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A Pollock in Venice

"[It's] a stampede... of every animal in the American West, cows and horses and antelopes and buffaloes. Everything is charging across that goddamn surface."
—Jackson Pollock
After eighteen months of conservation and cleaning at the Getty Conservation Institute in Los Angeles, Jackson Pollock's first large-scale work, Mural, approximately 8' by 20' in size, is now on display at the Guggenheim Foundation in Venice, as part of a traveling exhibit, Jackson Pollock’s ‘Mural’: Energy Made Visible.

Commissioned by Peggy Guggenheim for the entrance to her New York townhouse, Mural echos the work of his early mentor Thomas Hart Benton and the Regionalist style, Native American imagery, and Works Progress Administration (WPA) and Mexican muralists. Some see it as America's response to Picasso's Guernica.

As with anything Pollock, it was not an easy commission. He signed a gallery contract with Guggenheim in July 1943. The terms were $150 a month and a settlement at the end of the year if his paintings sold. He intended to have the mural done by the time for his show in November. However, as the time approached, the canvas for the mural was untouched. Guggenheim began to pressure him. Pollock spent weeks staring at the blank canvas, complaining to friends that he was "blocked" and seeming to become both obsessed and depressed. Finally, he painted the entire canvas in one frenetic burst of energy on New Year's Day of 1944.

In 1947 Guggenheim closed her gallery and returned to Europe. She had no room for Mural in her new canal-side quarters in Venice and donated the canvas to the University of Iowa.

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