Monday, May 4, 2015

By Cory Porter, The Daily Iowan

Most people with even a limited knowledge of fine arts have at least heard of Jackson Pollock — if not his name, then by the technique that made his work so famous, drip painting.

Sean O’Harrow, the director of the University of Iowa Museum of Art, said there’s much more to Pollock, his work, and his legacy than people give him credit for, and a new exhibition at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, organized by the UI Art Museum, will show people just how influential and important Pollack was — and is still.

Beyond presenting Pollock in a new light, O’Harrow wants people to understand just how important the UI was in championing cutting-edge art.

“The reason we’re doing this is not only to further knowledge in the field but also to show the world that in Iowa, we have programs and educational offerings that are of global significance and that we’ve built these programs over many decades,” he said.

The history of Pollock’s Mural, which is the focal point of the show in Venice, titled, “Jackson Pollock’s Mural: Energy Made Visible,” in some way begins and ends in Iowa.

Pollock’s parents were born in Tingley, Iowa, so his roots were in part in Iowa, and the original owner of Mural and a patron of Pollock, Peggy Guggenheim, commissioned the painting in 1943. When she moved to Europe in 1947, she gave Mural to the UI, where it arrived in 1951, because she understood the importance of the school in relation to the future of art.

“We were a key institution, we were one of the leading avant-garde art programs in the United States, and we would acquire works … that other institutions found too difficult to accept,” O’Harrow said.

Mural went through conservation and cleaning from 2012 to 2014, a result of collaboration between the Getty Conservation Institute and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. It then went on display from March to June 2014.

Following that, it was displayed at the Sioux City Art Center in 2014, in celebration of the center’s 100th anniversary.

“I [was] very pleased to be able to bring the Pollock to Sioux City, especially during our 100th anniversary celebration,” said Al Harris-Fernandez, director of the Sioux City Art Center. “We’ve always sought shows with high visibility, but obviously, this was an especially interesting one to do, because the importance of that particular painting and the relevance to Iowa.”

Harris-Fernandez said people not only came from across the country but from Canada and Mexico to see Mural.

After Venice, the exhibition will go to such places as Berlin and Malaga, Spain. Officials estimate it will return to the UI in 2018, following the completion of a new UI art museum.

Wallace Tomasini, an art professor at the UI since 1957, saw Mural sometime before 1951 while living in New York City.

“I found it intriguing; I wanted to find out what was the story and what was the artist trying to do, trying to tell me or anyone,” he said.