No one is exactly sure how Jackson Pollock arrived at the pour and drip techniques he began to use in the late 1940s to create the sprawling paintings that brought him enduring acclaim. But we do know that he is the most-famous abstract expressionist, a rock star of modern art, credited for bringing to the bourgeois masses the idea that painting need not resemble the literal objects of this world, but, instead, can simply suggest them. Or ignore them altogether.
"If you look at a plane that was skywriting, there's a moment where you don't know what it's saying," says Elisabeth Condon, a visual artist and co-curator of "POUR," an exhibition of abstract paintings on view from Feb. 5 to March 23 at the Schmidt Center Gallery at Florida Atlantic University. "There's a moment where you don't know what the plane is writing. A word might form, but you're not sure if you're just seeing plumes of smoke.
"Abstract painting is like that," Condon continues. "It exists in the realm between recognition and perception. With recognition, you're labeling. But with perception, you're just seeing color, texture, pure sensory information. Viewers don't have to 'get it.' They can trust their own senses."
Comprising 24 canvases by nine contemporary artists, "POUR" explores the deliberate recklessness found in abstract painting and the vigorous and inventive power of paint itself, which appears here in exuberant and restrained ways, amorphous and figurative, color-saturated and vaguely monochromatic. Despite the assembly of works by talented practitioners, paint is clearly the headliner of this exhibit.
"I love the conversations these paintings provoke," Condon says.
Among the offerings is Roland Flexner's untitled liquid graphite on paper, which resembles a primordial lakefront landscape, and David Reed's "611," where panels of fluid, ribboned blue are interrupted by a square of stark brushwork. The result is a kind of window into multiple perspectives. In "c242," by Jackie Saccoccio, the heart of the painting is ghostlike in its near absence, a fading vision edged in a bright, splotchy palette. The composition lends itself to the idea that the viewer is looking at an ethereal portrait.
The title of the show is culled from a technique known as pouring, essentially an oil or acrylic paint mixed with a thinning liquid, such as turpentine or water, that is poured upon a canvas laid on the floor. What appears can match the movement of the artist's gestures while he's working, and it can provide a starting point for new pictures. Pouring is a way of shaking things up creatively by allowing the paint to "do what it wants to do," says artist and co-curator Carol Prusa, who is also a visual-arts professor in FAU's Master of Fine Arts program.
"People really respond to color," Prusa says. "We all have that experience of finger-painting as children. Everybody's put their hands in paint or poured it at some point. Even when I'm just painting the walls in my house, I love pouring the paint from the can. It has a luscious quality to it."
"POUR" will run through March 23 at the Schmidt Center Gallery, Florida Atlantic University, 777 Glades Road, in Boca Raton. Artist talk by Kris Chatterson 4 p.m. Monday, Feb. 4. Artist symposium with Carrie Moyer, Carrie Yamaoka, Tyler Emerson-Dorsch and Stephen Maine 2-5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23. Gallery hours are 1-4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 1-5 p.m. Saturday. Admission is free. Call 561-297-2661 or go to Fau.edu/galleries.