Davis Snyder – Jackson Pollock’s Number 12, 1952

Jackson Pollock, Number 12, 1952, 1952, mixed media

Jackson Pollock created the piece, Number 12, 1952, in 1952 with mixed media on canvas.
The piece, which is incredibly large, envelops the viewer into an abstract web of color and
line. No representation can be found, which forces the viewer to feel the emotional
conversation of the piece. 

There are two different entities happening within the piece, the splotchy loose black marks,
and then the masses and units of color that for the most part lay beneath the surface. They
work together in a dance, the color halting so the black can have space. In the top right,
there’s a standstill between the black and yellow, and the undercolor of the canvas, comes
peeking through in no man’s land. In other spots, as the viewer travels down the canvas,
the line starts to dominate the color, simply laying over the top of it. As we return into the
yellow, none of this battle reaches the small horizontal mass of the yellow on the bottom of
the canvas. The piece leaves little room for the viewer to feel peace, except for at the top
and the bottom space mentioned. 

This piece has some spots that are chunky, and impasto-like, however, I think that may be
attributed to the fact that it was in a fire and had to undergo conservation work. The thick
paint effect creates an almost gruesome effect, in that looks like a healing scar or wound,
which can be seen in the yellow and orange section in the middle and a silvery
section towards the middle of the top. Regardless of whether this was caused
by the fire, it feeds into the “battleground” mood set by the energy of the abstract form.
The loose and organic form of the line cues the viewer into a battlefield, one that can be
interpreted as emotional because of the fluidity and loss of structure. This painting can be
connected to the rise of abstract painting and the movement of Abstract Expressionism.
The movement was focused on communicating through abstract forms and qualities,
especially on larger canvases, because it emulates the essence of one ‘s emotions and
intent, and was not constrained by the bounds of a small canvas. This work by Pollock
measures 8.52 ft by 7.45 ft, something much larger than we have seen in works past.
Creating on a piece of canvas that is larger than oneself, allowed Pollock and
many other artists in this movement to form and abstract ideas without interruption.
Number 12,1952, follows characteristics of Abstract Expressionism in that it is so
completely void of representation, that it taps into the unconscious and emotional state of
not only the artist, but also the viewer. 

You can find this piece at the Corning Tower Concourse Level, in the Empire State Plaza,
along with other Abstract Expressionist Pieces.