Jackson Pollock was the chief exponent of abstract expressionism, an approach to art that was developed in America during the 1940s and 1950s. Directly expressive and emotional in its effects, its concerns are traceable to the surrealist idea that art should be born from the unconscious mind through chance, automatism and spontaneity.
Between 1947 and 1952 Pollock created his trademark ‘drip paintings’ by rhythmically dripping and pouring paint over canvases placed flat on the ground. Summertime Number 9A 1948 exemplifies the dynamic linearity and ‘all over’ web-like effect of these works. Pollock’s approach to art-making was influenced by Native American sand painting and mural painting traditions. He generally assigned numbers rather than titles to his drip paintings to avoid distracting the viewer with associations extraneous to the work.
Resisting the potential for indeterminate expression that might arise from the improvised ‘dripping’ of pigment on to the canvas, Pollock sought instead to harness control and rhythm when creating his painterly fields. These gestural rhythms reflect Pollock’s conviction that ‘the modern artist … is working and expressing an inner world – in other words expressing the energy, the motion, and other inner forces’. Summertime Number 9A triggers a set of correspondences with the surrounding works to explore ideas of chance, automatism and ritualism. The constellation reflects on Pollock’s role as the central figure of abstract expressionism by examining ideas of performance, temporality and shamanism and the notion of the artist as a channel for energy and spiritual meaning.