In a drunken, suicidal state on a stormy March night, Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) laid down the foundations of his masterpiece Blue Poles: Number 11, 1952. He unrolled a large canvas across the floor of his windswept barn and, using a wooden stick, dripped the canvas with household paint from an old can.
This was not the first time the artist had dripped a painting onto canvas. In contrast to the broken lines painted by conventional brush contact, Pollock had developed a technique in which he poured a constant stream of paint onto horizontal canvases to produce uniquely continuous trajectories. This deceptively simple act polarized opinion in the art world. Was this primitive painting style driven by raw genius, or was he simply a drunk who mocked artistic traditions?
This article was originally published with the title Order in Pollock's Chaos.