Jackson Pollock, Echo: Number 25, 1951, enamel on canvas, 91 7/8 × 86". © The Pollock-Krasner Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

ONE HALLMARK OF GREAT ART is its ability to simultaneously command attention and confound interpretation. Work like this draws us in but ultimately frustrates our attempt to reduce the experience to anything like a definitive reading. We might call it Zeno’s paradox of meaning: The closer we get, the more numerous and splintered our frames of reference become. Jackson Pollock’s art is great, and, unsurprisingly, its interpretative terrain is marked with multiple (sometimes diametrically opposed) arguments. His work epitomizes critic Harold Rosenberg’s “action painting” thesis as much as it satisfies Clement Greenberg’s formal imperatives. It triggers Michael Fried to think through opticality while also embodying Rosalind Krauss’s theory of base materialism. Pollock’s work negates metaphor, per T. J. Clark, while at the same time broadcasting postwar American ideology, as Serge

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