Oriental Calligraphy in Jackson Pollock: A Study of the Formation of the Black Paintings

KAKEI Nanako

This paper considers the influence of oriental calligraphy on Jackson Pollock’s (1912-1956) “black paintings.” The black paintings are the series of monochromes that Pollock produced from 1951 to 53. In these works, the ink runs on canvas. For this reason, it has been noted that Pollock was influenced by calligraphy. But Clement Greenberg, an influential critic in the study of Pollock, eliminated the influence of oriental art from Pollock’s works as a means to present Pollock as the legitimate successor of European modernism. Therefore no one has shown this influence clearly. However, in fact, there were many artists that were interested in calligraphy around Pollock. In addition, Pollock possessed books about oriental culture, and used tools of calligraphy. Therefore, this paper argues that Pollock was directly influenced by calligraphy. Moreover, this paper points out that Pollock often drew letters. In the black paintings, Pollock also depicted the pictographic images that he had already painted before. The reason that Pollock was influenced by oriental calligraphy may come from such concern with the letter. Thus, adopting a style of calligraphy, Pollock created a new way to draw past pictographic images in the black paintings.

Keywords: Jackson Pollock, Oriental Calligraphy, Abstract Expressionism