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The Uniform for Abstract Expressionism

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Jackson Pollock’s iconic work wear, a uniform of a black t-shirt and dark rinse, paint splattered jeans, has been immortalized in Hans Namuth’s photos inside the artist’s studio. The photos capture a brow-furrowed Pollock, dancing over and around his canvas, bucket in tow, lashing pain on the surface with great energy and deliberation. This vibrant, explosive energy of his sumptuous drip-paintings can be felt in each of these shots.

While Pollock was a pre-eminent figure in the abstract expressionist movement of the 1940s and 50s, these photographs helped to define, in part, Pollock’s iconic style. As culture critic Ferdinand Protzman asserts, these images transformed Pollock from a “talented, cranky loner into the first media-driven superstar of American contemporary art, the jeans-clad, chain-smoking poster boy of abstract expressionism.”

Prior to the casual cool denim of James Dean and Marlon Brando, Jackson Pollock gave artistic credibility to the look. And while denim as work wear served as a practical necessity, it also inadvertently fostered a typified image of a rebellious artist – breaking free of convention.
Just like his innovative placement of a blank canvas on the ground, Pollock’s ‘uniform’ is firmly connected to both his style and process.

– Sitji Chou

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