Monday, June 14, 2010

Movie Review: Who the #$%@ is Jackson Pollock?

I've found myself watching lots of documentaries lately, in much the same way that I've been reading non-fiction (almost exclusively) ever since college. I often find real stories and real people more compelling, believable, far more outlandish and exciting than made up ones.

E & I recently watched "Who the #$*% Is Jackson Pollock?" a compelling documentary about a thrift store painting and a woman named Teri Horton. She bought a splatter painting as a joke to cheer up a friend for the bargain price of five dollars. When the giant painting wouldn't fit in her friend's home, the pair tried to sell it at a garage sale. A local art teacher mentioned that it might be a Jackson Pollock worth millions of dollars if proven authentic. She'd never heard of the abstract expressionist painter and neither had her friend. And so began her quest to lift, rip or burn down the velvet curtains shrouding the art world.

Whether Teri Horton's painting is an authentic Pollock or not is only part of this fascinating story. The subtext is far more interesting. Teri is a poor, uneducated woman who drives a truck for a living. She spends her free time peering into dumpsters for treasures other people have discarded and chain smoking in a seedy bar with a cadre of wisecracking blue collar friends.

Juxtapose her crinkly, tough as nails exterior with the rarefied air of the art world. These people are clad in ten thousand dollar suits, shiny wingtips and don crisp white gloves to handle art objects that auction for hundreds of millions but are considered priceless artifacts of Western Civilization. They can't imagine that something as precious as a Jackson Pollock original could end up in a thrift store to be discovered by the likes of Ms. Horton.

Naturally, this rubs Ms. Horton the wrong way. As the film unfolds, it becomes clear that Teri doesn't care much about actually selling the painting. What she wants is to be acknowledged in order to stick it to people she sees as snobs and frauds. In her mind, her painting is totally legitimate and these people are objecting not to it, but to her. In the mind of the art world elite however, she is a joke and a kook. They find it inconceivable that anyone could find such a treasure for such a price with such a story. Her lack of refinement and knowledge obviously exasperate the very people she needs to verify her find. If her painting is authentic, it's worth millions, but if it's not, it's a huge liability to any gallery that might back it.

For me, this movie was an interesting examination of the deep abyss that now exists between the average person and the art world elite. The fissure has been growing wider and wider ever since the Impressionists first began to do away with reality and in many ways, it was Pollock himself who "split the whole thing wide open". (Who could forget Marcia Gay Harden as his biggest fan in Pollock?!) What better lens to use for a close up than this exact situation?



Have you seen it? Be sure to let me know what you thought. If you haven't seen it, add it to your Netflix que and report back! Have you seen anything good lately?

2 comments:

Princess of Everything (and then some) said...

I have never heard of that movie. You make it sound so interesting! I am going to have to watch it!

Gwen Edwards said...

I loved this movie. Your review was spot on.

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