a now-lost cut-out piece on wood or, more likely, recalling an early state of Cut-Out Figure, 1948, his association of Pollock with Oldenburg highlights the odd and persistently overlooked liminality of The Store’s fragmentary reliefs and objects, which hover unstably between painting and sculpture. O’Hara’s musings also illuminate the Store objects’ engagement with what the poet described as “the crisis of figurative as opposed to non-figurative art” that “pursued [Pollock] throughout his life.”8

It is within Michael Fried’s “Three American Painters” of 1965 that we find the stakes surrounding Pollock’s struggle with figuration most provocatively articulated. Although Fried’s essay has been extensively glossed within art-historical literature, it has not generally been noted that the key to its analysis lies in the brief and almost dismissive discussion of Willem de Kooning that precedes the examination of Pollock proper. “De Kooning’s great achievement,” as Fried summarized it, “was to combine a handling of paint that looked back to Rubens and the Venetians and a passion for modeling that owed much to the plastic tradition stemming from Michelangelo with the complex spatial syntax of Late Cubism.”9 The crux here lies not in Fried’s relation of de Kooning back to the old masters (certainly, given Fried’s pursuit of the most advanced painting of his moment, a backhanded compliment at best), but rather in his insistence upon the term combine. Though Fried concedes to de Kooning an evident struggle to resolve his old-master tendencies with the spatial articulation of late Cubism, de Kooning’s is an art of reconciliation, a dialectical resolution of opposing tendencies into a unity, however dynamic. The term Fried deploys is amalgamation: “It ought not to be regarded as a denigration of de Kooning’s achievement,” writes Fried, the backhanded nature of his analysis becoming ever more obvious, “that the different elements brought together in his art derive self-evidently from the great plastic and painterly traditions of Western painting since the High Renaissance, and that only their amalgamation with Late Cubist syntax is essentially new.”10

Similarly, the crux of Fried’s analysis of Pollock lies not in his oft-cited discussion of how Pollock transfigures the use of line (the primary formal aspect upon which Fried rests his case for Pollock’s vanguard status), but rather in how the transformation or disarticulation of line, during Pollock’s most challenging and important years, 1947 to 1950, results from a negative dialectic, what Fried characterized as “the virtually self-contradictory character of Pollock’s formal ambitions at this time.”11 On the way to Fried’s infamous, and contested, certification of Pollock’s opticality, he observes how the diversity within Pollock’s visual field is pitted against its homogeneity, how his color’s materiality is pitted against its sheer visuality, how optical space is pitted against the haptic, and how line, most importantly, is pitted against its conventional role in figurative delimitation. Fried’s analysis extends beyond the great abstract canvases of 1947–50 to Pollock’s more problematic attempts to reengage figuration, most notably in Cut-Out, 1948–50, and Out of the Web, 1949. And it is in the distinction between these two works that Fried’s analysis becomes interesting for our purposes.

Cut-Out, according to Fried, continues Pollock’s negative dialectic, which it now broadens beyond such stylistic attributes as treatment of line or color to encompass the larger artistic categories of figuration and abstraction. “Either before he came to paint it or, more probably, in the course of painting it,” writes Fried about Cut-Out,

Pollock arrived . . . at the realization that the only formally coherent way to combine his allover, optical style with figuration was somehow to make the painting itself proclaim the contradiction implicit in that ambition. This sounds more paradoxical than in fact it is. It has been observed how Pollock’s allover style entailed the negation of figuration, and how figuration in turn entailed the negation of that style. In Cut-Out these negations become the fundamental means by which the painting is made. That is, in Cut-Out Pollock achieved figuration by negating part of the painted field—by taking something away from it—rather than by adding something as in White Cockatoo, The Wooden Horse, and Summertime.12

According to Fried, Cut-Out’s primary failing was to be found in the excised figurative element’s centrality, which too forcefully negated the painting’s overall field.

Out of the Web, in which figurative elements were similarly excised from the surface of the painting—now scraped out of Masonite board rather than sliced from unstretched canvas—overcame Cut-Out’s centralization by scattering excisions across the painting’s expanse. Yet Fried’s presentation of Out of the Web as the logical successor to Cut-Out belies a fundamental transformation in his argument. For whereas Cut-Out extended the negative dialectic that drove Pollock’s painterly achievements onto another level, Out of the Web represented a synthetic resolution of the contradictions that powered Pollock’s most ambitious work. In Out of the Web, according to Fried, line reclaims its traditional delineating function within, and no longer contrary to, Pollock’s abstract field. If, for Fried, both Cut-Out and Out of the Web “solved the problem of how to combine figurative line—the line of traditional drawing—with opticality,” only Out of the Web “succeeded completely in restoring to line its traditional capability to bound and describe figures within the context of his allover, optical style.”13 Out of the Web now represents a synthesis, rather than a mutual negation, of figuration and the allover, paving the way, according to Fried, for the ultimate coalescence of figuration and opticality in Pollock’s stained black paintings of 1951.14

Those stained 1951 paintings, in which the paint seeps almost immaterially into unprimed canvas, would be declared by Fried to be possibly the artist’s greatest successes, for they pointed toward the achievements, most notably, of Morris Louis, whom Fried charged with carrying forward the trajectory of modernist painting. And it is in the pages dedicated to Louis, “the man who, more than any other, explored and developed the new synthesis of figuration and opticality sketched out in Pollock’s stain paintings of 1951,” that Fried has recourse, in a most forceful and unproblematized manner, to a language not only of “synthesis” and “combinations,” but of “essences” and “identifications.”15

AS IS WELL KNOWN, Pollock’s allover field was, for Fried, evanescent, incorporeal, immaterial, and antihaptic; hence his discussion of the overriding dialectic of Pollock’s work as between figuration and opticality, rather than between figuration and abstraction. This underlies Fried’s notorious characterization of the central figure in Cut-Out as “a kind of blind spot, or defect in our visual apparatus.” “In the end,” Fried contends of Cut-Out, “the relation between the field and the figure is simply not spatial at all: it is purely and wholly optical, so that the figure created by removing part of the painted field and backing it with canvas board seems to lie somewhere within our own eyes, as strange as this may sound.”16 For Fried, the resolution of this dialectic in later Pollock (and Louis) is a kind of optical figuration.

Oldenburg—who shares a birthday with Pollock and, according to his partner of the time, Patty Mucha, felt a deep connection to him—originally received the Abstract Expressionist’s work in terms of his own long-standing concern with figurative versus nonfigurative art.17 Not unlike Cy Twombly, Oldenburg initially decoded Pollock’s means as those of disfiguration, assimilable to a graffitist’s violence against the figure, those “scratchings in the asphalt, [and] daubing at the walls” that partially motivated Oldenburg’s Street installation as well as his remarkable and underappreciated comic-book-like mimeograph publications Ray Gun Poems, More Ray Gun Poems, and Spicy Ray Gun (all 1960).18 Although intensely aware of the highly reflective qualities of Pollock’s enamel paints (to which Oldenburg switched from tempera after his earliest Store-related pieces), Oldenburg never regarded Pollock’s drips and skeins as primarily optical, but always as inherently material. Pollock, Oldenburg recently recounted, “used paint freely and as a thing, as an object—paint as an object.”19 The lead-based enamel to which he and Pollock were partial, he explained, “had a solid feeling to it, especially when it dried. And it had also its own intention . . . to move, depending on how you would relate it to gravity. It was very important to me to use enamel paint for that reason, because it was a three-dimensional object itself, in motion.”20

So Pollock’s paint, for Oldenburg, was a thing, its materiality (but also its reflectivity, which was part of its material) emphasized by Pollock’s embedding of other materials—buttons, coins, nails, cigarette butts—within it. This is where Cut-Out Figure, rather than Cut-Out, becomes significant. For instead of a void, a blind spot in the viewer’s retina, Cut-Out Figure manifests itself as a thing, an object. If the piece was ever mounted on wood and suspended from a wire as O’Hara remembers it, this fact would only have been emphasized further. As such, the implications of Cut-Out Figure sharply counter not only Fried’s optical reading, but also Kaprow’s holistic reception of Pollock, his vision of Pollock’s field as an “art that tends to lose itself out of bounds, tends to fill our world with itself.”21

Cut-Out Figure does not abandon the field altogether. In the absence of the added canvas with skeins of white paint that, in the work’s final form, encroach upon the figure from all sides (even as they connote the infinite recesses of outer space), the drips of colored enamel—which do not recoil from but race across the figure’s edges with abandon—would have implied extension even more strongly. With the task of humanoid representation delegated entirely to the excised but otherwise unmarked contour, figuration and abstraction in Cut-Out Figure remain in as mutually contradictory a relation as they did in Cut-Out. Yet, in its irregular outline, its centralization, and a materiality emphasized by an agglutinated paint viscosity of the kind Rosalind E. Krauss has likened to “the skin on the surface of scalded milk,” Cut-Out Figure invites the hand’s palpitation, a physical graspability, not unlike that of a gingerbread man.22 While, for Fried, any such hint of the haptic signaled regression toward “traditional tactile illusionism” (no doubt the reason he ignored Cut-Out Figure altogether), Oldenburg seems to have drawn upon or intuited an analogously complex relationship of field and object in the formulation of his Store reliefs.23

Oldenburg’s Store pieces are artistic and material hybrids. Fabricated out of muslin over chicken wire, covered with plaster and then paint, they are canvases given contours, congealed into shapes in which there are constant interplays—sometimes positive or self-reinforcing, sometimes negative or self-contradicting—between painting and sculpture, surface and contour, shape and objecthood. When approached as Pop art, the works most often reproduced are invariably the most simulacral, where resemblance to a physical object is least problematic. More telling, however, are the many pieces with more evident contradictions between surface and form. In Small Yellow Pie, 1961, for instance, recognition of the depicted object derives almost entirely from the painted surface. Strip off the pigment and one is left with nothing but an ambiguously shaped plaster mound.

By contrast, Cash Register, 1961, one of Olden­burg’s most intriguing Store objects—first shown suspended from the ceiling in the Martha Jackson Gallery’s “Environments, Situations, Spaces” show of 1961—operates in reverse fashion. Like Cut-Out Figure, Cash Register’s “figurative” legibility, its identity as a recognizable object, resides entirely in its physical form, its three-dimensional contour, and not at all in its dripped and splattered surface, which reads as a wholly nonobjective field that, in its bright colors and abundant use of silver, cannot but recall Pollock’s enamels and use of aluminum Duco. Oldenburg pushed further against surface legibility after the work’s initial showing: He painted out the numerical price that originally interrupted the surface’s abstract homogeneity, while closing off and thereby solidifying its three-dimensional structure. If Cash Register originally resembled a two-dimensional strip of colored muslin, folded like a napkin into three-dimensional form (thus referencing the realms of both painting and sculpture), its final version heightened both the painterly abstraction and the object-like contours so as to pitch the painted and sculptural components in opposition to one another. As he put it in Store Days, “Cloth, dipped in plaster / Dropped on chickenwire / Painted with enamel[.] This is paint vs. sculpture.”24

Like Kaprow, Oldenburg related his breakthrough into three-dimensional form to Pollock’s precedent and example. Unlike Kaprow, however, he saw Pollock’s painting not only opening out to envelop the gallery and spectator, but also folding back onto itself.25 “Where Pollock took the space to the surface,” he noted in 1960,

I take it beyond into the positive area and thus avoid decoration which is the danger on the surface . . . art of the old sort must be spaceious [sic] in the negative area, through illusion. But now it is spacious positively and without illusion though I have added illusion (through paint) in order to deepen the complexity of the medium . . [. and] retain the complexity of surface painting. Analogy[:] it is as if I/one had taken the canvas and wrapped it around a ball.26

The closest parallel to Oldenburg’s Store reliefs within Pollock’s production is a now-destroyed sculpture of circa 1951 made of ink on glue-soaked rice paper laid over an irregular chicken-wire frame and set on a door. Though not entirely devoid of figurative resonances—reviewers for both Art News and Art Digest described it as a “writhing . . . monster”—Pollock’s sculpture ultimately retains its abstract character, its inchoate energy rising out of (or falling into) a pulpy mass.27 Oldenburg, by contrast, courted figuration more directly in order to reignite an unstable dynamic between abstraction and representation. “Deepen[ing] the complexity of the medium,” for Oldenburg, entailed putting two dimensions and three dimensions, painting and sculpture, into a range of interrelations, the surface painting most often reinforcing the underlying shape and contour but sometimes significantly—as in the case of Cash Register, for example, or the bread in Green Salad and Italian Bread, 1962—working against them almost entirely. At their most challenging, then, Oldenburg’s Store objects carried forward the contradictions that motivated Cut-Out and Cut-Out Figure (but that had been resolved in Out of the Web) on a level that encompassed not only the pictorial distinctions of abstraction and figuration, but also the separate artistic media of painting and sculpture. As Oldenburg himself put it, “Figurative vs. non-figurative is a moronic distinction. The challenge to abstract art must go deeper than that.”28

IT IS T. J. CLARK who has pushed Fried’s analysis toward some of the deepest challenges of Pollock’s abstraction. For Clark, Pollock’s destruction of line’s traditional function extends to the renunciation of the figurative entirely, a negative dialectic in extremis. “If a painting is to be abstract at all—this seems to me the drip paintings’ logic,” Clark argues

—then it ought to be so through and through, down to the last detail or first gestalt: it ought to be made into the opposite of figuration, the outright, strict negative of it. One main driving force of Pollock’s work from 1947 to 1950 is an effort to free the most rudimentary elements of depiction—line, color, handling—from their normal associations with the world we know, or, at least, with the world of objects, bodies, and spaces between them. 29

What Fried perceived as a successful resolution in Out of the Web was, for Clark, a failure. Not only the figurative but also the metaphoric associations that Pollock’s abstraction worked so hard to negate here return as recognizable symbols—symbols of dissonance, for example, rather than enactments of it. More consequently, the immaterial, almost pastoral associations of Pollock’s “optical” fields resolved, in works like Autumn Rhythm, 1950, and Lavender Mist, 1950, into metaphors (of harmony, of nature) that could all too easily be co-opted by the needs and uses of commercial culture.30 Out of the web, as it were, and into the pages of Vogue.31

For Clark, Pollock’s most compelling late skirmish with the figure is The Wooden Horse: Number 10A, 1948, not merely because it prolongs the dialectic of figuration and abstraction, but because the dichotomy between the collaged hobbyhorse head and the meandering abstract drips, splashes, and incised infills remains almost too stark for the picture to hold together. “So part of our reaction to The Wooden Horse,” Clark contends, “is bound up with the fact that it has its way so violently with notions of unity in a picture.”32 The possibility of Pollock’s success thus hinges on his negative dialectic’s ultimately reaching beyond abstraction’s negation of figure and metaphor to disrupt the overall domain within which it operated, that of art itself. “Whatever work against likeness Pollock was doing,” Clark continues, “had to be done not just against likeness but against painting—on the edge of the category Art, in places where the criteria for Art-ness were lacking. . . . It is no use disposing of all other forms of likeness, it turns out, and yet depending on the likeness to Art.”33

It is here, I think, that Oldenburg’s gambit ultimately becomes recognizable. For in a Store object such as Cash Register, it appears as though Pollock’s inchoate abstract sculpture had enveloped the door that acted as its base, unstably conjoining the legacy of abstraction with that of the readymade (not unlike, on this count, The Wooden Horse), and instigating what Benjamin H. D. Buchloh has characterized as “the dialectics between ‘the museum and the hardware store.’”34 In his Store objects and reliefs, Oldenburg conjoined Pollock’s abstraction not only with the world of common, everyday “objects, bodies, and spaces between them,” but also with the realm of metaphor that Pollock, according to Clark, fought so strenuously to negate. For Oldenburg, who arrived in New York in 1956, shortly after Pollock’s death, the work of “Jack the Dripper” had long been overshadowed by the many clichés with which we are all familiar. “Pollock acts in my work as a fiction,” Oldenburg noted in 1967. “I objectify him: American Painter, Painter of Life, Painter of New York. I honor all the stereotypes about him.”35 “On the walls” of Bedroom Ensemble, 1963–69, he continued, “are pseudo-Pollocks, yardgoods from Santa Monica. Whatever else this act suggests, I intended at the time to use Pollock as a symbol of Life, and his reproduction, removal by counterfeit and photography, as the symbol of Death.”36

Despite still-predominant understandings of Pop art, Oldenburg’s confrontation of Pollock with commercial products did not merely represent the collapse of high and low any more than it is adequately understood as the parodic subversion of Abstract Expressionism. To the contrary, only by approaching the landscape of everyday commercial objects could Oldenburg extend to another level the negative dialectic that powered Pollock’s most important artistic achievements. Only through such an encounter could Oldenburg instigate, against the very platitudes already suffocating Pollock’s legacy, plays of surface and volume, abstraction and figuration, opticality and materiality, painting and sculpture, stereotype and invention that range from apparent complicity to the type of self-canceling contradiction that threatens to disrupt the object’s easy existence within the category of Art altogether. “I’m more inclined to put the thing somewhere halfway between the real world and the world of art,” Oldenburg explained in 1963 to Billy Klüver, “because nothing is interesting to me unless it’s halfway. Unless it’s very ambiguous, unless it’s a little bit inside and a little bit outside.” In The Store, Oldenburg continued, “it works both ways. Artists can come in and say this is not art, this is a hamburger. And other people can come in and say this is not a hamburger, it’s art. It’s in the middle ground, and that is where I want to be.”37 It is a testament to the significance of Oldenburg’s artistic achievement as well as to the depth of his engagement with the question of abstraction that he was ultimately able to transform and thereby carry forward the legacy of Pollock’s most ambitious and self-contradictory achievements in a manner that Pollock himself never would.

“Claes Oldenburg: The Street and the Store” and “Claes Oldenburg: Mouse Museum/Ray Gun Wing,” which originated at Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien as “Claes Oldenburg: The Sixties,” will be on view at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Apr. 14–Aug. 5; travels to the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Sept. 21, 2013–Jan.12, 2014.

Branden W. Joseph is Frank Gallipoli professor of modern and contemporary art at Columbia University.

NOTES

1. Adrian Henri, Total Art: Environments, Happenings, and Performance (New York: Praeger, 1974), 36, 90. I have discussed Oldenburg’s early performances in my essay “Psychological Expressionism: Claes Oldenburg’s Theater of Objects,” in the catalogue accompanying the current MoMA exhibition, Claes Oldenburg: The Sixties, ed. Achim Hochdörfer and Barbara Schröder (Vienna: Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien, 2012), 72–112.

2. Henri, Total Art, 133.

3. Allan Kaprow, “The Legacy of Jackson Pollock” (1958), in Essays on the Blurring of Art and Life, ed. Jeff Kelley (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 6. Kaprow developed this perspective further in Kaprow, Assemblage, Environments, and Happenings (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1966).

4. Kaprow, Assemblage, Environments, and Happenings, 159; and Oldenburg, unpublished notes, folder P. Town Jan–Aug T. 1960, Oldenburg Van Bruggen Studio Archives, New York.

5. Claes Oldenburg, Store Days: Documents from The Store (1961) and Ray Gun Theater (1962) (New York: Something Else, 1967), 49. On Oldenburg’s relation to the fragment, see Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, “Annihilate/Illuminate: Claes Oldenburg’s Ray Gun and Mouse Museum,” in Hochdörfer and Schröder, Claes Oldenburg: The Sixties, 214–73; and Gregor Stemmrich, “Hypertrophies, Trophies, and Tropes of the Everyday: Claes Oldenburg’s New Definitions of Sculpture,” in ibid., 156–205.

6. Kaprow, “The Legacy of Jackson Pollock,” 6. On Pollock’s sculpture, see Eileen Costello, “Jackson Pollock and Tony Smith: Speculations in Form,” in Jackson Pollock and Tony Smith Sculpture: An Exhibition on the Centennial of Their Births (New York: Matthew Marks Gallery, 2012), 3–31.

7. Frank O’Hara, “Art Chronicle,” Kulchur 3, no. 9 (Spring 1963): 56.

8. Frank O’Hara, Jackson Pollock (New York: George Braziller, 1959), 12.

9. Michael Fried, “Three American Painters: Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski, Frank Stella” (1965), in Art and Objecthood: Essays and Reviews (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), 222.

10. Fried, “Three American Painters,” 222 (emphasis added).

11. Ibid., 223.

12. Ibid., 227.

13. Ibid., 229 (emphasis added).

14. Ibid., 229.

15. Ibid. On Louis, Fried continues, “the stain technique identifies the painted image with its woven canvas ground”; “the stain image and its raw canvas ground are indissoluble one from the other”; “Louis’s use of staining not only synthesizes figuration and opticality; it also, equally importantly, identifies figuration with color” (ibid., 230).

16. Fried, “Three American Painters,” 228.

17. This is made evident in Oldenburg’s designs for Aileen Passloff and Dance Company announcements of 1962, which evidently trope on Pollock’s figurative black canvases of 1951. That Oldenburg felt a connection with Pollock was mentioned by Patty Mucha in a lecture at the mumok, Vienna, May 4, 2012.

18. Oldenburg, Store Days, 40. On Twombly, Pollock, and graffiti, see Rosalind E. Krauss, The Optical Unconscious (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1993), 255–66. In a seeming nod back to Pollock, Oldenburg later reworked the graffiti-like figures of the 1960 More Ray Gun Poems into more abstract, allover formats; see Claes Oldenburg, More Ray Gun Poems (Philadelphia: Moore College of Art/Falcon, 1973).

19. Claes Oldenburg, in conversation with the author, June 17, 2011.

20. Ibid. The objectivity and materiality of Oldenburg’s paint handling has been nicely described by Benjamin H. D. Buchloh as “remembering Pollock and foretelling Donald Judd.” Buchloh, “Annihilate/Illuminate,” 243. See also Claes Oldenburg, “Jackson Pollock: An Artists’ Symposium, Part 2,” Art News 66, no. 3 (May 1967): 27, 66–67.

21. Kaprow, “The Legacy of Jackson Pollock,” 6.

22. Krauss, The Optical Unconscious, 248.

23. Fried, “Three American Painters,” 260.

24. Oldenburg, Store Days, 56–57. No doubt because Fried was already reading Pollock optically, he could not, when reviewing the very same Green Gallery exhibition as O’Hara, perceive the sophistication of Oldenburg’s interplays of painted surface and three-dimensional form. Although perfectly capable of appreciating the colored volumes of the sculptor John Chamberlain, Fried could only castigate the materiality of Oldenburg’s painting as “slapdash.” Michael Fried, “New York Letter” (1962), in Pop Art: A Critical History, ed. Steven Henry Madoff (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), 216.

25. Oldenburg wrote in 1961, “The environment form is nothing, it is simply a big object, or a collection of objects.” Claes Oldenburg, unpublished notes, folder Store Days Sel., Oldenburg Van Bruggen Studio Archives, New York.

26. Claes Oldenburg, unpublished notes, folder NYC. Jan–June 60 T.11.1618-1676, Oldenburg Van Bruggen Studio Archives, New York.

27. “A writhing, wizened monster now sprawled on the floor of the Peridot Gallery turns out to be Jackson Pollock’s immobile papier mâché sculpture.” B. K., “Painters Go Third Dimension,” Art Digest 25, no. 14 (April 15, 1951): 21. “Jackson Pollock stops the show with a writhing, ridge-backed creature composed of wire, padded with newspaper and covered with familiar Pollock drawings splashed with red and black and wrinkled to suggest the skin of some prehistoric monster.” B. H., “Sculpture by Painters,” Art News 50, no. 2 (April 1951): 47.

28. Barbara Rose, Claes Oldenburg (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1970), 35. Cf. Oldenburg, Store Days, 10: “Fig/non fig is moronic distinction. The challenge to abstract art must go much deeper.”

29. T. J. Clark, Farewell to an Idea: Episodes from a History of Modernism (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999), 330.

30. Pollock’s anomalous abstract sculpture succumbed to a similar fate. Left outside Pollock’s studio, it suffered not only the effects of weather (until it ultimately perished), but also the attribution of stereotypical nature metaphors: According to Eileen Costello, Tony Smith described it as a “mother goddess” and portrayed its disintegration as “returning to the earth, of which it was an image.” Costello, 15, 31n18.

31. On the appearance of Jackson Pollock’s paintings in Cecil Beaton’s 1951 fashion photographs in Vogue magazine, see Clark, Farewell to an Idea; and Thomas Crow, “Fashioning the New York School,” in Modern Art in the Common Culture (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996), 39–48.

32. Clark, Farewell to an Idea, 364.

33. Ibid.

34. Buchloh, 245. Buchloh’s neologism “Pollock readymade” neatly encapsulates the problematic this essay has attempted to examine (see 224).

35. Oldenburg, “Jackson Pollock: An Artists’ Symposium,” 27.

36. Ibid., 67.

37. Billy Klüver, On Record: 11 Artists 1963 (New York: Experiments in Art and Technology, 1981), 34–35. Cf. Claes Oldenburg, “The Spontaneous and Design,” It Is, Autumn 1965, 112–13; and Claes Oldenburg, “Object: Still-Life,” Craft Horizons, September–October 1965, 31.