A jazzy painting from the jazzy New World

Jackson Pollock, No 1, 1950, (Lavender Mist) National Gallery of Arts, Washington

Jazz is America and America is jazz. Also Abstract Expressionism is America. And it is has all the rythm of a bop jazz tune from the late 1940ies or – a decade  or more later  –  of the intense, but  perfectly controlled bass playing by Charles Mingus or carries  the snakelike chromatism of  the late John Coltrane. I think  the Swedish magazine ”Axess” is correct when, in a blog, it puts Abstract Expressionism in a typical American context, although I find its comparison between AE and bop music more relevant than its reference to Elvis Presley. This is particularily the case with paintings by Jackson Pollock, who, by the way, didn’t think of himself as an abstract expressionist.

Most viewers and critics tend to view Pollock’s paintings, like the one above, as explorations of the subconscious. While basically agreeing with this Freudian interpretation in the typical European intellectual tradition, I rather  get from these paintings the more spontaneous and intuitive  impression of jazzy  rythm. As you know, Pollock worked by putting the canvas on the floor and then walked around, rythmically splashing household enamel paint on it. Thus his paintings are as much expressions of the rythm of  Pollock’s movements  – as controlled as Mingus’ bass playing – in the act of creating his work as the paintings as such. Maybe those who insist on an intellectual approach to an ”action painting” like the No 1,  just ”think too much” like a Thai girl friend once said about me. Just take it in at its surface beauty!

And now this thing with America. This gigantic conglomerate of human progress represents different things to different people. To me America epithomizes the spirit of the Faustian destiny of man constantly bound to act: ”Oh Mensch, Tätigkeit ist dein Schicksal!” (Goethe?). In this constant flow of energy to explore all the possibiilities of an active spirit, America is the true Faustian nation – I think already Goethe himself viewed  the New World in this context (now I ”think to much” again).

Swedish neocons of today are inspired by American new and old conservatism, Christianity, a moral ideal for the world   to follow, either in its isolationist puritanism or in its Wilsonian or Bushian missionary zeal. Well this is also America – and very much so –  but I prefer to look at it from the jazzy, AND the Faustian, angle, which not necessarily contradicts the neoconservative view.

The energy of acting is literarily translated into Pollock’s ”action paintings”, but not only as the action element itself, but also in the constant  exploration of new aesthetic territory.  This is so American. And then again: all that jazz.

Just don’t think too much!

A note of protocol: I write some texts in English to communicate with non-Swedish friends.  Nonetheless, they are my own texts and  not ”cut-and-paste” from other texts from the internet, except when I explicitly quote from other sources. End of note.