This little volume contains a discussion of 11 paintings of Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) held by the Museum of Modern Art. While the brief essays accompanying these pictures are filled with plenty of 'curatorese', and betray an insecure attitude towards modern intellectual fashions, the book also contains some interesting material. In discussing "Bird", for instance -- we are told how Pollock had visited MoMA's 1941 Indian Art exhibit several times, and attended a demonstration of Native Americans "painting" an image on the ground with colored sand dropped from their fist (note that the painting is made of oil and sand).
Bird, 1938-1941. Oil and sand on canvas. MoMA
On the other hand, the author wastes valuable sentence-space trying to connect the painting to a Prussian coat-of-arms, and then to some sort of Jungian "hovering", before finally admitting that Lee Krasner (Pollock's wife) was probably right in claiming that the painting is sexual. That the painting is sexual and totemic is obvious.
The paintings covered are: The Flame; Bird; Stenographic Figure; The She-Wolf; Gothic; Shimmering Substance; Full Fathom Five; Number 1A, 1948; One: Number 31, 1950; Echo: Number 25, 1951; Easter and the Totem.
The volume, a product of the Museum, is a bit self-serving, as it points repeatedly to its own role in Pollock's career -- as in the example above, and by noting several times how it was an early buyer of Pollock (She-Wolf, 1944). This is a bit disturbing since Cal Tomkins writes that Pollock never earned more than $5600 for any of his paintings -- and that, only in the year of his death.
Anyway - here's my favorite picture in the volume.
Echo: Number 25, 1951. 1951. Enamal on unprimed canvas. MoMA
Juan Miró. Collage, Head of Georges Auric. Tarboard, chalk, and pencil on paper. 1929. Kunsthaus Zürich.