Pollock is a play by acclaimed French playwright Fabrice Melquiot which highlights how it is impossible to fully understand the brilliance and madness of Jackson Pollock without studying his marriage to artist Lee Krasner. It stars Jim Fletcher as Pollock and Michelle Stern as Lee Krasner and retruned to the Abrons Art Centre, NY recently.
At the time of writing, it’s three weeks since I saw Pollock. The main thing that stays in my memory about the play is a sense of Jackson Pollock’s grim perserverence as portrayed by Jim Fletcher. This play suggests that genius is perseverence. Reminds me of what I think I remember Andy Warhol saying; that great artists are people who are patient. (I Google searched the quote but can’t find it! But either way, let’s imagine he did. Patience and perseverence; they’re both variations on the same thing, though one can be said to be gentler and more sensitive than the other.) Pollock was rough. His perseverence was the kind that could only be sustained by being abusive to those around him, especially his partner Lee Krasner, in order to have the mental space to pursue his very deliberate intention of making artistic works of genius. And it is fair to say he achieved this. Genius in this play is characterised as a vicious fixation. And that’s an interesting proposition. Pollock persevered through dispair and self-loathing until he made his breakthrough. This play seemed to suggest that the thing that made him persevere with his work is also a very ugly quality. Especially when seen through the eyes of the person who has to live with him. Lee Krasner is the person, through whose eyes we see him. A very talented painter herself, we experience his abusive, dismissive and repressive behaviour towards her. We see him living only for himself. We see qualities once seen as glamorous, namely Pollocks’s drinking, womanising and rule-breaking, as the acts of a self centred man. What’s interesting is that the play shows this self-centredness not as a seperate quality to his artistic ability, but actually the same quality that enabled him to make works of genius. This is a troubling thought. Which I’d like to expand upon. We now exist in an era where social media allows us to closely scrutinise famous people’s personalities. We expect people who do great things to have great personalities. Look at how surprised people are to find out Elon Musk is a strange self-centred vicious man! Not only is this unsurprising, but it might be structurally impossible for him to do what he does and be otherwise! Anyway back to the play. Let me conclude by saying that it speaks in this way to the contemporary world. But not in a high-handed way. Instead it had the quality of an apology. Jim Fletcher and Michelle Stern’s performances seemed to grieve for the way that things turned out in the lives of Pollock and Krasner, but also there was a resignation that this is the way that it may have had to have been, for them both to have made the work that they both so desperately wanted to make.