The American artist Jackson Pollock went through, as did many other artists of his time, a number of artistic phases, all of them individual and none less significant than the others. Black and White Polyptych, sometimes also known as Untitled (Black and White Polyptych) is a prime example of what has come to be known as Pollock’s ‘Black Pour’ paintings and was executed in 1951.
The Black Pour works represent a bold move away from the bold colour palette, vibrantly moving and swirling runs of form and colour, and an ‘all over’ approach encompassing the entire canvas.
The technique, still in the Abstract Expressionist style, involved using black enamel paint only onto unprepared canvas. After completion the canvas was often left untreated and the paint would take on several qualities.
When it soaked into the canvas it would appear sooty, and when it would pool it would become somewhat tar-like and iridescent in nature. These contrasting effects personify works such as Black and White Polyptych.
A further departure from the artist’s previous style was the use of limited coverage. Black and White Polytych is composed of four separate components. Each was issued as a separate screen print with considerable borders, rather than the shapes created spreading to the edges.
Black and White Polyptych is a major representative work of a late period in Pollack’s work.
The images created are without the exultory and expansive qualities of the previous period of his work, and the images are contained and bound within themselves.
The contrast with the so called drip paintings, often equated with an erotic exuberance, marks perhaps the dark hours into which Pollack was retreating before his death by alcohol-induced automobile accident in 1956.