Jackson Pollock was a mediocre drunk who was funded by the CIA. I actually laughed when I saw this prompt, but it’s not untrue. This prompt didn’t fit the mold for the other economic and sociological thoughts that Logan Allen produced prior. Until I got into it.
During the Cold War, Stalin put an end to the individual identity. People weren’t allowed to follow their passions or skills in a socialist nation. They worked toward the collective good, and were assigned work in a Soviet-owned facility. That included the art scene. Stalin only allowed socialist realism to be created. These had to capture the struggle of the working man or the Soviet nation in times of war against the oppression of the west and elites. No other paintings were allowed.
Some great paintings were made in socialist realism. However, that’s not the spirit of art. Art is great for its ability come from anyone, and be about anything. Art is the manifestation of the wants and desires of the author. And the skill of the author. The soviets had great painters. Those that weren’t were either not allowed to paint or sent off to gulags if they did a poor job. But they didn’t allow genuine art to manifest out of the desires of the authors. They manufactured art. Much like music in 2018, but that’s for another essay.
Jackson Pollock was a famous drip painter at the time, and remains an iconic artist. His art has been in recent Blockbuster movies such as Big Lebowski and Ex-Machina. In Ex-Machina, Pollock was praised for his ability to paint with an unburdened mind – one completely free. In Lebowski, he is praised for his ability to make paintings just “come” into being. These are two things the Soviets didn’t want – freedom and a creative spirit – the entrepreneur.
These freedoms despised by the Soviets – entrepreneurial spirit and creativity, are natural feelings that humans feel. Some people are drawn towards entrepreneurship. Others to artistic craft. But in a socialist state these natural desires must be suppressed because one person cannot be “better” than others. Creating is a way to set someone apart from others through profit and the status that comes with creating something that is valued. This cannot happen in a socialist state where no one is allowed to be better than others.
The CIA had access to Pollock through the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York at the time. They funded the museums and galleries that would display artists that specialize in abstract expressionism. Pollock received his fame and money through these channels.
The CIA chose to fund Pollock (and other abstract expressionists) because he was a symbol for the freedom Americans had over the socialist Soviets. His art was a protest against everything the Soviets stood for – individual freedom, individual wants, and skill that was put to use for his wants – not the collective. The fact that people were willing to pay for Pollock paintings meant that value is in the eye of the consumer. Even if that value was inflated by CIA propaganda, that doesn’t take away from the fact that people spend millions on Pollock paintings.
The CIA also chose Pollock because his art was simple. Drip art didn’t require the specialized skill or the threat of being sent to death camps that was required of the Soviet realism. When someone looks at a Pollock, they think, I can do that. That’s what the CIA wanted.
Jackson Pollock was a mediocre drunk who was funded by the CIA. His style of art did not require any unique talent. The CIA funded him and boosted him to fame for this reason – they wanted to show the Soviets and Americans that the United States stands for the ability to choose our path. We don’t need to be great to try something. We can be creative. Others can’t.